A Look at the Dahalo Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Dahalo language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Semitic
Cushitic
East Cushitic

Dahalo, a Cushitic language spoken in Southern Kenya, is legendary for having some of the wildest consonant phonology on Earth. It has all four airstream mechanisms found in languages: ejectives, implosives, clicks and normal pulmonic sounds. There are glottal, epiglottal, laminal and apical stops and glottal and epiglottal fricatives.

There is also a strange series of nasal clicks that can be either glottalized or plain. Some of these clicks are also labialized. It has both voiced and unvoiced prenasalized stops and affricates, and some of the stops are also labialized. There is a weird palatal lateral ejective. There are three different lateral fricatives, including a labialized and palatalized one, and one lateral approximant. It contrasts alveolar and palatal lateral affricates and fricatives, the only language on Earth to do this.

The Dahalo are former elephant-hunting hunter gatherers now living as settled agriculturalists who live in Southern Kenya. It is believed that at one time they spoke a click language like Sandawe or Hadza, but they switched over to Cushitic at some point. The clicks are thought to be substratum from a time when Dahalo was a Sandawe-Hadza type language.

Dahalo gets a 6 rating, hardest of all.

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Filed under Africa, Afroasiatic, Applied, East Africa, Kenya, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Regional, Semitic

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