!Kung (!Xuun), also known as Ju,〔The term ''!Kung'' is typically used when considering the dialects to constitute a single language; ''Ju'' tends to be used when considering them as a language family. The term ''!Kung'' is also sometimes used for the northern or northern and western dialects, as opposed to the well documented ''Juǀʼhoansi'' in the southeast; however speakers of nearly all dialects call themselves ''!Xuun'' (!Kung).
Additional spellings of ''!Kung / !Xuun'' are ''ǃHu, ǃKhung, ǃKu, Kung, Qxü, ǃung, ǃXo, Xû, ǃXû, Xun, ǃXung, ǃXũũ, !Xun, ʗhũ:'' (Doke 1926), and additional spellings of ''Ju'' are ''Dzu, Juu, Zhu''.〕 is a dialect continuum (language complex) spoken in Namibia, Botswana, and Angola by the ǃKung people. Together with the ǂHoan language, it forms the proposed Kx'a language family. !Kung constituted one of the branches of the putative Khoisan language family, and was called Northern Khoisan in that scenario, but the unity of Khoisan has never been demonstrated and is suspected to be spurious. Nonetheless, the term "Khoisan" is widely retained as a convenience.〔Brown & Ogilvie, 2008, ''Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World'', p 601〕
!Kung is famous for having a large number of clicks, such as the ǃ in its name, and has some of the most complex inventories of both consonants and vowels in the world. It also has tone. For a description, see Juǀʼhoansi. To pronounce ''!Xuun'' (pronounced in Western !Kung/!Xuun) one makes a click sound before the ''x'' sound (which is like a Scottish or German ''ch''), followed by a long nasal ''u'' vowel with a high rising tone.〔For phonology and tones, see list of !Xun dialect names in Heine B. & Honken H. 2010. ("The Kx'a Family: A New Khoisan Genealogy" ) ''Journal of Asian and African Studies'' (Tokyo), 79, p. 5–36. 〕
If the !Kung languages are counted together, they would make the third-most-populous Khoisan language after Khoekhoe and Sandawe. The most populous !Kung language, Juǀʼhoan, is perhaps tied for third place with Naro.
Estimates vary, but there are perhaps 15,000 speakers, though counting is difficult because speakers are scattered on farms, interspersed with speakers of other languages. Brenzinger (2011)〔 counts 9,000 in Namibia, 2,000 in Botswana, 3,700 in South Africa, and 1,000 in Angola. Most of these figures are preliminary guesses, especially in Angola, where no demographic or linguistic surveys have been conducted since the civil war.
Until the mid–late twentieth century, the ǃʼOǃKung and Maligo dialects were widespread in southern and central Angola. However, most !Kung fled the Angolan Civil War to Namibia (primarily to the Caprivi Strip) and to South Africa. Botswana hosts a minority of Juǀʼhoan speakers.
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