Social & Language Grouping
Mike Elliott 2004
Bushman linguistic divisions are referred to as the Northern, Central &
Southern Groups. It is a broad classification to identify the three main &
distinctive language forms. There are however other groups that do not
conveniently fall within these divisions but still apparently belong within
the overall Khoisan family. They include the Namib (now extinct Khoi tongue),
Khoi, Hadza & Sandawe.
The three primary
groups, Northern, Central and Southern, have very different language
structures, with noticeably the Central group having a distinctive Khoi (Nama-like)
language. For more detail on languages it would be best to visit the many
Khoisan Language Web Sites and other academic resources. This is not intended
as an essay on Languages, but rather a simple illustration of the range and
diversity to be found amongst the great Khoisan family. The term Clan has been
applied to identify extended family groupings that speak the same language or
very close variants.
There is also some
confusion out there in many areas including - linguistic groupings &
relationships (understandably), same names used to refer to unrelated groups,
spellings & pronunciation and incorrect identification (There's a surprise!).
I have no doubt that many errors have crept into this list but I have every
intention of identifying and correcting them. If you have any suggestions,
information, critisisms or if you are volunteering for some research then give
me a call.
the Bushmen of Namibia (east central, north & northeast), Angola (south),
Botswana (northwest) and Zambia (southwest). The main identified Clans in this
group are !Kung, !O Kung (Angola) & Auen.
Namibia (central -
east of the Okwa valley), Botswana (central and northeast), Zambia (southeast)
and filtering into Zimbabwe. Main collective groups consisted of the
K"am-ka Kwe, /Tannekwe and all central Kalahari Bushmen.
Covering all those
groups (now largely extinct) that inhabited the full region south of the
Tropic of Capricorn. The one exception was the !Xo who formed a splinter
reaching up into Botswana as far as the Okwa Valley. Primary clans identified
were the /Xam-ka!ke (collective), /Auni, !Khomani & the !Xo.
These are the
Bushmen groups that were known to have inhabited the Namib coastal regions
& the central western escarpment ridge in Namibia. They were considered
extinct from about 1930 but there is much to suggest that some may have been
absorbed into the various "mixed blood" Nama groups living on the
fringes of the mountains. They were actually reported as speaking Nama (a Khoi
language) but were distinctly Bushmen in social organisation and customs. Main
identified clans were /Geinin, /Xoma, //Obanen and ≠Ganin.
These are the
various groups forming the Nama, Khoi or Hottentot (old Dutch meaning "Stutterers"
- a reflection on their speech) people who kept cattle, goats and sheep. This
is very wide spread with pockets found all over southern Africa and became
very mixed during the white occupation of the subcontinent. Other groups who
spoke closely related languages but lived as Hunter/gathers (Like the Central
and Namib groups) have been kept separate here to distinguish their very
different life styles and original locations. The exception is the Strandloper
(Cape Coastal Hunter/gatherer) group who, although having no livestock, seemed
more closely akin to the Khoi than nearby Bushman groups.
This covers those
groups like the Sandawe and Hadza who have some linkage to the Bushmen in
terms of Language or culture but have no other more direct links. Some of
these bands are probably the remnants of hunter/gatherer groups who had been
largely absorbed by the Bantu agro-pastoralists in pre-history. Others are
possibly devolved cultures having in the past adopted farming lifestyles but
have returned to their original survival economy for some reason.
on Clicks (Click Consonants)
The unique clicks
used in Khoi languages are varied and complex, with many varieties and
applications throughout the different Clans and groups. This is a very
simplified description of the more common ones used. They are denoted by
internationally recognised symbols.
slash) denotes a frontal dental click similar to the English "Tsk-Tsk"
of disapproval. /? is a Glottal variation & ?/ is a nasal type.
Forward slashes) denotes a lateral dental click similar to the sound
used to urge a horse.
sign bisected by a forward slash) denotes a sharp alveolar click made
with the tongue against the roof of the mouth.
mark) denotes a sharp palato-alveolar click made with the tongue on the
back of the gum ridge. Cork popping sound.