Top 6 African Languages with Clicks (2022)

Click languages are unique and distinctive because clicks act as regular consonants. It is important to note that in all these languages, clicks only comprise a small portion and many times, the major component of the consonants a language can have. The language’s sound is extremely distinctive and it requires a lot of skill and effort to understand how to go with it.

In the speaker’s mouth, the clicks are articulated through the suction mechanism. They produce a rapid popping which may also be an obnoxious smack sound, that travels between speakers’ tongues along with the roof of the mouth. Several African languages have clicks and different African languages use different clicks. Clicks languages are articulated and they create a squeaking sound when placed on either the lips or on the sides of one’s mouth (or even between the teeth).

Top Six African Languages With Clicks

Clicks were initially exclusive to the Khoisan languages but they have rapidly spread into different language groups, particularly from languages belonging to Cushitic as well as the Bantu group. This was possible because of the interplay between these languages. However, the majority of Khoisan languages are recognized for their click sounds.

1. Khoisan Languages

There are a variety of languages in this category that don’t belong to any other African family of languages and can share click consonants. The majority of them originated from the southern portion of Africa. But two originated from the Eastern part of Africa and were from the Hadza as well as Sandawe.  These languages were classified as Khoisan even though the people who speak these languages are not from Khoikhoi or San in terms of their ethnicity.

It is important to note that their native speakers comprise Khoikhoi and the San. It is public knowledge that Khoisan languages or the ones that resembled their appearance were probably spread throughout South Africa and East Africa. However, they are typically only spoken in a few areas in Botswana as well as Namibia and certain areas of Tanzania. However, a majority of these languages are threatened while certain are disappearing. Khoisan languages are some of the African languages with clicks.

2. Gciriku

Gciriku is a more traditional kingdom that is located in Namibia and the people who are part of the kingdom use the Gciriku language, which is known as Rumanyo. There are a lot of ethnic groups within the nation of Namibia but the Gciriku with an estimated population of 20,000 residents are the only ones with a distinct language.

The language Rumanyo which was previously also known as Rugciriku is one of the languages of clicks since it is a click language. It is a Bantu dialect that’s well-known within the Ndiyona community and also in Rundu. Presently, Gciriku has incorporated the four-click Khoisan system.

3. Yeyi

Yeyi is a second Bantu language with clicks. It is the native language spoken by people of the Yeyi people. Reports have revealed that there are more than 40,000 people who speak Yeyi in Africa. The majority of them live in the Okavango River in Namibia and Botswana. Yeyi although affected by other languages due to interactions with other tribes, is unique as it is the only one to have invented a lot of clicks.

Yeyi also has incorporated with it the 4-click Khoisan system. But, it must be observed it is slipping towards extinction since it is becoming increasingly unpopular every day. However, some are adopting different languages like Tswana in Botswana and Lozi in Namibia. At present, Yeyi is said to be taught to children in only a few villages, whereas others in northern Namibia have maintained the language within villages. It is one of the African languages with clicks.

4. Dahalo

Dahalo is an additional African language that uses clicks however, it is now a language that is endangered. Dahalo can be described as an unusual Cushitic language that utilizes the four airstream mechanisms that are found in the human language to communicate. The language is used by the Dahalo people. It was reported that there are only some of the people who speak it left.

They don’t teach their children to speak the language, which implies that they could be heading towards the extinction zone a few years from today. There has been speculation that this group could speak in Sandawe and keep clicking on certain words before they decided to sign up for Cushitic. The reason for this speculation is the fact that a few words with clicks are simply basic. Therefore, Dahalo uses only one click.

5. Zulu

Zulu is one of the more listened-to languages spoken in Africa with over 9 million people speaking it. It is a Bantu language that is spoken in the Southern part of Africa. Zulu is one of South Africa’s official languages and is also a click language.

It was revealed that the Zulu language ranks second to Swahili for being the second most commonly utilized Bantu language. It is important to note that the language has been incorporated with just three clicks.

6. Xhosa

Xhosa is one of the main languages spoken in South Africa with clicks. It is among the most well-known languages spoken in the Southern region of the continent with over 15 million people speaking it either as a primary or second language.

It is one of the  Nguni languages famously known as Zunda languages that also include the languages of Zulu and Southern Ndebele. They form dialect continuums of various inter-related varieties that are both understandable and mutually compatible. The Xhosa language is one of the African languages with clicks.

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Conclusion

Africa is a large continent, no doubt and there are a variety of languages found within the continent that are spoken by various tribes and people. There are, however, certain African languages with clicks that are known as Click Languages. These languages are unique to the continent only.

Clicks Languages are the languages that can only be found in Africa where clicks function as regular consonants. However, the only report outside of Africa for a specific language that functions as a click language is the case of the Damin language which is the language of ritual that is spoken by The Lardil from the northern region of Queensland, Australia.