Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 12:07:46 -0400

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: Xhosa

Larry is short one coarticulation (or 'co-coarticulation') possibility with

the clicks.

They may be plain (x,c,q), or

'voiced' (or 'glottalized' as some Ngunists [Nguni being the name of the

southeastern Bantu sub-group to which isiXhosa belongs] prefer to say - gx,

gc, gq), or

nasalized (nx, nc, nq), or

aspirated (xh, ch, qh),

as Larry points out, but they may also be 'Naso-glottalized' - ngx, ngc, ngq,

yielding a fifteen-way rather than telve way set of phonemic distinctions.

Bob Herbert has a very interesting article on the sociocultural environment

which has to do with the borrowing of clicks into Nguni from the Khoisan

languages (related to a tabu concerning fermale uses of male names);

publication details escape me at the moment, but I think the title was 'The

sociohistory of clicks in Southern Bantu' and I'm pretty sure it appeared

in Anthropological Linguistics.


Sorry to bother dialecticians with this, but I have no other immediate

source. Do any of you know if (and how long) Xnghossa (South african

"click" language that I may have misspelled) has a writing system of the

language. how are the clicks "written"? thanks.

The language in question is Xhosa (more formally, isiXhosa), and the X there

is the representation of one of the three positions in which clicks occur,

the lateral one. Besides the laterals, there are retroflex or palatal (or

"domal") clicks, represented as Q, and dental/alveolar clicks, represented as

C. Any of these can be "voiced" (the voicing is phonetically realized by its

effect on the adjacent vowel tone; in fact I think a voiced click per se is

physically impossible), or nasalized (represented with an N before the click

letter), or aspirated (represented with an H after the click letter, as in the

name of the language). Sister languages in the southern Bantu group that have

clicks are Zulu and Ndebele. The true "click languages", though, are from an

unrelated family, Khoisan (the one spoken in the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy"

which may or may not help), e.g. (in the Western naming tradition) Bushman and

Hottentot. It is these languages from which the southern Bantu ones borrowed

their clicks, and in the Khoisan languages I understand they're much more

prevalent. (Sorry I can't answer your question about how long Xhosa has been



Dennis R. Preston

Department of Linguistics and Languages

Michigan State University

East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA


Office: (517)353-0740

Fax: (517)432-2736