What does !Kung - sound like?
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!Kung


A woman speaking !Kung

Khoisan people from South Africa spoke the !Kung language. !Kung is a click language. It is probably the closest we can come to what the earliest languages sounded like. Of all the languages in the world, !Kung has the largest number of different kinds of sounds. Generally, the further you live from South Africa, the fewer different sounds there are in your language, as if people gradually simplified their sounds as they travelled further away. (Hawaiian has the smallest number.)

When Bantu people moved into South Africa, many people who spoke !Kung began to speak Bantu instead. And a lot of Bantu people began to mix !Kung words into their language, creating new languages called Xhosa and Zulu.

Xhosa
Swahili
Yoruba
African languages and literature
Ancient Africa
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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