List Of African Languages With Clicks – What You Need To Know

Check out interesting details about African Languages with Clicks in this post. Africa is a big and broad continent no doubt, and there are different types of languages in Africa that are being spoken by different people and tribes. However, there are certain languages that are with clicks. These are collectively referred to as “Click Languages”. One thing that should be noted is that they are found only in Africa and peculiar to the continent alone. 

Click languages are special and unique, as clicks function as normal consonants. It should also be noted that in all of such languages, clicks simply make up a part (many times, the main part) of all the consonants the language has. 

The sound of these languages is very distinctive. It takes skills and efforts to learn how to go about it. From the mouth of the speaker, the clicks are articulated by a suction mechanism. These bring about a quick popping (it might also be a smacking) sound between the tongue of the speaker, and the roof of one’s mouth. Different languages use different clicks. Clicks can be articulated and produce a sucking sound between either the lips of at the side of one’s mouth (or even the teeth). 

Although it has been made known that clicks are originally unique to the Khoisan languages, they have quickly spread into various other languages (particularly of the Cushitic and Bantu groups). This was made possible as a result of the linguistic intercourse between these different languages. But then, the majority of the Khoisan languages around are usually known for using four clicking sounds.

Here are some African languages with clicks:

List Of African Languages With Clicks 

  • 1. Khoisan Languages 

There are various languages under this category that doesn’t belong to other African language families, and share click consonants. Almost all of them emerged from the southern part of Africa. Nevertheless, two amongst them were from the Eastern part of the continent – those of the Hadza and Sandawe. Before now, these were also categorised as Khoisan (even though those that speak the languages were not from Khoikhoi nor San as far as ethnic is concerned). 

For the Khoe family, according to African history, they seem to emerge from other parts of Africa to the southern part of the continent. It should be noted that their speakers are the Khoikhoi and the San (Bushmen). 

Before the famous Bantu expansion that was experienced years ago (and that shaped the course and destiny of the continent), it was made known that Khoisan languages (or those that resemble them) were likely spread throughout South Africa and East Africa. 

Nevertheless, today, these are usually heard only in some parts of Botswana and Namibia (and some parts of Tanzania), and the majority of those languages are endangered (while some are actually extinct). 

African Languages With Clicks
  • 2. Gciriku:

Gciriku is actually a traditional kingdom located in Namibia, and people that belong to the kingdom speak the Gciriku language known as Rumanyo. Although there are tons of ethnic groups in the country of Namibia, the Gciriku, who reportedly have an estimated population of twenty thousand, have a unique language. 

While a large chunk of them are based in Ndiyona Constituency, Kavango East,  some of them reside in Southern Angola. 

The language Rumanyo, which used to be known as Rugciriku, is part of the clicks languages, as it contains clicks. It is a Bantu language that is popular both in the Ndiyona constituency as well as in Rundu. The people are actually part of the Kavango migration group that, according to African history, emerged from central Africa and the Great Lakes. 

As things stand now, Gciriku has incorporated the four-click Khoisan system.

  • 3. Yeyi

Yeyi is another Bantu language that contains clicks, and it is the language of the Yeyi people. It was made known that there are over 40,000 people that speak the language in Africa. 

These people mainly reside along the Okavango River in Namibia and Botswana. Although there are other languages (Bantu languages) along the Okavango that contain clicks, Yeyi, though was influenced by other languages as a result of cultural intercourse with other tribes, still remains unique, as it has invented tons of clicks. 

Yeyi has also incorporated the four-click Khoisan system, and have lateral, alveolar, palatal, and dental articulations. 

However, it should be noted that the language is tilting towards extinction, as it seems to be getting more and more unpopular by the day. Indeed, it was made known that many older folks still prefer conversing with the language, but others are embracing other languages (like Tswana in Botswana and Lozi in Namibia). 

As of now, Yeyi is said to be learned by children in just some villages, while others that reside in north-eastern Namibia retained the language in villages.

  • 4. Dahalo

Dahalo is another African language with clicks – but unfortunately, now an endangered language. It is an “unusual” Cushitic language that uses all four airstream mechanisms found in human language for communication. 

It is spoken by the Dahalo people, and it was made known that there are just a few of the speakers left. These people used to be elephant hunters and have no villages for themselves. They no longer teach their children the language, and it means it might soon go into extinction a few years from now. 

There have been speculations that this group used to speak a Sandawe and retained clicks in some words when they decided to subscribe to Cushitic. The reason for such speculation is due to the fact that a handful of words that has clicks are simply basic vocabulary. So, Dahalo uses only one click. 

  • 5. Zulu

Zulu, one of the most popular languages in Africa (it has over nine million speakers), is a Bantu language spoken in the Southern part of the continent. It is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, and it has clicks too. It was made known that the Zulu language comes second after Swahili as the most widely spoken Bantu language. It should be added that the language has incorporated only three clicks.

  • 6. Xhosa:

Xhosa is one of the official languages of South Africa and is with clicks too. It is one of the most popular languages spoken in the Southern part of the continent (over 15 million speakers speaking as both first and second languages). It is a part of the Nguni languages (famously called Zunda languages), which also includes the likes of Zulu and Southern Ndebele. They appropriately form a dialect continuum of diverse mutually intelligible varieties.

Conclusion On The African Languages With Clicks

Apart from being African languages with clicks, the majority of them also have a feature of not having written records and are not popular at all (even in the country they are being spoken). 

It should nevertheless be added that one particular unique Khoisan language is Khoekhoe in Namibia. It is pretty famous and widely spoken by tons of people in the country. Other Khoisan languages that are popular with clicks are:

  • – Sandawe language in Tanzania (which is believed to have up to 70,000 speakers in Africa) 
  • – !Kung language of the northern Kalahari (which is believed to have up to 16,000 speakers in Africa) 
  • – Naro (it was made known that there are over 19,000 speakers of the language in Africa, although it is a second language to many of its speakers). 

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