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Project Members

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

A text documentation of N|uu

The project documented 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 consisted of three PhD students and the applicant. It was funded by the ELDP and started in October 2007.

The language is highly endangered, because only less than 10 elderly speakers are known at the time of project start. While the language had been subject to linguistic investigation  for five years prior to the start of the project by several linguists including the applicant, it was far from being documented in any sufficient way, because the previous research had mostly been dedicated to specialized topics such as to sound system, certain morpho-syntactic structures, and lexicon. A particularly striking gap in our knowledge of N|uu was a discourse-based description and analysis, and this across the whole spectrum of still existing inter-speaker variation. The project was 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 was generally limited, we will attempted, when possible, to gather a representative text corpus for every speaker; this allowed us to compare their respective idiolects in terms of linguistic and stylistic variation. These corpora contained 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 closely collaborated 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 resulted from this project were made available to these parties.