Unisa Press


A Lost Khoisan Language of the early Cape and The Gariep

Author: Me n á n d u P l e s s i s
Published: December 06, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-86888-981-5
Number of pages: 391
Prices: R 360 | $ 30 | £ 23 | € 25
This book is not available in electronic format

About the book

Kora (known as ǃOra in the language itself), was the Khoisan language spoken by the Khoi people – or the Cape herders – of the early Cape and the Gariep. It was believed to have disappeared until only a few years ago, when Mike Besten, an historian based at the University of the Free State, discovered while conducting fieldwork that a few elderly people still retained some fluency in the language.

The author devised and carried out an emergency documentation in 2011, when she and her small team managed to obtain recordings from two of the last living speakers of Kora, Oupa Dawid Cooper and Ouma Jacoba Maclear. It was out of this experience that the idea for this book emerged. The overriding purpose of the work, which is envisaged as an act of cultural restitution, is to retrieve the all but discarded linguistic heritage of the Korana and Griqua people of South Africa – not only for the latter-day descendants of these communities, but for all South Africans.

The two opening chapters describe the linguistic classification of the language, and the sources of our earlier information about it. The third and fourth chapters describe the sounds and structures of the language respectively, and together provide a complete reference grammar of the language. In a time honoured tradition of comprehensive language description, the work also includes texts in the original language, and a dictionary.

The 43 heritage texts consist of historical narratives, accounts of cultural traditions, personal histories, folktales, and the lyrics of songs. The newly edited texts are presented with parallel translations in English, and are extensively annotated. The twoway dictionary has been exhaustively compiled from all available sources. In the online version of the book, approximately one third of the entries are linked to spoken examples provided by the two elderly speakers who worked with the linguists.

About the author

Menán du Plessis is an Extraordinary Associate Professor in the Department of General Linguistics at Stellenbosch University. She completed a PhD on the southern African Khoisan languages at the University of Cape Town in 2009. In 2017 she was invited to present a series of workshops on the Khoisan languages at the Summer Institute of the Linguistics Society of America.

Table of content

Chapter 1: The linguistic classification of Kora                  

Chapter 2: Sources of the Cape Khoekhoe and Kora records:

Chapter 3:  The sounds of Kora                                         

Chapter 4:  The structures of Kora                                 

Chapter 5:  The heritage texts of the Korana people    

Chapter 6:  A Kora-English Dictionary, with English-Kora index            

Special list 1: Names of the Korana

Special list 2: Korana names for animals, birds and smaller creatures                                                                                

Special list 3: Korana names for plants and plant products