Khoekhoe Vowel Inventory

Khoekhoe has five oral vowels and three nasal vowels. Short vowels occur in roots with two syllables (e.g., [ka̋ɾap] ‘bead’) and in monosyllables with a root-final nasal (e.g., [tȁǹ] ‘to win’), while long vowels occur in roots with one syllable (e.g., [tsȁap] ‘slobber’). In roots, nasal vowels are always long, though short nasal vowels do occur in a few function words. In addition, monosyllabic roots can contain vowel sequences that surface as diphthongs.

Words illustrating each of the vowels are listed below. In each case, the vowel is given first, then word with that vowel in Khoekhoe orthography, IPA transcription and English translation. Click the play button to hear a recording.

Oral monophthongs
[i] pirib [píɾi̋p] ‘goat’
dīb [tȉìp] ‘deed’
[e] pereb [pe̋ɾep] ‘bread’
bēb [pȅèp] ‘bus’
[a] karab [ka̋ɾap] ‘bead’
tsāb [tsȁap] ‘slobber’
[o] ǁgorob [ǁőɾop] ‘crib’
dōb [tȍòp] ‘tin can’
[u] ǀgurub [ǀűɾup] ‘wild animal’
gūb [kȕùp] ‘sheep’
Oral diphthongs
[ai] saib [sa̋ip] ‘elder brother’
[ae] ǀgaeb [ǀa̋ep] ‘gemsbok’
[ao] ǂgaob [ǂaőp] ‘heart’
[au] ǀgaub [ǀa̋up] ‘style’
[ui] ǀguib [ǀűip] ‘one’
[oe] ǀgoeb [ǀóep] ‘obscenity’
[oa] ǃgoab [ǃőap] ‘hole’
Nasal monophthongs and diphthongs
[iiⁿ] ǀgî [ǀíiⁿ] ‘unwilling to share’
[aaⁿ] ǃgâ [ǃáaⁿ] 'listen’
[uuⁿ] ǃgû [ǃúuⁿ] ‘walk’
[aiⁿ] xâi [xáiⁿ] ‘blow (horn)’
[auⁿ] sâu [sáuⁿ] ‘save’
[uiⁿ] ǃûi [ŋ̥ǃˀűiⁿ] ‘to guard’
[oaⁿ] ôa [ʔőaⁿ] ‘look for’