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Book Chapter

The state of documentation of Kalahari Basin languages


Güldemann,  Tom
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Güldemann, T. (2018). The state of documentation of Kalahari Basin languages. In A. McDonnell (Ed.), Reflections on language documentation 20 years after Himmelmann 1998 (pp. 210-223). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-1AA3-8
The Kalahari Basin is a linguistic macro-area in the south of the African continent. It has been in a protracted process of disintegration that started with the arrival of Bantu peoples from the north and accelerated dramatically with the European colonization emanating from the southwest. Before these major changes, the area hosted, and still hosts, three independent linguistic lineages, Tuu, Kx'a, and Khoe-Kwadi, that were traditionally subsumed under the spurious linguistic concept "Khoisan" but are better viewed as forming a "Sprachbund". The languages have been known for their quirky and complex sound systems, notably involving click phonemes, but they also display many other rare linguistic featuresa profile that until recently was documented and described very insufficiently. At the same time, spoken predominantly by relatively small and socially marginalized forager groups, known under the term "San", most languages are today, if not on the verge of extinction, at least latently endangered. This contribution gives an overview of their current state of documentation, which has improved considerably within the last 20 years.