Language varieties within Kanum have variously been referred to as Ngkâlmpw Kanum, Enkelembu, Kenume, and Knwne. Carroll describes three varieties forming a dialect chain: Ngkolmpu, Ngarna (Sota), and Smerky (Smärky). Ngkolmpu is further divided into Ngkontar and the moribund variety Baedi (Bädi), while Smerky is subdivided into Smerky, Taemer, and Barkari. Ngarna is spoken in the town of Sota, whence its other name.
Ngkolmpu Kanum has 15 consonant phonemes (plus two marginal phonemes) at three points of articulation: bilabial, coronal, and velar. Prenasalized voiceless stops and fricatives contrast with voiceless and nasal realizations, which is typologically unusual. The orthography is enclosed in angle brackets.
|Stops||Voiceless||p ⟨p⟩||t ⟨t⟩||k ⟨k⟩|
|Prenasalized Voiceless||mp <mp>||nt <nt>||ŋk <ngk>|
|Nasal||m ⟨m⟩||n ⟨n⟩|
|Voiced||b <b>||(ɡ) ⟨g⟩|
|Prenasalized Voiceless||ns <ns>,<nc>|
|Glides||w ⟨w⟩||j ⟨y⟩||(w)|
The Ngkolmpu (Ngkâlmpw) Kanum variety is notable for its complex verbal inflection and tendency to distribute grammatical features throughout an utterance, referred to as distributed exponence.
Kanum has a base-6 numeral system, which is typologically rare among languages of the world. The numerals are as follows:
|Base Numbers||Powers of 6|
For example, the numeral 200 is:
|5||6²s (36s)||(and) 2 (and)||3×6|