Towards a phonological typology of the Kalahari Basin Area languages

Hirosi Nakagawa, Alena Witzlack-Makarevich*, Daniel Auer, Anne Maria Fehn, Linda Ammann Gerlach, Tom Güldemann, Sylvanus Job, Florian Lionnet, Christfried Naumann, Hitomi Ono, Lee J. Pratchett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reports some results of the first large-scale, comprehensive survey of the phonological systems of the Khoisan languages of the Kalahari Basin Area. These languages are famous for their large sets of click phonemes, a typologically rare characteristic otherwise found only in a limited number of languages worldwide. They are also unique because the click phonemes carry a high functional load in terms of phonemic and lexical distinctions in the respective systems. Finally, these languages have strikingly similar and highly skewed root phonotactics. The article provides empirical support for a range of claims and speculations that have been made about these typologically rare systems of the Kalahari Basin Area.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)509-535
Number of pages27
JournalLinguistic Typology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • African languages
  • Kalahari Basin Area
  • Khoe-Kwadi languages
  • Khoisan languages
  • Kx'a languages
  • Tuu languages
  • clicks
  • phonological typology


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