Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics

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The name of the fourth river: A small puzzle presented by a fragment of Kora, for Johan Oosthuizen

Menán du Plessis


This squib is a brief venture into the minor sub-branch of Linguistics known as Toponomastics, or the study of the meanings and sources of place names. The topic is suggested by a previously unpublished fragment in the Khoekhoe variety once spoken by the Korana Khoi of South Africa, in which four rivers (haka ǃgariku) were mentioned by Piet Links. While the names of three of the four are easily established, it is the identity and the original Khoekhoe name of the fourth river that is sought here. Various early records are consulted and compared for the purpose, and the original Khoekhoe names of three major rivers within the Vaal-Gariep system are proposed. In conclusion, the identity and name of the fourth river most likely to have been intended by Piet Links is arrived at.2

Keywords: Toponomastics, South African river names, Khoekhoe toponyms, use of older Khoisan records, South African indigenous knowledge
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