Language Policy

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 277–297 | Cite as

Writing Khoisan: harmonized orthographies for development of under-researched and marginalized languages: the case of Cua, Kua, and Tsua dialect continuum of Botswana

Original Paper


Khoisan languages are spoken by various culturally diverse communities of Southern Africa. These languages also present an important linguistic diversity. Some of Khoisan languages communities are generally under-researched, marginalized and experiencing sustained sociolinguistic forces that threaten them. For those that have been documented, researchers have come up with IPA writing systems that some users, especially missionaries and literacy materials developers, have deemed impractical. These writing conventions challenges have become challenges in Khoisan orthography development. For less documented languages this situation of illiteracy in their languages compounds the problem as speakers have no resources to develop and promote their languages. The question of harmonization is raised in this paper to create a common base for the development of orthography for less documented endangered languages that are in dialect continuum such as the Cua, Kua and the Cua. The paper will argue for these dialectal continuum harmonized orthography development as a resources that will benefit these endangered languages and facilitate their integration in educational and language use policies. Harmonization with Nguni and Yeyi languages will not be envisaged as they are not Khoisan, and may not provide typical phonetic inventories found in Khoisan. Also the extensive contrast in the sound system within Khoisan will not be tackled, but the general principles of community-based writing efforts. The point made is that the promotion and preservation Khoisan languages effectively happen when they feature in education and are written and passed from one generation to the other.


Khoisan (Khoe and San) languages Orthography Dialect continuum Language policy Marginalized languages Endangered languages 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GaboroneBotswana

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