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The Lexicon in Language Attrition: The Case of N|uu
Bonny Sands, Amanda L. Miller, and Johanna Brugman
55-65 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper examines whether there is evidence for language attrition in N|uu, an endangered click language spoken by eight people in South Africa. Even though all N|uu speakers have shifted to speaking Afrikaans in daily life, we see relatively little evidence for lexical attrition in a directly-elicited lexicon of N|uu. The rate of borrowing and the types of borrowings seen are less than might be expected in a language spoken by so few people. This may be because N|uu speakers have undergone radical, rather than gradual, shift towards Afrikaans. The overall size of the lexicon, amount of polysemy and suppletives, and ease of speakers' recall and lexical judgments do not clearly confirm or disprove attrition in the N|uu lexicon. The relatively small number of ideophones and stylistic variants are the strongest evidence of attrition in the lexicon, but these types of lexical items are the most difficult to obtain through direct elicitation.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference on African Linguistics
edited by Doris L. Payne and Jaime Peña
Table of contents
Printed edition: $250.00