The N!aq language, pronounced /ŋ!àˤà/, is spoken around several rural settlements in eastern Botswana. There is some mutual intelligibility between N!aq and ǂHȍã, which together form the ǂ'amkoe branch of the Kx'a languages (Collins and Chebanne, 2016).
N!aq has a robust phonetic inventory, including 50 contrastive clicks across 5 different points of articulation, three level tones, and two contour tones (Collins and Chebanne, 2016). Each of the 5 plain clicks has as many 9 accompaniments, including the notable bilabial click; for example:
- Bilabial Click
ʘq (unaspirated uvular)
ʘqh (aspirated uvular)
ʘq' (ejective uvular)
ʔŋʘ (preglottalized nasal)
ŋ̊ʘh (voiceless nasal/delayed aspiration)
In Setswana, the speakers of N!aq are called Basarwa. A number of exonyms have emerged to refer to speakers of the “click languages.” Basarwa is a Setswana word used within Botswana to refer to speakers of these languages very broadly, but the speakers of N!aq do not refer to themselves as Basarwa. Basasi is a Setswana endonym used to by speakers of N!aq to refer to themselves. Bushmen is considered derogatory. San (or Saan) is in common use to describe the hunter-gatherer speakers of the click languages throughout southern Africa. Note that terms such as San, Basarwa, and Bushmen generalize over many distinct groups who view themselves as distinct (like "Native American").
The social history of the San (including the Basasi) has been changing over time, especially due to contacts with colonizers and neighboring cattle-herding ethnic groups. The San are now adopting the lifestyle of their neighbors. Unfortunately this cultural shift is accompanied by language loss. The the social history and current circumstances of the San bear many likenesses to those of other indigenous peoples around the world.
Due to these factors, N!aq is considered moribund. Ethnologue (2018) classifies its status as 8b, nearly extinct. Only 20-50 elderly speakers remain and no community-internal efforts are underway to revitalize the language.
As an RA in 2016, I assisted with data management and coded a PHP parsing script to convert an MS Word dictionary into a FLEx project automatically. This was used to generate an English-Sasi reversal index for the Sasi-Dictionary. I also helped with copy editing his Sasi dictionary and designed the web and print versions of the N!aq (Sasi) Spelling Primer.
- ’nǂoam kwa!
- u i tu a!
You're awake! (said as a morning greeting)
- ma i tu a!
I'm awake! (said in response to the morning greeting)
- ǁa ši u i toan a?
How's your day going? (said as an afternoon greeting)
- |om ma i toan a!
My day is going well! (said as a response to the afternoon greeting)
- |om u a n|obo.
You're speaking well.
- Nǃaq (Sasi) Spelling Primer on Google Sites provides an introduction to the orthography of N!aq and a pronunciation guide with pictures, audiofiles, and translations in N!aq, Setswana, and English
- San people of Africa draft code of ethics for researchers, Science Magazine, March 17, 2017.
- San Research Centre at the University of Botswana
- South African San Institute
- ǂHua (HUC) on Ethnologue
- The Case Against Civilization, The New Yorker, September 18, 2017.
- Baker, Mark and Chris Collins. 2006. Linkers and the Internal Structure of vP. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 24: 307-354.
- Berthold, Falko and Linda Gerlach. 2011. Serial verb constructions in N!aqriaxe. Khoisan languages and linguistics: proceedings of the 4th International Symposium July 10-14, 2011, Riezlern/Kleinwalsertal. Köln: Köppe.
- Berthold, Falko and Linda Gerlach. 2011. The sociolinguistic situation of ǂHoan, a moribund 'Khoisan' language of Botswana. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Leipzig.
- Collins, Chris. 2001. Aspects of Plurality in ǂHoan. Language 77.456-476.
- Collins, Chris. 2002. Multiple Verb Movement in ǂHoan. Linguistic Inquiry: Volume 33, issue 1, p.1-29.
- Collins, Chris. 2003. The Internal Structure of vP in Ju|'hoansi and ǂHoan. Studia Linguistica, Volume 57, issue 1.
- Collins, Chris. 2015. The Linker in the Khoisan Languages. Proceedings of the 45th Annual Conference on African Linguistics.
- Collins, Chris and Andy Chebannne. 2016. A Sasi Dictionary. Ms., New York University and the University of Botswana.
- Motzafi-Haller, Pnina. 1994. When Bushmen Are Known as Basarwa: Gender, Ethnicity, and Differentiation in Rural Botswana. American Ethnologist, Vol. 21, No. 3, (Aug., 1994), pp. 539-563.