Hottentot Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hottentot Languages


languages spoken in Namibia (South West Africa) and in the northern regions of the Republic of South Africa. Hottentot languages are spoken by approximately 80,000 people (1967). According to the classification of the English investigator E. O. Westphal, the Hottentot languages and the Sandawe languages form a single linguistic grouping. The Hottentot languages include the Khoi (Khoin) group with the Nama, Kora, and Griqua languages; the Nhauru (Nharon) language: the Kwe group with the languages Demisa and Tshumakwe-Shuakwe; and the Tshu group with the languages Hiotshuwau and Hait-shuwau. Many Hottentot languages are extinct (such as Kora and Griqua). The Sandawe language is spoken in the Kondoa region of continental Tanzania by approximately 30,000 people (1967). Sandawe and the Hottentot languages are closely related, both in phonetic and grammatical structure and in word roots. The phonetic structure is characterized by the presence of bifocal consonants—the so-called click sounds: the dental /, the palatoalveolars ! and ≠, and the laterals /// and //. Morphological features include three genders (masculine, feminine, common), three numbers (singular, duai, plural), and two cases (direct, or subjective, and indirect, or objective). For example, in the Nama language kxoe-b means “man,” kxoe-s “woman,” kxoe-i “person”; kxoe-kxa “two men,” kxoe-ra “two women” and “two persons”; kxoe-ku “men,” kxoe-ti “women,” and kxoe-n “people.” The word order is subject-object-predicate.

The German linguist C. Meinhof considered the Hottentot languages to be Hamitic. The American scholar J. Greenberg classes the Hottentot languages together with the Bushmen languages in the Khoisan group.


Ol’derogge, D. A. “lazyki i pis’mennosti narodov Afriki.” In Narody Afriki. Moscow, 1954.
Meinhof, C. Lehrbuch der Nama-Sprache. Berlin. 1909.
Trubetzkoy, N. “Zur Phonetik der Hottentottensprache.” Anthropos, 1939, vol. 34.
Westphal. E. O. “The Non-Bantu Languages of Southern Africa.” In Handbook of African Languages, part 3. Oxford, 1956.
Greenberg, J. H. “The Languages of Africa.” International Journal of American Linguistics, 1963, vol. 29, no. 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.