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Phonological and Lexical Variation in the Khwe Dialect Cluster

Anne-Maria Fehn

Pages 9 - 38


The Kalahari Khoe language Khwe can be considered one of the best-documented Khoe-Kwadi languages with a considerable corpus of published materials, including a grammar, dictionary and extensive text collection. However, despite the recognized status of Khwe as a dialect cluster, the focus of scholarly research has mostly been on the ||Xom variety spoken on both sides of the Okavango River in Namibia. To assess the degree of internal variation to be found within the wider Khwe-speaking area, this article follows a comparative approach and presents data from the ||Xom, Buga and ||Ani dialects, using both published and newly collected data from Namibia and Botswana. A comparison of phonological, tonological and lexical data shows that the ||Ani variety from Botswana can be clearly distinguished by means of lexical and phonological isoglosses, confirming previous results as well as ethnographical observations and speakers' self assessment. The present data further suggests a close link between ||Xom and Buga, with only little inter-dialectal variation that may be explained by areal, rather than by genealogical separation.

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