Language contact between Khoisan and Bantu languages: The case of Setswana

  • Hilde Gunnink


In southern Africa, contact with the typologically and genealogically diverse Khoisan languages has resulted in various changes in Bantu languages. The most salient and well-studied change is the acquisition of clicks, cross-linguistically uncommon phonemes that are a strong indicator of Khoisan influence. However, not all southern African Bantu languages make use of clicks, and contact-induced changes other than the adoption of clicks have rarely been identified. This article provides an overview of contact-induced changes from Khoisan languages in Setswana, a Bantu language without clicks spoken in South Africa and Botswana that is still in active contact with speakers of various Khoisan languages. Setswana has been influenced by different Khoisan languages in the form of loanwords and in the form of extensions of lexical semantics based on polysemy patterns common in Khoisan languages. These contact-induced changes provide a window on the nature of past interactions between Setswana and Khoisan speakers.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614