Research Articles

Hearing Voices: Research and creative practice across cultures and disciplines

  • John Wynne


To date, I have done two projects with speakers of endangered languages in collaboration with linguists: one in Botswana and one in western Canada. Linguistically and culturally, both of these areas are among the world’s few fragile and dwindling ‘pockets of residual diversity’ (Nettle and Romaine 2000: 38). In 2001 I spoke at a conference at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg about my project with Kenyan master musician Ingosi Mwoshi. Afterwards, while visiting my friend and colleague John McAllister in Botswana (who facilitated both the Kenyan work and later the Hearing Voices project), I heard a Zulu newsreader on television. At that time, I knew nothing about the origins of ‘clicks’ in southern African languages and next to nothing about language endangerment, but as an artist who is often led by my ears, I was intrigued and inspired by the integration of sounds like glottal stops and palatal clicks in speech and decided to develop a project which eventually grew, with financial assistance from the University of the Arts London, to include a gallery installation, a half-hour ‘composed documentary’ for BBC Radio 3 and a CD-ROM made in collaboration with HRELP.

Keywords: endangered languages, Hearing Voices, Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, Ingosi Mwoshi, southern African languages, click consonants, Khoi and San languages, Botswana, Canada

How to Cite:

Wynne, J., (2014) “Hearing Voices: Research and creative practice across cultures and disciplines”, Language Documentation and Description 12, 120-150. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed