Research Articles

Lexical variation in Namaqualand: Some evidence from ethnobotany

  • Camilla Rose Christie


Although endangered, the Khoekhoe-branch languages Nama and Damara (standardised together as Namibian Khoekhoe) are well-documented. By contrast, the dialect of Nama spoken in the Namaqualand region of South Africa is understudied, and the extent to which it diverges from standardised Namibian Khoekhoe is not fully understood. In an effort to assess potential lexical variation, this article reviews a number of botanical and ethnobotanical surveys carried out in the Namaqualand region over the last forty years. The majority of these surveys did not make use of standardised Namibian Khoekhoe orthography when recording Nama plant names, instead employing idiosyncratic spelling conventions when recording click consonants. Nevertheless, they offer preliminary evidence that a regionalised Namaqualand botanical lexis did historically exist. A total of twenty-six regionalised plant names, unaccounted for in the standardised Namibian Khoekhoe reference materials, are retrieved from the ethnobotanical record, suggesting that further undocumented lexical variation may be present in Nama as spoken within South Africa. Immediate and comprehensive language documentation projects within Namaqualand are recommended in order to forestall the loss of a regional variety.

Keywords: Namaqualand, botanical, ethnobotanical, surveys, plant names, orthography, Namibian Khoekhoe

How to Cite:

Christie, C., (2021) “Lexical variation in Namaqualand: Some evidence from ethnobotany”, Language Documentation and Description 20, 198-235. doi:

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Published on
31 Dec 2021
Peer Reviewed