|Northern Khoisan (obsolete)|
|Native to||Namibia, Angola, Botswana, South Africa|
|16,000 ± 2,000 (2011)|
knw – Ekoka !Kung
vaj – Sekela
ktz – Juǀʼhoansi
!Kung // (!Xuun), also known as Ju, is a dialect continuum (language complex) spoken in Namibia, Botswana, and Angola by the ǃKung people. Together with the ǂHoan language, it forms the proposed Kx'a language family. !Kung constituted one of the branches of the putative Khoisan language family, and was called Northern Khoisan in that scenario, but the unity of Khoisan has never been demonstrated and is suspected to be spurious. Nonetheless, the term "Khoisan" is widely retained as a convenience.
!Kung is famous for having a large number of clicks, such as the ǃ in its name, and has some of the most complex inventories of both consonants and vowels in the world. It also has tone. For a description, see Juǀʼhoansi. To pronounce !Xuun (pronounced [!͡χuː˦˥] in Western !Kung/!Xuun) one makes a click sound before the x sound (which is like a Scottish or German ch), followed by a long nasal u vowel with a high rising tone.
If the !Kung languages are counted together, they would make the third-most-populous Khoisan language after Khoekhoe and Sandawe. The most populous !Kung language, Juǀʼhoan, is perhaps tied for third place with Naro.
Estimates vary, but there are perhaps 15,000 speakers, though counting is difficult because speakers are scattered on farms, interspersed with speakers of other languages. Brenzinger (2011) counts 9,000 in Namibia, 2,000 in Botswana, 3,700 in South Africa, and 1,000 in Angola. Botswana hosts a minority of Juǀʼhoan speakers. Most of these figures are preliminary estimates, especially in Angola, where no demographic or linguistic surveys have been conducted since the civil war.[clarification needed]
Until the mid–late twentieth century, the ǃʼOǃKung and Maligo dialects were widespread in southern and central Angola. However, most !Kung fled the Angolan Civil War to Namibia (primarily to the Caprivi Strip), where they were recruited into the South African Defence Force special forces against the Angolan Army and SWAPO. At the end of the Border War, more than one thousand fighters and their families were relocated to Schmidtsdrift in South Africa amid uncertainty over their future in Namibia. After more than a decade living in precarious conditions, the post-Apartheid government bought and donated land for a permanent settlement at Platfontein, near Schmidtsdrift.
The better-known !Kung dialects are Tsumkwe Juǀʼhoan, Ekoka !Kung, ǃʼOǃKung, and ǂKxʼauǁʼein. Scholars distinguish between eleven and fifteen dialects, which may not be mutually intelligible when not adjacent, but there are no clear-cut distinctions between them at our present state of knowledge.
Sands et al. classify !Kung varieties into four clusters, with the first two being quite close:
- Northern !Kung: Southern Angola, around the Cunene, Cubango, Cuito, and Cuando rivers, but with many refugees now in Namibia:
- North-Central !Kung: Namibia, between the Ovambo River and the Angolan border, around the tributaries of the Okavango River east of Rundu to the Etosha Pan:
- ǀʼAkhwe (Ekoka)
- Central !Kung: The area around Grootfontein, Namibia, west of the central Omatako River and south of the Ovambo River
- Southeastern !Kung: Botswana east of the Okavango Delta, and northeast Namibia from near Windhoek to Rundu, Gobabis, and the Caprivi Strip:
ǂKxʼauǁʼein was too poorly attested to classify, but has since been determined to be Southeastern.
Heine & Honken (2010) classify 11 varieties into three branches:
- Northern–Western !Xuun
- Northern !Xuun
- Western !Xuun
- — (!xūún, !ʼālè !xòān "Valley !Xuun"; Eenhana district, N Namibia)
- Akhwe (!xūún, ǀʼākhòè !xòān "Kwanyama !Xuun"; Eenhana, N Namibia)
- Tsintsabis (!xūún; Tsintsabis, Tsumeb district, N Namibia)
- Kavango !Xuun (!xūún, known as dom !xūún "River !Xuun" in Ekoka; Western Rundu district, N Namibia, & Angola adjacent)
- Gaub (Tsumeb district, N Namibia)
- Neitsas (Grootfontein district, N Namibia)
The ancestral language, Proto-Juu or Proto-!Xuun, had five places of click articulation: Dental, alveolar, palatal, alveolar lateral, and retroflex (*ǃ˞ or *‼). The retroflex clicks have dropped out of Southeastern dialects such as Juǀʼhoan, but remain in Central !Kung. In ǀʼAkhwe (Ekoka), the palatal click has become a fricated alveolar.
|Proto-Juu||*ǃ 'belly'||*‼ 'water'||*ǂ|
|NW (Mangetti Dune)||ᶢǃű||ᶢǁű||ǂ|
- Brenzinger, Matthias (2011) "The twelve modern Khoisan languages." In Witzlack-Makarevich & Ernszt (eds.), Khoisan languages and linguistics: proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium, Riezlern / Kleinwalsertal (Research in Khoisan Studies 29). Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ju-Kung". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- The term !Kung is typically used when considering the dialects to constitute a single language; Ju tends to be used when considering them as a language family. The term !Kung is also sometimes used for the northern or northern and western dialects, as opposed to the well documented Juǀʼhoansi in the southeast; however speakers of nearly all dialects call themselves !Xuun (!Kung).
Additional spellings of !Kung / !Xuun are ǃHu, ǃKhung, ǃKu, Kung, Qxü, ǃung, ǃXo, Xû, ǃXû, Xun, ǃXung, ǃXũũ, !Xun, ʗhũ: (Doke 1926), and additional spellings of Ju are Dzu, Juu, Zhu.
- Brown & Ogilvie, 2008, Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, p 601
- For phonology and tones, see list of !Xun dialect names in Heine B. & Honken H. 2010. "The Kx'a Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy" Journal of Asian and African Studies (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36.
- Robins, Steven; Madzudzo Elias; Brenzinger, Matthias (2001). "Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa - An Assessment of the Status of the San in Namibia" (PDF). Windhoek: LEGAL ASSISTANCE CENTRE (LAC). Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Robins, Steven; Madzudzo Elias; Brenzinger, Matthias (2001). "Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa — An Assessment of the Status of the San in South Africa, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe" (PDF). Windhoek: LEGAL ASSISTANCE CENTRE (LAC). Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Bonny Sands, 2003. "Juu Subgroups Based on Phonological Patterns"
- Heine, B. and Honken, H. 2010. "The Kx'a Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy". Journal of Asian and African Studies (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36.
- Miller, Sands, et al., 2010. "Retroflex Clicks in Two Dialects of !Xung"
- Miller, Holliday, Howcroft, Phillips, Smith, Tsui, & Scott. 2011. "The Phonetics of the Modern-day reflexes of the Proto‐palatal click in Juu languages".