Ju/’hoan

We’re back to Africa this week for the next language of the week. Ju/’hoan is spoken in Botswana by roughly 5000 people, and about the same number in Namibia (although I’m a bit surprised that the number is that high). Unlike Hadza, Ju/’hoan actually is a Khoisan language. It’s a member of the same part of the family as !Kung.

There are lots of wonderful things about this language. It’s a tone language for a start. It has a consonant system to die for – the Wikipedia entry gives a nice summary of the click and non-click consonants. We tend to think to focus on the clicks in languages such as this, but the non-click inventory is pretty cool as well. There are five pure vowels, but there is also a length contrast, and a heap of phonation types.

Ju/’hoan has an IMDB entry. There are two movies with dialogue in this language: Cosmic Africa, from 2002, and Hakase no aishita sûshiki, which according to the plot summary is “the story between single mother housekeeper and mathematics professor,who has a brain damage.” I can’t find it on Netflix yet, and the plot summary seems to make the language identification somewhat unlikely, but you never know.

There’s a page on Pan-African localisations here (the link goes to the Ju/’hoan page), and it lists some of the linguistic materials available.

There are plenty of articles on anthropology of Ju/’hoansi people, and some online articles about education. There seems to have been a number of studies of the impact of Namibian education policy on local languages. That’s for another post though.

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3 responses to “Ju/’hoan

  1. As much as I would love to see more non-English movies in IMDB, Hakase no aishita sushiki is a Japanese movie (博士の愛した数式), so yes, the language identification is a few continents off.

    Nice phoneme inventory, though! Affricated clicks contrasting with ‘sharp’ clicks?

  2. In IMDB it had Japanese and Ju/’hoan as the languages…

    I’m not ure why they talk about affricated versus sharp, since it seemed to be by place of articlulation .

  3. Now I’m intrigued. Is there a Ju/’hoan connection in the movie somehow? That would be highly cool. Too bad it’s not on Netflix! I’ll have to see if I can get a copy from Japan.

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