Khoisan & Linguistic Comminutes Sioux

Lakota is a Siouan language spoken by the Lakota people, who are members of the Sioux tribes. Apart from Dakota and Nakota, it is one of the Sioux dialects (Powers, 2009). Sioux is spoken by over 30,000 people in the United States and Canada, placing it fifth among the most spoken native languages in the nation. Lakota is one of three main regional varieties, the other two being Western Dakota and Eastern Dakota. Western Dakota is also known as Yankton-Yanktonai is at the middle of Eastern Dakota and Lakota.

Lakota language is polysynthetic in that its nouns are both simple and/or derived. Nouns which are derived are classified into two forms namely compound and fixed. Those that are derived by affixation consist of either suffixes or prefixes. The elements that are used as suffixes are mostly alike to critics. On the other hand, compound nouns comprise of two or more nouns and can also consist of a noun and a verb (McCarty, 2013).

Language Origin and Population of the Language

Lakota language dates back to the 10th century with its speakers originating from the lower parts of the Mississippi river (McCarty, 2013). Lakota term is used in conjunction with the language complex. As mentioned above, Lakota is one of the dialects of Sioux language that developed as a result of the Sioux people spreading across the expansive plains in North America. It is the most spoken language of the three dialects that developed due to creation of tribes. From the three varieties emerge the Seven Council Fires also popularly known as the Oceti Sakowin.

The branch of the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota tribe is organized into seven bands of speakers linguistically. The language spread to the areas of Lake Traverse on the Minnesota border of the South Dakota-North Dakota and the valley of James River (Irvine & Gal, 2008). The United States came into contact with the Lakota language during the Expedition of Lewis and Clerk between 1804 and 1806 and it was put on paper in 1840 by missionaries. The language has since then lost meaning and is dying at a very high rate.

In 1987, the population of the Lakota was around 20,000. Out of those inhabitants, only 6,000 are native speakers of the language (Powers, 2009). Today, the population of first-language Lakota speakers is estimated to be 2,000. This number is barely 2% of the total population of Lakota. The language is speculated to become extinct in the near future.

Why Lakota Language Is Dying

A significant epidemic of smallpox destroyed more than half of Lakota tribes between 1722 and 1780 (Irvine & Gal, 2008). For this reason, the language speakers were greatly reduced. Another reason for the dying of the language is a series of warfare between the Lakota bands and the U.S. Army which also reduced their numbers. In 1877, they were forced to sign a treaty that ceded Black Hills to US and since then, they have been confined into Western South reservations of Dakota (Irvine & Gal, 2008).

Influence by American culture has also played a big role to reducing the frequency with which Lakota language is spoken. In addition, surveys show that transmission of the language to children stopped in mid-1950s meaning an average Lakota speaker is about 66 years old (Powers, 2009). These speakers are dying without passing the language to the next generations.

Khosian (Click) Language


Khoisan is a collective name for two distinct groups of people, the Khoikhoi and the San (Güldemann & Stoneking, 2008). The two groups share physical and more similar linguistic elements well defined from the majority Bantus. Archaeologically, the Khoikhoi were originally pastoralists while the San hunters and gatherers. The Khoikhoi were greatly massacred by the Germans from 1904 to 1907 eradicating nearly half of the population. During that period, more than 10,000 people were killed. San were initially Botswana inhabitants and the term is derogatory having been given to them by the Khoikhoi people. Together with other hunters and herders represented in a number of ethnic groups, they speak an exclusive click language.

Language Origin and Population

The language is indigenous in Namibia and may have been spoken by the majority on Earth over 150,000 years ago. Khoisan languages are not genealogically associated with or belong to any language family in Africa. All of them except two are considered to be native to southern part of Africa. Before the expansion of the Bantus, these languages were spoken widely across eastern and southern Africa and are now restricted to Tanzanian Rift Valley and the Kalahari Desert (Fage, 2013).

Although most Khoisan languages are becoming extinct and have no written records, they are considered to have the greatest inventories of phonemic constant in the whole world (Fage, 2013). The languages are mainly spoken in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia. Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe speak the languages to a lesser extent. Outside the topographical location of the Khoisan languages are the Sandawe and the Hadza in Tanzania who speak the dialect.

Hadza has about 800 utterers in Tanzania but is no longer considered as a Khoisan language and the two groups are unrelated. Sandawe, on the other hand, has a rough calculation of 40,000 people who speak it in Tanzania (Güldemann & Stoneking, 2008). Additional families of Khoisan languages are the Khoe, Tuu and Kx’a. Khoe is both the most abundant and assorted family of the Khoisan languages. It has seven languages and more than 250,000 speakers. The language is composed of two main dialects, Haillom and the Aekhoe spoken by Nama tribe and Damara tribe respectively. They principally live in Namibia and have 31 consonants in their language.

Haillom language appears in most references of Khoisan with only 18,000 speakers and they are branded Saa by Nama thus the basis of the term San. Tuu comprises of two language collections which are correlated to each other and are typologically more analogous to Kx’a composed of Amkoe and Kung (Güldemann & Stoneking, 2008).

A comparison between the Bantus and the Khoisan shows that click consonants are found in both languages such as Xhosa and Zulu (Dimmendaal, 2008). The Bantus borrowed the clicks from the Khoisan during their expansion. Outside Khoisan and Bantu Families are found clicks in Cushitic languages. An example is Dahalo spoken by approximately 400 people in Kenya with about 40 lexical terms with clicks who are considered to have shifted from a Khoisan language taking a few words into Cushitic language. Notably, there exists a thrilling distinction between the Khoisan languages despite their conjoint clicks swerving significantly from each other.


Dimmendaal, G. J. (2008). Language ecology and linguistic diversity on the African continent. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2(5), 840-858.

Fage, J. (2013). A history of Africa. Routledge.

Güldemann, T., & Stoneking, M. (2008). A historical appraisal of clicks: a linguistic and genetic population perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37, 93-109.

Irvine, J. T., & Gal, S. (2009). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. Linguistic anthropology: A reader, 402-434.

McCarty, T. L. (2013). Language planning and policy in Native America: History, theory, praxis (Vol. 90). Multilingual Matters.

Powers, W. (2009). Saving Lakota: Commentary on language revitalization. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 33(4), 139-149.

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