Southern Khoisan (obsolete)
|South Africa and Botswana|
|Linguistic classification||One of the world's primary language families (formerly considered Khoisan)|
Tuu languages in pink
The Tuu languages, or Taa-?Kwi (Taa-?Ui, ?Ui-Taa, Kwi) languages, are a language family consisting of two language clusters spoken in Botswana and South Africa. The relationship between the two clusters is not doubted but is not close. The name Tuu comes from a word for "person" common to both branches of the family.
The Tuu languages are not demonstrably related to any other language family, however they do share a great many similarities to the languages of the Kx'a family. This is generally thought to be due to thousands of years of contact and mutual influence (that is, a sprachbund), but some scholars believe that the two families may eventually prove to be related.
The Tuu languages were once thought to form a branch of the now-obsolete Khoisan language family and were called Southern Khoisan in that scenario.
The ?Kwi (!Ui) branch of South Africa is moribund, with only one language remaining, N?ng, and that with less than 5 elderly speakers. ?Kwi languages were once widespread across South Africa; the most famous, ?Xam, was the source of the modern national motto of that nation, ?ke exarra ?ke.
The Taa branch of Botswana is more robust, though it also has one surviving language, ?Xóõ, with 2,500 speakers.
Because many of the Tuu languages became extinct with little record, there is considerable confusion as to which of their many names represented separate languages or even dialects. See List of Khoisan languages for some possibilities.
The Tuu languages, along with neighbouring ?'Amkoe, are known for being the only languages in the world to have bilabial clicks as distinctive speech sounds (apart from the extinct ritual jargon Damin of northern Australia, which was never anyone's mother tongue). Taa, ?'Amkoe and neighbouring G?ui (of the Khoe family) form a sprachbund (language area) with some of the most complex inventories of both consonants and vowels in the world. All languages in these three families also have tone.