22.05.2015 - 21:09
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Department of Linguistics

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (0) 341 3550 - 300
fax: +49 (0) 341 3550 - 333

e-mail: cissewski@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Past Research

A text documentation of N|uu

The project documents the last South African San language and the only surviving member of the !Ui branch of the isolate family Tuu (a.k.a. "Southern Khoisan"). The team consists of three PhD students and the applicant. It is funded by the ELDP and starts in October 2007.

The language is highly endangered, because only less than 10 elderly speakers are known at present. While the language has been subject to linguistic investigation in the last five years by several linguists including the applicant, it is far from being documented in any sufficient way, because the previous research has mostly been dedicated to specialized topics such as to sound system, certain morpho-syntactic structures, and lexicon. A particularly striking gap in our current knowledge of N|uu is a discourse-based description and analysis, and this across the whole spectrum of still existing inter-speaker variation. The proposed project is intended to fill this major gap and ultimately lead to a documentation of N|uu to the fullest possible extent. Since the number of speakers is generally limited, we will attempt, if possible, to gather a representative text corpus for every speaker; this will later allow us to compare their respective idiolects in terms of linguistic and stylistic variation. These corpora will contain both prompted texts of parallel (and thus comparable) structure (e.g. based on the “Pear story film” or on similar stimuli) and spontaneously produced, culture-specific texts. The project will closely collaborate with the community, the South African San Institute (the NGO coordinating community work), and the scholars previously engaged in linguistic research on this language and materials that result from this project will be made available to these parties. Moreover, the project team will continue efforts to make the ethnic community participate actively in the research, and train selected people accordingly.

Project Members

  • Tom Güldemann
  • Alena Witzlack-Makarevich
  • Martina Ernszt
  • Sven Siegmund


ELDP (The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project): 

South African San Institute: