According to legislation the Pan South African Language Board established by national legislation must—
(a) promote, and create conditions for, the development and use of—
(i) all official languages;
(ii) the Khoi, Nama and San languages; and
(iii) sign language ; and
(b) promote and ensure respect for—
(i) all languages commonly used by communities in South Africa, including German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu; and
(ii) Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa.
FROM: South African Constitution (1996) - Founding Provisions
!XÛ / !KUNG / KUNG / XU / VASAKELA
Group: Ju or Northern Khoesan
Subgroup: not applicable
!Xû is an ancient language with little sign of influence from languages of other families. Recent influences that it has absorbed include Portuguese and Afrikaans loan words. Varieties in the language include: !Xû, Ju|’hoansi and !Kung. The majority of !Xû speakers live at the Schmidtsdrift military base outside Kimberley, Diamondfields District, Northern Cape Province
Number of speakers: 3 500 (Crawhall, Nigel 2000)
KHOEKHOEGOWAP / KHOI / HOTTENTOTS
/ NAMA / NAMAN / NAMAKWA / NAMAQUA
/ DAMA / DAMARA / DAMAQUA / TAMA / TAMMA / TAMAKWA / KHOEKHOE / BERDAMA /
BERGDAMARA / KHOI
Group: Central or Khoe
There are two extinct South African languages from the same family and subgroup, these being Xirigowap and !Goragowap, known in English as Griqua and Korana respectively. It is possible that there are isolated unidentified individuals who still speak these languages as an L1. There are no communities who speak these extinct languages.Khoekhoegowap is an ancient language, related to others from its family, such as Naro to the east and Khwedam to the north. However Khoekhoegowap is distinct and not mutually intelligible.
Khoekhoegowap is spoken over an enormous geographic area with low population density. There are pockets of isolated speakers. Almost all speakers live in the Northern Cape province, particularly in the northern districts of Namaqualand and Lower Orange
Number of speakers: There are no statistics on speakers of Khoekhoegowap, as a first or second language. The previous regime did not acknowledge the existence of the language or the ethnic group. The following are estimates based on interviews in the communities by Nigel Crawhall (2000).
Understand 5 000 to 10 000 people
Speak 5 000 to 7000
KORANA / KORANNA / !ORA / !KORA /
KORAQUA / GORACHOUQUA
Number of speakers: 50 (Ethnologue: 1977 Voegelin and Voegelin), out of an ethnic group of 10,000 (Ethnologue: 1972 Barrett).
KHWEDAM / KXOEDAM / KHWE / KXOE / KHOE / XUN / MBARAKWENA / MBARAKWENGO
Group: Khoe or Central Khoesan
Subgroup: Khwe (i.e. not part of Khoekhoe subgroup)
The majority of Khwedam speakers live at the Schmidtsdrift military base outside Kimberley, Diamondfields District, Northern Cape Province. Khwedam is related to Naro and Khoekhoegowap but is quite distinct from each of these and not mutually intelligible.
Number of speakers: 1 600 (Ethnologue: 1998 Brenzinger) / 1100 (Crawhall, Nigel 2000)
N/U / ‡KHOMANI / NG'UKI / N||NG!UI
Group: Southern San
Nearly extinct language. All varieties of this language were spoken in the southern Kalahari before the speakers were displaced in the 1930s, whereupon most moved to urban townships. There is no written standard version of the language.
Dialects include: N/U, !KABEE, /'AUNI, //KXAU, //NG!KE (NG//-/E, //NG, /ING/KE).
Number of speakers: 20 mother tongue speakers out of 500 in the ethnic group (1998 Nigel Crawhall, South African San Institute). 3 in Swartkop, a township outside Upington, 1 in Sesbrugge outside Upington, 1 in Keimoes, 3 in Rosedale township in Upington, 1 in Raaswater outside Upington (!Kabee), 1 in Rietfontein (/'Auni), 1 partial speaker in Welkom (village in Kalahari, not Free State).
XIRI / GRIKWA / GRIQUA / XRIKWA /
XIRIKWA / GRY
Number of speakers: not available
Ethnologue: South Africa
Kuru Family of Organisations
Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)
South African San Institute (SASI)
Southern African San Web Community
Working Group for Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA)
© J. Olivier (2009)