Documentation for the revitalisation of N|uu

Documentation for the revitalisation of N|uu

Language: N|uu (ISO639-3:ngh)
Depositor: Sheena Shah
Location: South Africa
Deposit Id: 0505
Grant id:
Funding body:
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

The deposit contains audio-video recordings primarily of Katrina Esau, one of the few last speakers of the Nǀuu language. Since 2012, on request by the community, linguists from the Centre for African Language Diversity (CALDi) at the University of Cape Town have been involved in documenting the Nǀuu language for revitalisation purposes, and specifically for producing learning and teaching materials that can be used by Katrina to teach Nǀuu in her school, Staar na die Sterre ('Gazing at the Stars').

The deposit contains audio recordings of the contents of the 160-page Nǀuu reader which was produced by the CALDi team in collaboration with community members and which is currently in use in Katrina's school. These include audio recordings (and associated time-aligned transcription files) of the 114 speech sounds of Nǀuu, words, phrases and sentences from everyday conversations, as well as games, prayers and songs.

The deposit also contains several video recordings of Katrina and her students, including a video recording in which Katrina gives a linguistic autobiography.

Group represented

Nǀuu is spoken by only four members of the ǂKhomani community (in April 2018). Until 20 years ago, Nǁng, of which Nǀuu is the last remaining regional variety, was thought to be extinct among expert linguists (Traill 1995). In the late 1990s, about 20 elderly speakers revealed their competence in this language, but since then, all but four have passed away.

Language information

Nǀuu is an indigenous click language spoken in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and is the last remaining language of the !Ui language family. Speakers of Nǀuu and the other now extinct !Ui languages, such as ǀXam, ǂUngkue and ǁXegwi, were mainly hunter-gatherers and were once spread across most of today’s South Africa.

Special characteristics
Special characteristics

Deposit contents

On request by ǂKhomani community members, language teaching materials were produced for Katrina's Nǀuu language school. These materials include illustrated alphabet charts, language posters and an illustrated trilingual (Nǀuu, Afrikaans, English) reader (available as a free download: All materials have been produced by using the Nǀuu community orthography. The deposit contains audio and video recordings which emerged from this project.

In the audio recordings, Katrina produces words, phrases and sentences from the Nǀuu reader. The twelve chapters of the reader introduce various semantic fields, such as greetings, body parts, kinship terms, animal names, etc., and also include games, prayers and songs. The glossary contains a list of over 600 Nǀuu terms (together with their Afrikaans and English translations) which are used by Katrina in her language classes.

Three bundles contain the speech sounds of Nǀuu ("Alphabet"), grouped as click consonants, non-click consonants and vowels. Twelve bundles comprise the sound files of each of the individual chapters of the reader. The audio recordings of the individual Nǀuu terms in the glossary can be found in the final bundle. For all audio files, time-aligned transcriptions are provided.

Alphabet: Clicks

Alphabet: Consonants

Alphabet: Vowels

Chapter 1: Greetings

Chapter 2: Daily routine

Chapter 3: Family

Chapter 4: Activities

Chapter 5: Travelling

Chapter 6: Clothes

Chapter 7: Body

Chapter 8: Feelings

Chapter 9: Animals

Chapter 10: Plants

Chapter 11: World

Chapter 12: Church


The contents, structure and format of the reader are tailor-made for the community needs in their teaching of Nǀuu. The audio recordings of the chapters and glossary may be used together with the Nǀuu reader (available online, see above).

Deposit history

The data for this deposit was collected from 2012-2016 as part of a project undertaken by members of the Centre for African Language Diversity (CALDi) at the University of Cape Town. The two principal investigators of this project were Sheena Shah and Matthias Brenzinger.

Other information

Acknowledgement and citation


In process
Resources being prepared or online and partially searchable


Sheena Shah
Affiliation: SOAS University of London

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2018 October 22 to 2018 October 22
Deposit hits:1
Downloaded files
Without statistics

Showing 1 - 7 of 7 Items

Audio recordings of individual words illustrating the 45 click consonants of Nǀuu. See pages 79-80 of the Nǀuu reader (

Recorded on: 2014-02-18

Audio recordings of individual words illustrating the 30 non-click consonants of Nǀuu. See pages 81-82 of the Nǀuu reader (

Recorded on: 2014-02-18

Audio recordings of sentences related to the topic of feelings. See pages 57-58 of the Nǀuu reader (

Recorded on: 2015-01-14

Children dance and sing a song which they learnt in the Nǀuu language classes taught by Ouma Geelmeid.

Recorded on: 2015-04-13

Katrina Esau talks about the hardships of her early youth growing up on a farm where the white farmer did not allow her and her family to speak their Nǀuu language. For half a century, Katrina did not speak her mother tongue and spoke only Afrikaans to her husband and her children. In the late 1990s, through the initiative of linguists, about 20 elderly ǂKhomani community members revealed their competence in Nǀuu. Together, they started remembering and recovering the mother tongue of their youth. They discussed terms and sentences and listened to old Nǀuu recordings from archives. In this way, Katrina regained her fluency in Nǀuu and engaged in teaching her language to children and other community members. She expresses her gratitude to all the linguists who worked with her and individually names all of them. She remembers the speakers who have sadly passed away and expresses her deep desire to pass on the language to future generations.

Recorded on: 2015-01-23

Nǀuu greetings by Mary-Ann (N!au) and Gavin (Takase), both former students of Katrina’s Nǀuu language school.

Recorded on: 2015-04-13