Khoisan Languages of Botswana

  • Andy Chebanne
  • Budzani Mogara


The Khoisan (Khoesan) languages are spoken by various indigenous population groups that historically issue from hunter-gather mode of subsistence. In the modern setup, they are talked about under the label San (which translates hunter-gatherer), and this sociocultural label has resulted in their marginalization in contact situation with other languages. Khoisan Southern Africa has essentially two language families, the Khoe (Nama, Naro, Gana, Gui, Shua, Buga, Cua) and the San (ǃxoon, ǃxung, ǂHoan). Generally, Khoisan languages have been under-researched, and this explains some misunderstanding and misrepresentation, and even neglect that is associated with them. Socially, they have been mistreated by their neighbours, and the current situation of marginalization and language endangerment they are experiencing is due to social-cultural domination by their neighbours (Batswana, Bakalanga, Wayeyi, etc.). In contact situation, most Khoisan speakers opt to neglect their languages and cultures and thus bring themselves under subordination of their neighbours. Their languages, which are characterized by click sounds, have been less tolerated by the encroaching settler populations around them. Research in all domains is gaining momentum, but most of it is done by expatriate scientists and rarely empowers the Khoisan to revitalize their languages which also present serious challenges in orthography. The presentation of their language names followed by a brief discussion is important for their identification as speech entities and the linguistic and sociolinguistic situations they are currently experiencing. It is imperative that linguists, anthropologists and language planners appreciate the critical areas of intervention for the preservation of these indigenous languages that are endangered and are not passed on to future generations.


Khoisan languages Khoe San Click languages Marginalized and endangered languages of Botswana 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Chebanne
    • 1
  • Budzani Mogara
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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