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Khoisan languages
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Khoisan languages

This article is about the Khoisan language group. For the Khoisan ethnic group, see Khoisan.

The Khoisan languages are the smallest phylum of African languages. Historically, they were spoken by the Khoi and Bushman people. Today they are only spoken in the Kalahari Desert in south-western Africa, and a small area in Tanzania. The languages are becoming increasingly rare; several are known to have become extinct. Many of them have no written record.

They are notable for the use of click consonants as phonemes, including the Kung-ekoka language, which has in excess of 50 click consonants and over 140 separate phonemes, and the !X language with its giant phoneme inventory and strident and pharyngealized sounds. Many people were exposed to this group of languages through the Bushman language used in the 1984 film The Gods Must Be Crazy.

The most widely spoken languages in the group are Kwadi and Sandawe.

The only other languages using clicks as phonemes are Nguni Bantu languages, such as Xhosa and Zulu in South Africa, Sesotho (also spoken in South Africa and Lesotho), and the Hadza and Sandawe languages in Kenya (as well as an artificial ceremonial language called 'Damin', spoken by some Australian Aborigines).

Grammatically, the Khoisan languages are generally fairly isolating. Suffixes are often used, but word order is overall more widely used than inflection.

See also

External links