|Two young girls from Kalahari, Namibia. |
San is one of the languages famous for its 'clicks'
But surely this can't always be the case - there are quite a few language areas that have considerably high phonemic inventories, for example the Northwest Coast of North America, and the Caucasian mountain regions. The African Continent is covered mainly by very large language families, with a few isolates. I was looking through some papers on African Language Diversity, and this one here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2008.00124.x/pdf speaks of 10, which isn't very much when I wouldn't be suprised if North America, a continent that has been populated by a speaking species for only a tiny fraction of the time, probably can equal or succeed that number (I'm guessing, I haven't checked!)
To me Africa looks like a continent that has had major language shifts and growths over so many millenia that looking back in time to try and retrieve information on the first languages spoken and what they sounded like, or what phonemes they contained - seems very far fetched to me. But then again, this is coming from someone who has not yet read the article. Or the abstract for that matter. That is great science. Anyhoo, here is a link to the abstract (which I have yet to read):