The Linguistic Features of Ju/’hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ

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CHAPTER 3: The Linguistic Features of Ju/’Hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ

The Three Languages


In chapter 2 the most relevant works on Khoesan languages under consideration here have been reviewed. In this chapter the linguistic features found in the three languages are analyzed. It is divided into nine sections and each language is discussed separately under the headings mentioned below. More specifically, this chapter focuses on linguistic structures such as the phonology and morphology of Ju/’hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ and also considers the syllable structure, consonants, vowels, tone and the noun class system.
Although there are perculiarities, the phonological features found in Ju/’hoansi, Naro, and !Xóõ are similar to those found in other languages. Thus, the phonological features found in Ju/’hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ include the syllables, consonants, vowels and tone.
However, what sets the Khoesan languages apart is the frequent occurrence of the clicks, which has attracted the attention of many researchers like Snyman (1979), Traill (1991) and Traill and Ladefoged (1993). Thus, consonants in these languages comprise of two categories, namely clicks and ordinary consonants. As indicated in sections, and, Ju/’hoansi, Naro, and !Xóõ respectively have a five basic vowel system similar to that found in other languages. As is the case with Bantu languages, these languages make use of grammatical and lexical tone. In other words, these languages use grammatical and lexical tones to distinguish the meanings of phrases or words. In what follows each language is considered separately with Ju/’hoansi being discussed first. Nine sections are devoted to this language. Section 3.1.1 deals with the introduction which covers the places where Ju/’hoansi is spoken and section looks at its syllable structure. Section dscribes the consonants and section covers the clicks. Section discusses the vowels and section deals with tone. Section 3.1.2 looks at morphology and section covers the noun class system. Section summarizes the main findings highlighting what happens in Ju/’hoansi concerning the syllable structure, the consonants, vowels, the tone and the noun class system. The same sequence also applies to Naro and !Xóõ.


Ju/’hoansi is spoken in Sehithwa, Nokaneng, Tsau, Qangwa, Qaaqa, Dobe, Charles Hill, D’kar, Groote Laagte, Kanagas, Karakobis, Kuke, New Kanagas, Tshobokwane, and West Hanahai villages and in some villages in Namibia. According to Hasselbring (2000:75), between 2124 and 2596 Ju/’hoansi speakers live in Botswana.

Phonological structure

Syllable structure

In most African languages, words can be exhaustively divided into a sequence of syllables. In other words, each word can be analyzed into a succession of units of the same general form, typically containing the peak or nucleus (the most prominent part), the onset (the segment or segments that precede the nucleus) and the coda (the segment that follows the peak). The rhyme, which is composed of both the nucleus and the coda, is the central part of the syllable as opposed to the onset, which is considered more peripheral. The common syllable type in most African languages is CV (consonant vowel) as in the Ju/’hoansi example, ho ‘sees’. Syllables without onsets when allowed are often restricted to word or phrase initial position.
Canonically, syllables are divided into open syllables (which end in a vowel e.g. CV, and closed syllables (which end in a consonant e.g. CVC) as indicated in the !Xóõ example dzàm ‘palpitate’. Most Khoesan languages have open syllables and as such their canonical syllable structure is CV-CV (cf. symbols and abbreviations) as indicated in the examples below.
Another common feature of the syllable structure of Khoesan languages is the distinction between long and short syllables. Long syllables are normally those made up of two (or more) moras, and short syllables consist of only one mora4. In a number of Bantu languages, syllabic length (indicated by a colon following the vowel of the respective long syllable or a doubling of the vowel) maybe distinctive as seen in the following Swahili examples taken from the Handbook of The Sound System of Setswana (1999: 30).
A further syllable type found in many African languages including Ju/’hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ is the syllabic nasal N (cf. symbols and abbreviations). According to Clements (2000), this sound usually agrees in place of articulation with a following consonant; it can sometimes be derived from an underlyingly nasalized vowel. What constitutes a well-formed syllable varies from language to language, and, within a language it may also vary according to grammatical status and position (Clements 2000:140). The stem initial syllable, as Clements notes, hosts the largest number of phonemic contrasts. The onset position can be occupied by a single consonant or a complex consonant as shown in this figure below. The example in Figure 2 shows how the English word stop is represented syllabically.
In terms of the structure in figure 2 above, the onset position is occupied by a consonant cluster [st]. On the other hand, the nucleus is occupied by the mid-back vowel [o] while the coda is occupied by the voiceless bilabial plosive [p].
It should be observed here that within the generative grammar, a syllable is further divided into monomoraic and bimoraic elements. A monomoraic syllable structure has a skeletal or templatic tier of V or CV, and a bimoraic syllable structure would have a VV or CVV skeletal or templatic tier (Department of African Languages and Literature (1999:51). This is exemplified in the Setswana word lesaka ‘kraal’.
In the generative grammar referred to above, this diagram illustrates that the word lesaka ‘kraal’ can be described at three tier levels which are connected by association lines. At the syllable level, the word consists of two syllables; at the skeletal level, each syllable is monomoraic (CV), and at the segmental level, each syllable is made up of two segments- a vowel as the nucleus and a consonant as the peripheral or onset element.
Ju/’hoansi has both an open and closed syllable structure and the syllables can be further divided into long and short syllables. In terms of the structure in figure 2 on page 28, in Ju/’hoansi, the onset can be occupied by an ordinary consonant or a click as illustrated in the figure below.

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Chapter 1: Introduction and Background 
1.1 The country
1.2 The Research Problem
1.3 Relevance of the Study
1.4 Statement of the Problem
1.5 Rationale of the Study
Chapter 2: Literature Review 
2.1. Introduction
2.2 NARO
2.4 Background on Bantu Verb Structure
Chapter 3: The Linguistic Features of Ju/’hoansi, Naro and !Xóõ
3.1 The Three Languages
3.2 NARO
3.3 !XÓÕ
Chapter 4: Research Methodology and Theoretical Framework
4.1. Introduction
4.2 Summary
Chapter 5: The Verb Complex in Northern, Central & Southern Khoesan
5.1. Introduction
5.2 NARO
5.3 !XÓÕ
5.4 Verbal Extensions
Chapter 6: Summary and Conclusions 
5.5 Conclusion
5.6 Bibliography 116
5.7 Appendix

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