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A historical appraisal of clicks: a linguistic and genetic population perspective


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

Abstract

Clicks are often considered an exotic feature of languages, and the fact that certain African "Khoisan" groups share the use of clicks as consonants and exhibit deep genetic divergences has been argued to indicate that clicks trace back to an early common ancestral language (Knight et al. 2003). Here, we review the linguistic evidence concerning the use of click sounds in languages and the genetic evidence concerning the relationships of African click-speaking groups. The linguistic evidence suggests that genealogical inheritance and contact-induced transmission are equally relevant for the distribution of clicks in African languages. The genetic evidence indicates that there has been substantial genetic drift in some groups, obscuring their genetic relationships. Overall, the presence of clicks in human languages may in fact not trace back to the dawn of human language, but instead reflect a much later episode in the diversification of human speech.

Clicks are often considered an exotic feature of languages, and the fact that certain African "Khoisan" groups share the use of clicks as consonants and exhibit deep genetic divergences has been argued to indicate that clicks trace back to an early common ancestral language (Knight et al. 2003). Here, we review the linguistic evidence concerning the use of click sounds in languages and the genetic evidence concerning the relationships of African click-speaking groups. The linguistic evidence suggests that genealogical inheritance and contact-induced transmission are equally relevant for the distribution of clicks in African languages. The genetic evidence indicates that there has been substantial genetic drift in some groups, obscuring their genetic relationships. Overall, the presence of clicks in human languages may in fact not trace back to the dawn of human language, but instead reflect a much later episode in the diversification of human speech.

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21 citations in Web of Science®
24 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Language:English
Date:October 2008
Deposited On:13 Feb 2009 15:44
Last Modified:14 Sep 2016 13:36
Publisher:Annual Reviews
ISSN:0084-6570
Additional Information:ISBN: 978-0-8243-1937-3
Publisher DOI:10.1146/annurev.anthro.37.081407.085109
Official URL:http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/toc/anthro/37/1
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&con_lng=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=005698196
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-6380

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