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|Xam is a southern Khoisan language which was spoken in parts of the southwest region of South Africa until its extinction some time in the early part of the 20th century. This language was studied by the German philologist Wilhelm H.I. Bleek from 1870 until his death in 1875. Working with Dr. Bleek and continuing this work after his death were his sister-in-law Lucy C. Lloyd and daughter Dorothea Bleek. This grammatical sketch has thus been compiled from the following sources:
The Lloyd-Bleek collection, an archive of |Xam documents and drawings, has recently been made available online at www.lloydbleekcollection.uct.ac.za
The orthography presented here does not do justice to the level of detail in the transcriptions of the above-mentioned researchers. Specifically, I have omitted all tone-markings (high, mid, low, rising, falling) and other diacritical marks. A further simplification is in the identification of vowels: D.F. Bleek uses a modified version of the IPA of her time, which I am forced to simplify to a,e,i,o,u due to font limitations. I have also simplified the engma symbol to "n".
`They eat the ostrich meat.' (BL137)
`stories which the Jantjes have told you' (B162)
Locatives and other adjuncts follow objects. (B171)
`he carries away the ostrich to the house' (BL136)
NP Word Order: (apparently) possessor–Noun number/adjective
Adjectives follow the noun, often as a relative clause. (B95)
`hot soup' (BL122) `great whirlwind' (B95)
|Note: It appears that there are few or no examples of attributive adjectives. The apparent examples given by D. Bleek functions either diminutives/augmentatives (little/great) or are themselves actually nouns (men/women=male/female).|
Possessor precedes possessee. (B88)
`elephant's children' (B163)
`one man' (B96)
`this child' (B167)
Note: perhaps this is an appositive, rather than adjectival construction.
Demonstrative adjectives `that/those' are expressed by a relative pronoun plus the verb `to be' (a). (B94)
`that man' (B94)
|Class 1:||only singular nouns.|
|Ex: !'wa: (hartebeest), !kui (man)|
|Class 2:||all plurals, and some singular nouns|
|Ex: „gai (shoulderblade), hoho (eggshells) (B87)|
|W.H.I. Bleek, in his partial parse of the story " The Resurrection of Ostrich", identifies five Cases: Accusative, Nominative, Genitive, Vocative, Alterative. (BL145)|
|(Acc "(& Nom)")||(Nom)||(Gen)||(Voc)||(Alt)|
|!(k)e or !ei||!(k)eten or !eiten||!(k)eta||!(k)auwe||!(k)ekuiten|
In fact, WB's Accustive seems to correspond to DB's Simple, encompassing normal uses of Nominative and Accusative. "Emphatic" is nominative emphatic only, corresponding to WB's Nominative.
|Ex: tall (singular): !xo:wa||tall (plural): !xo!xo:ka|
"Moods and tenses are formed by placing one or more verbal particles or auxiliaries before the verb...Occasionally also the verb takes an ending, generally when it can be translated as a participle." (B161)
Example: `sin' (past/perfect/pluperfect/subjunctive perfect) (B162)
`The hartebeest wanted me to take the thong away from his eye.'
Example: `kan' (continuous action) (B166)
`child is crying'
Example: -i is a verbal ending expressing duration of action. (B168)
`the Mantis was dreaming about the child.'
Negation: 'not' is expressed by )au or )auki before the main verb.
`I do not sleep.' (BL250)
|Note: the symbol ) represents "a strong croaking sound in the throat"(BL)...probably pharyngealization.|
"Two or three verbs can be strung together in a sentence, sometimes joined by one of the particles ki, ko, kau, ti, to, tau, si or by –ki `to take', sometimes without any connection." (B161)
`the husband brings the springbok.' (B161)
`He will go to sit preparing it.' (B161)
|"The endings wa, ja, ka, ta seem to indicate the imperative, an applied form, a participle, or the passive." (B169)|
Benefactive use of -ka
`The sun should warm for them the earth.' (B169)
`The ground is made light (lit up).' (B170)
This last example also shows a typical causative use of verbal reduplication.
Relative Clauses: introduced by relative pronouns a: (1st noun class) or e: (2nd class)
Relativized subjects do not require (permit?) a resumptive pronoun.
`man who kills springbok' (B94)
Other relativized arguments do require a resumptive pronoun.
`the breastbone on which the bones are.' (B94)
`What is it?' (B95)
`Hast thou forgotten this child?'