The African continent is a place of utmost wonder. From its vast beautiful landscape filled with an array of wildlife to its intricate culture and tradition interwoven with the African beliefs, its worldview, its way of life, and the diverse linguistic heritage of this great people. The African language is so diverse that the number of languages spoken in Africa makes up one-third of the total population of languages spoken in the whole world. These languages which are estimated to be over two thousand languages are subdivided into five language families, which are; the Niger-Congo language family, which is estimated to be comprised of over 1500 languages making It the largest African language family, the Afro-Asiatic which is estimated to be around 371 languages, the Khosian languages amounts to a total of 35 languages, the Nilo-Saharan languages that comprises of 196 languages, and the Austronesian language families. These diverse families have different and distinct qualities that make them a spectacle to be studied and harnessed. Today, we will be discussing a particular African language family whose cognitive prowess is a linguistic wonder. This article is an appreciation for the African Khoisan languages.

The African people have lived on this continent for over two million years. From a single family, Africa spread all through the regions generating new cultures traditions, and even languages. The Origin of some African languages cannot be traced back due to little or no documentation at all. Some have been there since as long as Africans have walked the continent, while some developed more recently. The Origin of the Khosian language according to archaeologists, linguists, and anthropologists, developed around 300 thousand years ago, making it indeed one of the oldest African languages in the continent. The Khoisan is a term of convenience covering some 30 languages spoken by around 300,000–400,000 people. These languages can be divided into three unrelated groups of families, and two isolated families. It is noteworthy to know that the Khosian language family has proved to be problematic because it has grouped people that are different genetically, in assimilation, culture and tradition, and other linguistic phenomenon into a language family. The only similarity between the Khoisan languages is the presence of click sounds in their articulations.

1. The Tuu Languages
The Tuu languages or formally known as southern Khosian are a language family consisting of two language clusters spoken in Botswana and South Africa. These language clusters are Taa and Kwi. From the Taa languages, a lot of languages have gone extinct, leaving only one language to be spoken. The !Xóõ language is the only surviving language from the Taa languages, spoken by 2,500 speakers mostly in Botswana
The kwi language was a branch of the Tuu language with an array of dialects. Although now extinct the Kwi dialects of the Southern group, such as | Xam, ǁNg, and |’Auni, were spoken in South Africa; of the !Kwi dialects, Eastern languages/dialects, ǁXegwi, Seroa, ǁŨǁʼe, Boshof ǃUi, and ǃGãǃne are spoken. All of these Kwi languages are moribund except for the N||ng language that is scattered across villages in the Northern Cape. only ǂKhomani a dialect from the N||ng is still spoken, by a few individuals in Northern Cape province.

2. The Khoe-Kwadi Languages
The Khoe languages, also known as Central Khoisan or Khoe-Kwadi, were the first languages known to the European colonists. They constitute one branch of the Khoisan language family, known to be the most familiar, and easy to learn. The Khoe-Kwadi language group is known to be the most numerous and diverse of the Khoisan languages, with a total of seven living languages and over a quarter million speakers. This branch includes languages spoken by the Khoe people, The Nama/Damara, The Hai||om, East Tsue-Khwe(East Kalahari), and West Tsue-Khwe(West Kalahari). And their language dialects are Nama ( Khoekhoe, Nama, Damara) a dialect cluster including ǂAakhoe and Haiǁom, Xiri, and Shua which is a dialect cluster that includes Shwa, Deti. The Tsʼixa, The ǀXaise, and Ganádi, The Tsoa, The Kxoe, The Naro, The Gǁana, and The Tsʼixa.These languages and dialects are characterized by their extensive use of click consonants, which is a prominent feature shared with other Khoisan languages.

3. The Kx’a Languages
The Kx’a languages also referred to as Ju-Kx’a, Ju-‘hoan, or Northern Khoisan, form another branch of the Khoisan language family. These languages are particularly spoken by the ǂʼAmkoe which amounts to 200 speakers, found mostly in Botswana. And ǃKung also known as ǃXun or Ju, of the formerly Northern Khoisan families. This dialect cluster has a total of 45,000 speakers. It is believed that the Juǀʼhoan dialect is the best-known, and is more spoken. Even though like all Khosian languages the Kx’a languages use click consonants it has been established to be the most distinct languages within the Khoisan language families.

The isolated languages are mainly the Sandawe languages and the Hadza.
The Sandawe
The Sandawe uses click consonants making it one of three languages in East Africa with such characteristics. The Sandawe language has two dialects; they are northwest Sandawe and southeast Sandawe. These two dialects have little differences attributed to them. The only differences are speed, vowel dropping, some word taboos, and minor lexical and grammatical differences. Sandawe is spoken by 60,000 Sandawe people deep in the Dodoma northwest region of Tanzania.

The Hazda
The Hazda is a language isolate spoken along the shores of Lake Eyasi in Tanzania by around 1,000 Hadza people, who include in their number the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa. It is one of only three languages in East Africa with click consonants. Despite the small number of speakers, the Hadza people use their language vigorously, by making sure that most children learn to speak it.
Over 428 languages have gone extinct and more are endangered of meeting the same fate. A wide amount of Khoisan languages adds to this figure, and the next subheading will discuss why.

The Khoikhoi people entered the historical records when they first came in contact with the Portuguese explorers, about 1000, years after their displacement by the Bantu. And from that exposure to the outside world, these people have suffered gravely.

1. The Exposure to Foreign Illnesses
The African continent before the white men had their share of diseases that they fought in ways that proved to be fruitful, but when the European colonist came, they brought illnesses that were like nothing they have ever faced. The Bushman Wars was the first war recorded by the Khoi people. The Khoi people fought the colonialist for their lands but was unaware of the plague these white men brought with them. When The Khoi people came in contact with the Europeans, they were exposed to smallpox. As a result, most of the Khoi people died from this grievous disease, and with that lost most of their land to the colonialist. The Khoi population as well as their languages dropped so much that even to date, their numbers which were once more than the rest of Africans are now the minorities, even in their own country.

2. The Break Down of the Khoi Social Structure
When the Dutch East India Company enclosed traditional grazing lands for farms, it became hard for the Khoi people who were predominantly made of hunter-gatherers to survive. The seizure of the lands of the Khoi people instigated the attacks and wars by the Khoi people, but after the advent of smallpox, the Khoi people had little to no resources to continue fighting the colonialists. Most of the Khoikhoi people settled on farms and became bondsmen or farm workers, but this was no more than slavery in their land. The linguistic result, these individuals needed to learn a new language to aid them in getting employment in farmlands owned by European colonialists thereby hampering their indigenous languages

3 Intermarriage By the Europeans
As if the taking away of the lands of the Khoikhoi people wasn’t enough, the early European settlers married a lot of their women which resulted in the creation of the Griqua. The Griqua is a mixed race of the early Khoikhoi people and their early colonizers resulting in a sizeable mixed-race population. These one’s are seen as having no culture and are not classified as real Africans linguistically and socially. This has caused a lot of disparities between the Khoi people and other southern African people who refuse to accept them as real Africans and relinquish the lands that were originally theirs.

4. Forced Relocation in Botswana
The indigenous San people of Botswana lived their lives as hunters and were content with their lives. They had lived that way for millennials until the government in the 1970s forcibly relocated them from their land. The San people lived in the middle of the world’s richest diamond field but were unaware of it. Even though the government denied knowing anything about the land’s natural resources it was obvious they were lying due to the extent they were ready to go in the guise of protecting wildlife reservations. The government took hold of every oasis and watery hole and forcibly denied the San people water even when many died, and a lot more were arrested for hunting. Until their relocation, many strived to get jobs but unemployment was rampant, and poverty crippled the San people. As a result, the San people mixed with other Bantu tribes, and their language went through language exchange. In the bid to find new jobs, they also learned a more dominant language, while they left their indigenous language on the sidelines.

5. Herero and Namaqua Genocide
In the Herero and Namaqua genocide, about 10,000 Nama, a Khoekhoe group, and an unknown number of San people were killed in an extermination campaign by the German Colonial Empire between 1904 and 1908. How did this happen?
In January 1904 the Herero and the Nama people led by Samuel Maharero and Captain Hendrik Witbooi respectively, rebelled against the German colonial rule and fought for the independence of their land. On January 12 they killed over a hundred German settlers in the area of Okhandja and managed to chase away some German soldiers, but unfortunately for them, their victory was short-lived. In August, German general Lothar von Trotha fought and defeated the Ovaherero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of dehydration. In October, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans, only to suffer a similar fate. Between 24,000 and 100,000 Hereros and 10,000 Nama died in the genocide while many died in the many German concentration camps in the country. The German general took great pride in the death of this Khoisan-speaking people when he said in his official publication, named Der Kampf; “This bold enterprise shows up in the most brilliant light the ruthless energy of the German command in pursuing their beaten enemy. No pains, no sacrifices were spared in eliminating the last remnants of enemy resistance. Like a wounded beast the enemy was tracked down from one water-hole to the next, until finally he became the victim of his environment. The arid Omaheke (desert)was to complete what the German army had begun: the extermination of the Herero nation”. This genocide resulted in the mass death and extinction of the Khoisan languages as indigenous speakers were killed by the German government.

These days, those who identify as Khoisan are an ostracized minority, not just inside their country but also within the colored community. Nobody knows how many Khoisans currently live in South Africa, and the government does not collect such data. According to 2017 estimates, 8.8 percent of the country’s population—or about 5 million people—is colored, but the number of colored people who have indigenous ancestry and currently identify as Khoisan is likely just a small fraction of that number. But even with all these challenges, stigmatization, and its dark history, the Khoisan languages and its people have continued to grow as a linguistic family and to push its linguistic marvel to the rest of the world.
The Khoisan language is a shining example of linguist elegance, cultural prestige, and an indomitable spirit that stands even after all it’s been through. These languages have withstood the tests of time and have remained an invaluable repository of Khoisan History, wisdom, and heritage. As we celebrate the beauty of the African Khoisan language, it is also imperative that we recognize the importance of protecting and promoting our African languages. We might not have to carry guns and fight wars against a foreign colonizer, but today, our mouth is our weapon, our pen is our rifles and the love we carry for our African cultural heritage is our swords. In all we do let us continue to promote our African languages. They are a true linguistic Marvel.

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