Language, Identity, and Conceptualization among the Khoisan

ISBN 978-3-89645-143-9

Language, Identity, and Conceptualization among the Khoisan

Edited by: Mathias Schladt †. With contributions by: Megan Biesele, Matthias Brenzinger, Edward D. Elderkin, Tom Güldemann, Wilfrid H.G. Haacke, Bernd Heine, Henry J. Honken †, Christa Kilian-Hatz, Karsten Legère, Amanda Miller, Hirosi Nakagawa, Emmanuelle Olivier, Bonny Sands, Mathias Schladt †, Sigrid Schmidt, Jan Winston Snyman †, Anthony Traill †, Yvonne Treis, Hessel Visser, Rainer Voßen, Thomas Widlok. Series edited by: Rainer Voßen.

Series: Research in Khoisan Studies Volume 15

503 pp.
numerous graphs and tables
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
870 g
€ 38.00

Khoisanistics, the study of Khoisan peoples, their cultures and languages, has had a special status within the field of scientific African studies in general from its beginnings in the 17th century until today. Compared to the improvements made within the other African language phyla and the culture of its speakers, knowledge on Khoisan is still considerably small when it comes to their languages, historical backgrounds, and present status.

There is an urgent need for recording data on these cultures. This is clear from the fact that of the presumably 200 Khoisan languages that might have existed some 100 years ago only about 20 to 35 are still spoken today, many of which again are moribund. The fact that the estimates vary considerably is another indication for the unsatisfying overall situation within Khoisan. This situation is disastrous, among other reasons because a language spoken in any part of the world is worth recording since it is a reflection of the human mind. The study of a language can tell us more about the way people conceptualize their environment, about their traditions and their history than any collection of oral or written traditions.

Up to now all efforts to prove that the term Khoisan languages can be justified on the basis of the claim of a genetic relationship must be considered a failure or at least highly hypothetical. Another – though very different – major deficit in the research on Khoisan has been the fact that the few experts working on Khoisan have been doing their research more or less independently from each other. This has certainly caused the present situation where there is no sufficient academic exchange of experience. Such an exchange would not only lead to a better overall view on the alleged language family as a whole, but could also provide valuable information on the genetic relationship of the languages and their origin.

The Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 389) Arid climate, adaptation, and cultural innovation in Africa (1995–2007) has given a good opportunity to deal with the above mentioned problems. The present volume contains the proceedings of a symposium entitled Hunter-gatherers in Transition. Language, Identity, and Conceptualization among the Khoisan which was held from 5–8 January, 1997 at Sankt Augustin near Bonn/Germany. Its basic idea was to bring together experts from all over the world who are working on the various aspects of Khoisan research in order to facilitate comparison of the data on the different languages and peoples.

The prerequisites for a long-term contact of all researchers concerned with Khoisanistics in its widest sense were established. As a major mouth-piece, a working paper series entitled Khoisan Forum has been launched at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Cologne which is meant to serve as a forum for discussion and academic exchange of ideas for all Khoisan researchers.

Another major outcome of the symposium concerns the question of orthography. It was agreed that it is vital both for the academic and the practical use for the people to cooperate in establishing a compatible orthography for the Khoisan languages.


Edward D. Elderkin:
Sandawe Stems

Wilfrid H.G. Haacke:
A Khoekhoe dictionary in the making – Some lexicographic considerations

Christa Kilian-Hatz / Bernd Heine:
On nominal gender marking in Kxoe

Bonny Sands:
The linguistic relationship between Hadza and Khoisan

Hessel Visser:
The phonological system of Naro

Jan W. Snyman:
An official orthography for Zu|'õasi Kokx'oi

Tom Güldemann:
The Kalahari Basin as an object of areal typology – a first approach

Henry Honken:
Types of sound correspondence patterns in Khoisan languages

Karsten Legère:
Khoisan traces in Kavango languages

Amanda Miller-Ockhuizen:
Towards a unified decompositional analysis of Khoisan lexical tone

Hirosi Nakagawa:
Unnatural palatalization in |Gui and ||Gana?

Rainer Vossen:
Forms and functions of *!'o in some Khoe languages

Megan Biesele:
Idioms of identity – Ju-|'hoan-language political rhetoric 1987–1992

Matthias Brenzinger:
Moving to survive – Kxoe communities in arid lands

Emmanuelle Olivier:
Bushman vocal music – The illusion of polyphony

Mathias Schladt:
On describing conceptual structure – Examples from Kxoe

Sigrid Schmidt:
Nama and Damara legends about Tokolossi. Historical roots and present anxieties

Anthony Traill:
Lexical avoidance in !Xóõ

Thomas Widlok:
Cognitive foundations of Khoisan common sense

Yvonne Treis:
Names of Khoisan languages and their variants


The proceedings volumes of the following Khoisan conferences in Riezlern in 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014 have been published in the same series, see the following links:

Accompanying material:

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