When did it all start?
“The earliest Khoi Afrikaans is a study about the variety Khoi Afrikaans as the first form of Afrikaans. A traditional view has it that Khoi influenced Afrikaans in some way or another. With Khoi Afrikaans as the original form of Afrikaans, this cannot be the case: Khoi Afrikaans was already Afrikaans. Khoi Afrikaans refers to the new language of the Khoi-Khoin at the Cape in the course of the first half of the seventeenth century. This language originated from contact between the Khoi-Khoin and visiting seafarers, especially from the Netherlands, which started with the visit from De Houtman in 1595. In this learner’s variety, the first building blocks of the latter-day Afrikaans can be found. This was the earliest Afrikaans, which originated between 1595 and 1652, the first period in the history of Afrikaans. The database of this first period consists of 54 items, accumulated from Khoi word lists, as well as other sources, and it is distinguishable by the features of Afrikaans that they exhibit. The interpretation of this material pursues earlier work done by H. Den Besten and G. S. Nienaber. These data conform to the field of “bad” data that Janda and Joseph (2003) distinguish, but contribute, nevertheless, to language forms that are not usually considered in the debate on the earliest forms of Afrikaans. Elements from a collection of bad data, as is shown here, survived steadily in the history of Afrikaans, which accentuates the importance of recognising the role of the Afrikaans dialects in construing its history, in accordance with the view of Bergs (2012). Words for bread that were recorded before 1652, still survive, perhaps surprisingly so, in present-day varieties of Afrikaans where words like pereb conserved their Khoi Afrikaans origin, and did not become familiar Afrikaans words. They are used in diglossic situations beside words that later became Afrikaans words, like brood (bread), that lost most of their Khoi morphological trimmings (such as the word final [+ masculine] -b/p). The word ghe-me (give + verbal suffix) is such an example, as well as Afrikaans rug (back), which was recorded as rena. The -n- of rena constitutes Khoi-Khoi interchangeability between -n- and -g- and the -a is a case ending. The Khoi Afrikaans vowels were recorded in various ways. Interestingly, the meaning of this word was given as shoulder. Could it be that the informant, in trying to demonstrate the meaning of rena, could only reach his shoulder, and not his back? Khoi speakers, trying to acquire the word for pipe (for smoking tobacco), were confronted by an interesting language conflict. They could easily pronounce the Dutch word, pyp, but were prevented by morphological laws from doing so. A wordfinal -p denoted masculine gender, and this word should be treated as feminine. The result? The illegible Khoi Afrikaans word pe-s (originally written down as pesche). Some Khoi Afrikaans words were pronounced without the word final -r, as was the case with the adverb for here (Dutch hier): hie. Even English words were pronounced in this way: nosie was recorded in 1652 for no sir. The hier pronunciation of the Dutch sailors was heard concurrently with hie. In the Afrikaans variety of the Cape Town region, up to the present time, there are many speakers who still do not use -r at word endings. Some words were used by well-known Khoi-Khoi characters like Herry, and were thought to be instances of the learner language of the Khoi, from which some information could be gleaned about Khoi Afrikaans. The word goo illustrates such an instance. Goo was interpreted by the leader of that expedition as meaning “go” (away), and was seen as an attempt to use the English word go. This was not the case. The Khoi verb gu, was used, meaning “cease” (your excessive talking). It was not written down carefully, and explained inaccurately.”