cover-picture: Junior Scientist Group

Research Projects

Documentation of ǂHȍã with a focus on contact influence

The purpose of this project is to document the highly endangered language ‡Hȍã. It is spoken in the Kalahari region in southern Botswana in the Kweneng district. Speakers are still found in the villages of Motokwe, Khekhenye, Tswaane, Dutlwe and probably some others by around 60 speakers. Like other minority languages (especially those of Khoisan origin) in Botswana, and elsewhere in Southern Africa, this language is in danger of becoming extinct; most ‡Hȍã-speakers are older than 50 years and do not pass their language on to the younger members of the community. While in South Africa the relevant languages are largely extinct already, in other regions the vast majority of the surviving languages are endangered or even moribund, and the process of language shift in the remaining speech communities is well underway (Batibo & Tsonope 2000).

botswana map

The language under investigation belongs to the Ju-ǂHoan family but is a single language (there are no languages directly related to it). Although lexical similarities to its neighbouring languages East ǃXoon (East Taa, Tuu family) and Gǀui (Western Kalahari branch of the Khoe family) point towards an ancient contact situation, effects on the morphosyntax have not yet been investigated. Furthermore, ‡Hȍã was classified as being related to these above-named languages on a macro-level in the so-called Khoisan family (Greenberg 1963). A close examination of shared features might rule out genealogical relation on a macro-level and rather allude to possible areality due to language contact. The documentation of ‡Hȍã is part of a collaborative research project in the framework of the Eurocores programme ‘EuroBABEL’, which will investigate the Kalahari Basin, an area hosting diverse populations and languages of different families that share features due to long-term language contact situations.

Batibo, Herman M. and Joe Tsonope (eds). 2000. The state of Khoesan Language Studies in Botswana. Gaborone: University of Botswana.
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. The languages of Africa. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University.

Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, 2010: | Imprint