The damaging effects of romantic mythopoeia on Khoesan linguistics

Du Plessis, Menan (2014-06)

CITATION: Du Plesis, M. 2014. The damaging effects of romantic mythopoeia on Khoesan linguistics. Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural Studies, 28(3):569-592, doi:10.1080/02560046.2014.929217.

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The article outlines some basic guidelines that should inform studies in comparative linguistics, and notes a tendency in contemporary Khoesan linguistics for these to be neglected, while pre-theoretical assumptions of ‘ancientness’ and ‘otherness’ take their place. The article demonstrates the damaging effects of this romanticism through two brief case studies – one concerning the supposedly primordial stratum made up of the JU and !UI-TAA languages, and the other concerning a conjectured intermediate stratum made up of the KHOE (or ‘Khoe- Kwadi’) languages. It is concluded that the construction of these linguistic layers, so neatly in agreement with the layers proposed in certain models of southern African population history, has been enabled by a willingness to believe that perceptions of otherness have some absolute and meaningful value, and that they take precedence over fundamental principles.

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