Beyond 'Khoisan'

Historical relations in the Kalahari Basin

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  • Editors: Tom Güldemann1, and Anne-Maria Fehn1
  • Format: PDF
  • Publication Year: 2014
  • e-Book ISBN 9789027269928

Greenberg’s (1954) concept of a ‘Khoisan’ language family, while heartily embraced by non-specialists, has been harshly criticized by linguists working on these languages. Evidence for Greenberg's hypothesis has proved to be seriously insufficient and little progress has been made in the intervening years in substantiating his claim by means of the standard comparative method. This volume goes beyond “Khoisan” in the linguistic sense by exploring a more complex history that includes multiple and widespread events of language contact in southern Africa epitomized in the areal concept ‘Kalahari Basin’. The papers contained herein present new data on languages from all three relevant lineages, Tuu, Kx’a and Khoe-Kwadi, complemented by non-linguistic research from molecular and cultural anthropology. A recurrent theme is to disentangle genealogical and areal historical relations — a major challenge for historical linguistics in general. The multi-disciplinary approach reflected in this volume strengthens the hypothesis that Greenberg’s “Southern African Khoisan” is better explained in terms of complex linguistic, cultural and genetic convergence.

Subjects: Historical linguistics; Theoretical linguistics; Other African languages

  • Affiliations: 1: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin & Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig

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