Kx'a languages

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Angola, Namibia, and Botswana
Linguistic classification: One of the world's primary language families
(traditionally considered Khoisan)
Glottolog: kxaa1236[1]

The Kx'a languages, also called Ju–ǂHoan, are a family established in 2010 linking the ǂ’Amkoe (ǂHoan) language with the ǃKung (Juu) dialect cluster, a relationship that had been suspected for a decade.[2] Along with the Tuu languages, they are one of two language families indigenous to southern Africa, which are typologically similar due to areal effects.


  • ǂ’Amkoe (two dialects, Eastern ǂHȍȁn and Sàsí; moribund)
  • ǃKung (also ǃXun or Ju, formerly Northern Khoisan; a dialect cluster)

ǂHoan had previously been lumped in with the Tuu languages, perhaps over confusion with its name, but the only thing they have in common are typological features such as their bilabial clicks.

Honken & Heine (2010) coined the term Kx'a for the family as a replacement for the rather inaccessible compound Ju–ǂHoan (easily confused with the Juǀʼhoan language), after the word [kxʼà] 'earth, ground', which is shared by the two branches of the family, though also by neighboring languages such as Kwadi.


Honken & Heine (2010) reconstruct six click families for Kx'a: the five that occur in the most conservative dialects of ǃKung, plus the bilabial clicks of ǂHoan. Bilabial clicks became dental in ǃXun; retroflex clicks became lateral in ǂHoan and northern ǃXun, alveolar in southern ǃXun, and remained retroflex only in central ǃXun. However, Starostin (2003)[3] argues that the bilabial clicks are a secondary development in ǂHoan. He cites the ǂHoan words for 'one' and 'two', /ŋ͡ʘũ/ and /ʘoa/, where no other Khoisan language has a labial consonant of any kind in its words for these numerals.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kxa". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Honken, H. and Heine, B. 2010. "The Kx'a Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy". Journal of Asian and African Studies (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36.
  3. ^ Starostin G. (2003) A lexicostatistical approach towards reconstructing Proto-Khoisan, page 22. Mother Tongue, vol. VIII.

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