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Encyclopedia > Languages of Africa
Map showing the distribution of African language families and some major African languages. Afro-Asiatic extends from the Sahel to Southwest Asia. Niger-Congo is divided to show the size of the Bantu sub-family.
Official languages - in many African countries there are several official languages
Official languages - in many African countries there are several official languages

The languages of Africa are a diverse set of languages, many of which bear little relation to one another. European language has a great deal of influence due to the recent history of colonization. Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family (Languages of Africa) with about 375 languages (SIL estimate) and more than 300 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and Southwest Asia (including some 200 million speakers of Arabic). ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...  Southwest Asia in most contexts. ... Map showing the distribution of Niger-Congo languages The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the worlds major language families, and Africas largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. ... Map showing the approximate distribution of Bantu vs. ... Image File history File links Official_LanguagesMap-Africa. ... Image File history File links Official_LanguagesMap-Africa. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... Map showing European claimants to the African continent in 1913. ...


There are an estimated 2000 languages spoken in Africa.[1] African languages such as Swahili, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, Ibibio language of the Ibibio/Annang/Efik people Ibibio, Annang and Efik are spoken by millions of people. Others, such as Laal, Shabo, and Dahalo, are spoken by a few hundred or fewer. In addition, Africa has a wide variety of sign languages, many of whose genetic classification has yet to be worked out. Several African languages are also whistled for special purposes. A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... This article is about the language. ... Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more. ... Yoruba (native name èdè Yorùbá, the Yoruba language) is a dialect continuum of West Africa with over 22 million speakers. ... The Ibibio people are a tribe in the south-south-east of Nigeria. ... The Annang (Also spelt Anaan) is a cultural and ethnic group that lives within southeast Nigeria. ... This page meets Wikipedias criteria for speedy deletion. ... The Laal language is a still-unclassified language spoken by 749 people (as of 2000) in three villages in the Moyen-Chari prefecture of Chad on opposite banks of the Chari River, called Gori (lá), Damtar (ɓual), and Mailao. ... Shabo (also called Mikeyir) is an endangered language spoken by less than 1,000 hunter-gatherers in southwestern Ethiopia, in the south-central portion of the former Illubabor province. ... Dahalo is an endangered South Cushitic language spoken by about 400 people in Kenya. ... Two sign language Intepreters working as a team for a school. ... A whistled language is the use of whistling to emulate speech and facilitate communication. ...


The abundant linguistic diversity of many African countries has made language policy an extremely important issue in the neo-colonial era. In recent years, African countries have become increasingly aware of the value of their linguistic inheritance. Language policies that are being developed nowadays are mostly aimed at multilingualism. For example, all African languages are considered official languages of the African Union (AU). 2006 was declared by AU as the "Year of African Languages".[2] Many countries have a language policy designed to favour or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. ... Bilingual redirects here. ... The languages of the African Union (AU) are languages used by citizens within the member states of the AU. The Union has defined all languages of Africa as official, and currently uses Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese as its working languages [1], due to the Arab conquest of North Africa...

Contents

Language families

Most African languages belong to one of four language families: Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, and Khoisan. A handful of languages associated with the continent are Indo-European or Austronesian, however, their presence dates to less than 500 and 1000 years ago, respectively, and their closest linguistic relatives are primarily non-African. In addition, African languages include several unclassified languages, and also sign languages. Current distribution of Human Language Families Most languages are known to belong to language families (families hereforth). ... The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family (Languages of Africa) with about 375 languages (SIL estimate) and more than 300 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and Southwest Asia (including some 200 million speakers of Arabic). ... Map showing the distribution of the Nilo-Saharan languages. ... Map showing the distribution of Niger-Congo languages The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the worlds major language families, and Africas largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. ... The Khoisan languages (also Khoesaan languages) are the indigenous languages of southern and eastern Africa; in southern Africa their speakers are the Khoi and Bushmen (Saan). ... For other uses, see Indo-European. ... The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia. ... Unclassified languages are languages whose genetic affiliation has not been established, mostly due to lack of reliable data. ... A sign language (also signed language) is a language which uses gestures instead of sound to convey meaning - combining handshapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, facial expressions and lip-patterns. ...

Main article: Afro-Asiatic languages

Formerly known as Hamito-Semitic languages, Afro-Asiatic languages are spoken in large parts of North Africa, East Africa, and Southwest Asia. The Afro-Asiatic language family comprises approximately 375 languages spoken by 285 million people. The main subfamilies of Afro-Asiatic are the Semitic languages, the Cushitic languages, Berber, and the Chadic languages. The Semitic languages are the only branch of Afro-Asiatic located outside of Africa. The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family (Languages of Africa) with about 375 languages (SIL estimate) and more than 300 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and Southwest Asia (including some 200 million speakers of Arabic). ...  Northern Africa (UN subregion)  geographic, including above North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, separated by the Sahara from Sub-Saharan Africa. ...  Eastern Africa (UN subregion)  East African Community  Central African Federation (defunct)  geographic, including above East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easternmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. ...  Southwest Asia in most contexts. ... 14th century BC diplomatic letter in Akkadian, found in Tell Amarna. ... The Cushitic languages are a subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic languages, named after the Biblical figure Cush by analogy with Semitic. ... The Berber languages (or Tamazight) are a group of closely related languages mainly spoken in Morocco and Algeria. ... The Chadic languages are a language family spoken across northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon, belonging to the Afro-Asiatic phylum. ...


Some of the most widely spoken Afro-Asiatic languages include Arabic (Semitic), Amharic (Semitic), Oromo (Cushitic), and Hausa (Chadic). Of all the world's surviving language families, Afro-Asiatic has the longest written history, since both Ancient Egyptian and Akkadian are members. Arabic redirects here. ... Note: This article contains special characters. ... Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, Oromiffa(a), and sometimes in other languages as variant spellings of these names (Oromigna, Afan Oromo, etc. ... Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more. ... Spoken in: Ancient Egypt Language extinction: evolved into Demotic by 600 BC, into Coptic by AD 200, and was extinct by the 17th century Language family: Afro-Asiatic  Egyptian  Writing system: hieroglyphs, cursive hieroglyphs, hieratic, and demotic (later, occasionally Arabic script in government translations) Language codes ISO 639-1: none... Akkadian (lišānum akkadÄ«tum) was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ...

Main article: Nilo-Saharan languages

The Nilo-Saharan languages include an array of diverse languages, a categorization that is not entirely agreed upon. They mainly include languages spoken in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and northern Tanzania. Some languages in Central and West African are also classified as Nilo-Saharan. The family consists of more than a hundred languages. Nilo-Saharan languages are often sub-divided into Komuz languages, Saharan languages (including Kanuri language, Songhay languages, Fur languages (including Fur language), Maban languages, Central Sudanic languages, Kunama language, Berta language, Eastern Sudanic languages. Map showing the distribution of the Nilo-Saharan languages. ...  Central Africa  Middle Africa (UN subregion)  Central African Federation (defunct) Central Africa is a core region of the African continent often considered to include: Burundi Central African Republic Chad Democratic Republic of the Congo Rwanda Middle Africa (as used by the United Nations when categorising geographic subregions) is an analogous... West African refers to: West Africa An airline: West African Airlines [1] This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... The Komuz languages are a family of languages along the Sudan-Ethiopia border. ... Map showing the distribution of the Nilo-Saharan languages. ... Kanuri is a Nilo-Saharan language which is spoken by about 4 million people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. ... The Songhay languages (IPA [soÅ‹ay], in the dialects of Gao and Timbuktu [soÅ‹oy]) are a group of closely related languages/dialects centered on the middle stretches of the Niger River in present day Mali and Niger, widely used as a lingua franca there ever since the era of... The Fur languages constitute a small, closely related first-order subgroup within the Nilo-Saharan languages: Fur in western Sudan with 500,000 speakers and Amdang in eastern Chad (also called Mimi) with 5,000 speakers. ... The Fur language (Fur bèle fòòr or fòòraÅ‹ bèle, Arabic فوراوي Fûrâwî; sometimes called Konjara by linguists, after a former ruling clan) is the language of the Fur of Darfur in western Sudan. ... The Maban languages are a group of Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in Chad, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. ... Central Sudanic is a grouping of about thirty languages of the Nilo-Saharan language family. ... The Kunama language is spoken by the Kunama people who straddle the Eritrean, Ethiopian border (in the west). ... The Berta language is spoken in Sudan and Ethiopia, and is generally classified as a branch of Nilo-Saharan. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ...


Eastern Sudanic languages are subdivided into Nubian languages and Nilotic languages. Nilotic languages include Eastern Nilotic languages, Southern Nilotic languages and Western Nilotic languages The Nubian language group, according to the most recent research by Bechhaus-Gerst comprises the following varieties: Nobiin (previously known by the geographic terms Mahas or Fadicca/Fiadicca). ... The Nilotic languages are a group of Eastern Sudanic languages spoken across a wide area betweensjd;vkNNNDfjsa[fafdasfdscv southern Sudan and Tanzania by the Nilotic peoples, particularly associated with cattle-herding. ... The Eastern Nilotic languages are one of the three primary branches of the Nilotic languages, themselves belonging to the Eastern Sudanic subfamily of Nilo-Saharan; they are believed to have begun to diverge about 3,000 years ago, and have spread southwards from an original home in Equatoria in the... The Southern Nilotic languages are spoken mainly in western Kenya and northern Tanzania (with one of them, Kupsabiny or Sapiny, being spoken on the Ugandan side of Mount Elgon). ... The Western Nilotic languages are one of the three primary branches of the Nilotic languages, themselves belonging to the Eastern Sudanic subfamily of Nilo-Saharan. ...


Nilo-Saharan languages include an array of languages, including Luo languages in Sudan, Uganda,Kenya and Tanzania (eg. Acholi, Lango, Dholuo), Ateker in Uganda and Kenya (eg. Teso, Karamojong and Turkana), Maasai (Kenya and Tanzania), Kalenjin (Kenya), Kanuri (Nigeria, Niger, Chad) and Songhay (Mali, Niger). Most Nilo-Saharan languages are tonal. The Luo languages comprise about 15 languages spoken in an area ranging from Southern Sudan via Uganda to Southern Kenya, with Dholuo extending into Northern Tanzania and Alur into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... Acholiland, Uganda Acholi (also Acoli) are the people of the districts of Gulu, Kitgum Pader (known as Acholiland) in northern Uganda, and Magwe County in southern Sudan. ... The Lango (plural Langi) people live in the central area of Uganda, north of Lake Kyoga. ... Joluo (commonly known as Luo) are an ethnic group in Kenya and Tanzania. ... Ateker or Atekerin is a common name for the closely related Jie, Karimojong, Turkana, and Teso peoples and their languages. ... TESO was a famous hacker group, which originated in Austria and quickly became international. ... The Karamojong (sometimes called Karimojong), are a tribe of semi-nomadic herders who live in the north-eastern part of Uganda, in the Karamoja region. ... Turkana refers to: Turkana people of Kenya Lake Turkana This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Maasai is an Eastern Nilotic language spoken in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania by the Maasai people, numbering about 900,000. ... Kalenjin is an ethnic group of Nilotic origin living in the Great Rift Valley in western Kenya. ... Kanuri is a Nilo-Saharan language which is spoken by about 4 million people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. ... The Songhay languages (IPA [soÅ‹ay], in the dialects of Gao and Timbuktu [soÅ‹oy]) are a group of closely related languages/dialects centered on the middle stretches of the Niger River in present day Mali and Niger, widely used as a lingua franca there ever since the era of... The adjective tonal can refer to: tonality in music a tonal language the opposite of Nagual, in the specific context of Carlos Castaneda, the tonal is what makes the world. ...


The Kadu languages were formerly grouped with the Kordofanian languages, but are nowadays often considered part of the Nilo-Saharan family. The Nilotic languages, having expanded substantially with the Nilotic peoples in recent centuries, are a geographically widespread language family and have a large population. Kadu Languages Western (Tulishi, Keiga, Kanga) Central (Miri, Kadugli, Katcha, Tumma) Eastern (Krongo, Tumtum) See also Nilo-Saharan languages ... Several Kordofanian languages are spoken in the Nuba hills of Kordofan, in Sudan. ... The Nilotic languages are a group of Eastern Sudanic languages spoken across a wide area betweensjd;vkNNNDfjsa[fafdasfdscv southern Sudan and Tanzania by the Nilotic peoples, particularly associated with cattle-herding. ... Nilotic people or Nilotes, in its contamporary usage, refers to some ethnic groups mainly in southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and northern Tanzania, who speak Nilotic languages, a large sub-group of Nilo-Saharan languages. ...

Main article: Niger-Congo languages

The Niger-Congo language family is the largest group of Africa (and probably of the world) in terms of different languages. One of its salient features, still shared by most of the Niger-Congo languages, is the noun class system. The vast majority of languages of this family is tonal. The Bantu family comprises a major branch of Niger-Congo, as visualized by the distinction between Niger-Congo A and B (Bantu) on the map above. Map showing the distribution of Niger-Congo languages The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the worlds major language families, and Africas largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. ... In linguistics, the term noun class refers to a system of categorizing nouns. ... A Tonal language is a language that uses tone to distinguish words. ... Map showing the approximate distribution of Bantu vs. ...


The Niger-Kordofanian language family, joining Niger-Congo with the Kordofanian languages of south-central Sudan, was proposed in 1950s by Joseph Greenberg. It is common today for linguists to use "Niger-Congo" to refer to this entire family, including Kordofanian as a subfamily. One reason for this is that it is not clear whether Kordofanian was the first branch to diverge from rest of Niger-Congo. Mandé has been claimed to be equally or more divergent. The Niger-Kordofanian language family was proposed by Joseph H. Greenberg in his 1966 book Languages of Africa. ... Several Kordofanian languages are spoken in the Nuba hills of Kordofan, in Sudan. ... Joseph Greenberg Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ... Mandé is the name of an ethnic group or nation, as well as a group of languages which are spoken in several countries in West Africa, including Mandinka, Soninke, Bambara, Dioula, Kagoro, Bozo, Mendé, Yacouba, and Vai. ...


Niger-Congo is generally accepted by linguists, though a few question the inclusion of Kordofanian or Mandé.

Main article: Khoisan languages

The Khoi-San languages number about 50, and are spoken by about 120,000 people. They are found mainly in Namibia, Botswana, and Angola. Two distant languages usually considered Khoi-San are Sandawe and Hadza of Tanzania. Many linguists regard the Khoi-San phylum as a yet unproven hypothesis. The Khoisan languages (also Khoesaan languages) are the indigenous languages of southern and eastern Africa; in southern Africa their speakers are the Khoi and Bushmen (Saan). ... Sandawe is a tonal language spoken in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. ... Hadza is a language of Tanzania. ...


A striking — and nearly unique — characteristic of the Khoi-San languages is their use of click consonants. Some neighboring Bantu languages (notably Xhosa and Zulu) have adopted some click sounds from the Khoi-San languages, as has the Cushitic language Dahalo; but only a single language, the Australian ritual language Damin, is reported to use clicks without being a result of Khoi-San influence. All of the Khoi-San languages are tonal. Clicks are stops produced with two articulatory closures in the oral cavity. ... For the Xhosa people, see Xhosa. ... Zulu (called isiZulu in Zulu), is a language of the Zulu people with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority (over 95%) of whom live in South Africa. ... The Cushitic languages are a subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic languages, named after the Biblical figure Cush by analogy with Semitic. ... Dahalo is an endangered South Cushitic language spoken by about 400 people in Kenya. ... A secret language spoken in the Gulf of Carpentaria used in mens initiation rites. ... A Tonal language is a language that uses tone to distinguish words. ...


Non-African families

The above are families indigenous to Africa. Several African languages belong to non-African families: Malagasy, the most common language of Madagascar, is an Austronesian language, and Afrikaans is Indo-European, as is the lexifier of most African creoles. Since the colonial era, European languages like Portuguese, English and French (African French) are also found on the African continent (all are official languages), as are Indian languages such as Gujarati. Other Indo-European languages have also been heard in various parts of the continent in earlier historical times, such as Old Persian and Greek (in Egypt), Latin (in North Africa), and Modern Persian (in settlements along the Indian Ocean). The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with a few members spoken on continental Asia. ... Look up Wiktionary:Swadesh lists for Afrikaans and Dutch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses, see Indo-European. ... A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable language that originates seemingly as a new language, sometimes with features that are not inherited from any apparent source, without however qualifying in any appreciable way as a mixed language. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Francophone Africa. ... Gujarati (ગુજરાતી GujÇŽrātÄ«; also known as Gujerati, Gujarathi, Guzratee, and Guujaratee[3]) is an Indo-Aryan language descending from Sanskrit, and part of the greater Indo-European language family. ... See Aryan Language or Old Persian For more information visit: *[Ancient Iranian Languages & Literature The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS) ... Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ... Persian (فارسی), also known as Farsi (local name), Parsi (older local name, but still used by some speakers), Tajik (a Central Asian dialect) or Dari (an Afghan dialect), is a language spoken in Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. ...


Creole languages

Due partly to its multilingualism and its colonial past, a substantial proportion of the world's creole languages are to be found in Africa. Some are based on European languages (eg Krio from English in Sierra Leone and the very similar Pidgin in Cameroon and Nigeria, Cape Verdean Creole in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau Creole in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal both from Portuguese, Seychellois Creole from French in the Seychelles, or Mauritian Creole in Mauritius); some are based on Arabic (e.g., Juba Arabic in the southern Sudan, or Nubi in parts of Uganda and Kenya); some are based on local languages (e.g., Sango, the main language of the Central African Republic.) A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable language that originates seemingly as a new language, sometimes with features that are not inherited from any apparent source, without however qualifying in any appreciable way as a mixed language. ... Krio is a language spoken in Sierra Leone, mainly by the Krio people. ... West African Pidgin English, also called Guinea Coast Creole English, was the lingua franca of commerce along the West African coast during the era of the Atlantic slave trade. ... Cape Verdean Creole is a language spoken on the islands of Cape Verde. ... Kriol (crioulo in Portuguese) is a language spoken by 60% of the population of Guinea-Bissau, where it is the lingua franca, and also in Senegal. ... Seychellois Creole, also known as Kreol, is the creole language of the Seychelles. ... Mauritian Creole is a creole language or dialect from Mauritius. ... Juba Arabic is a lingua franca spoken mainly in Southern Sudan, and in communities of people from south Sudan living in towns in Northern Sudan. ... The Nubi language (also called Ki-Nubi) is a Sudanese Arabic-based creole language spoken in Uganda around Bombo and Kenya around Kibera by the descendants of Emin Pashas Sudanese soldiers, settled there by the British. ... For other uses, see Sango (disambiguation) Sango (also spelt Sangho) is the primary language spoken in the Central African Republic: it has 5 million second-language speakers, but only 400,000 native speakers, mainly in the towns. ...


Unclassified languages

A fair number of unclassified languages are reported in Africa; many remain unclassified simply for lack of data, but among the better-investigated ones may be listed: Unclassified languages are languages whose genetic affiliation has not been established, mostly due to lack of reliable data. ...

Less well investigated ones include Bete, Bung, Kujarge, Lufu, Mpre, Oropom, and Weyto. Several of these are extinct, and adequate comparative data is thus unlikely to be forthcoming. Ongota (also known as Birale/Birayle) is a moribund language of southwest Ethiopia. ... Shabo (also called Mikeyir) is an endangered language spoken by less than 1,000 hunter-gatherers in southwestern Ethiopia, in the south-central portion of the former Illubabor province. ... The Laal language is a still-unclassified language spoken by 749 people (as of 2000) in three villages in the Moyen-Chari prefecture of Chad on opposite banks of the Chari River, called Gori (lá), Damtar (É“ual), and Mailao. ... Jalaa (autonym bàsàrə̀n dà jàlààbè̩) is an endangered language of northeastern Nigeria (Loojaa settlement in Balanga Local Government Area, Bauchi State), of uncertain (possibly Niger-Congo) origins. ... The B languages are spoken in south-eastern C dIvoire. ... The Bung language is a nearly extinct language of Cameroon spoken by 3 people (in 1995) at the village of Boung on the Adamawa Plateau. ... The Kujargé language is spoken in seven villages in Chad near Jebel Mirra (11° 45 N, 22° 15 E) and in Sudan in villages scattered along the lower Wadi Salih and Wadi Azum. ... The Lufu language of Nigeria is a nearly extinct language still spoken by some elders among the 2,000-3,000 Lufu in Takum Local Government Authority, Taraba State; its speakers have mostly shifted to Jukun. ... Mpre is a language spoken or once spoken in the village of Butie in Ghana, near the confluence of the Black and White Voltas. ... Oropom (or Oworopom, Oyoropom, Oropoi) is an almost certainly extinct African language, once spoken in northeastern Uganda and northwestern Kenya between the Turkwel River, Chemorongit Mountains, and Mount Elgon, by the Oropom ethnic group. ... The Weyto language is believed to be an extinct language formerly spoken in the Lake Tana region of Ethiopia by a small group of hippopotamus hunters who now speak Amharic. ...


In addition, the placement of Kadu, Kordofanian, Hadza, and Sandawe - among others - is controversial, as discussed above. Kadu Languages Western (Tulishi, Keiga, Kanga) Central (Miri, Kadugli, Katcha, Tumma) Eastern (Krongo, Tumtum) See also Nilo-Saharan languages ... Several Kordofanian languages are spoken in the Nuba hills of Kordofan, in Sudan. ... Hadza is a language of Tanzania. ... Sandawe is a tonal language spoken in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. ...


Sign languages

See also: List of sign languages#Africa

Many African countries have national sign languages - such as Algerian Sign Language, Tunisian Sign Language, Ethiopian Sign Language - while other sign languages are restricted to small areas or single villages, such as Adamorobe Sign Language in Ghana. Little has been published on most of these languages since not much is known. Sign language is not universal. ... Adamorobe Sign Language is an indigenous sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan village in eastern Ghana. ...


Language in Africa

Throughout the long multilingual history of the African continent, African languages have been subject to phenomena like language contact, language expansion, language shift, and language death. A case in point is the Bantu expansion, the process of Bantu-speaking peoples expanding over most of the Sub-Saharan part of Africa, thereby displacing Khoi-San speaking peoples in much of East-Africa. Another example is the Islamic expansion in the 7th century AD, marking the start of a period of profound Arabic influence in North Africa. The Bantu refer to over 400 different ethnic groups in Africa, from Cameroon to South Africa, united by a common language family, the Bantu languages, and in many cases common customs. ... A political map showing national divisions in relation to the ecological break (Sub-Saharan Africa in green) A geographical map of Africa, showing the ecological break that defines the sub-Saharan area Sub-Saharan Africa is the term used to describe the area of the African continent which lies south... Arabic redirects here. ...


With so many totally unrelated families represented over wide areas, the image of the African linguistic situation is that of a veritable "Babel", although it is true that a certain number of languages categorized as distinct are in fact mutually intelligible dialects to some degree - eg. the Nguni languages of Southern Africa or the Manding languages of West Africa. Gustave Dorés interpretation of the confusion of tongues. ... A pair of languages is said to be mutually intelligible if speakers of one language can readily understand the other language. ... For the cattle breed see Nguni cattle. ... Mande (or Manding) is the name of a group of languages which are spoken in several countries in West Africa, including Mandinka and Bambara. ...


Trade languages are another age-old phenomenon in the African linguistic landscape. Cultural and linguistic innovations spread along trade routes and languages of peoples dominant in trade developed into languages of wider communication (linguae francae). Of particular importance in this respect are Jula (western West Africa), Fulfulde (West Africa, mainly across the Sahel), Hausa (eastern West Africa), Lingala (Congo), Swahili (East Africa) and Arabic (North Africa and into the Sahel). A pidgin, or contact language, is the name given to any language created, usually spontaneously, out of a mixture of other languages as a means of communication between speakers of different tongues. ... Lingua franca, literally Frankish language in Italian, was originally a mixed language consisting largely of Italian plus a vocabulary drawn from Turkish, Persian, French, Greek and Arabic and used for communication throughout the Middle East. ... Dioula (Jula) is a language spoken in Burkina Faso and Côte dIvoire. ... The Fula language is a language of West Africa, spoken by the Fula people from Senegal to Cameroon and Sudan. ... Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more. ... Lingala is a Bantu language spoken throughout the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) and a large part of the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), as well as to some degree in Angola and the Central African Republic. ... This article is about the language. ... Arabic redirects here. ...


After gaining independence, many African countries, in the search for national unity, selected one language (generally the former colonial language) to be used in government and education. In recent years, African countries have become increasingly aware of the importance of linguistic diversity. Language policies that are being developed nowadays are mostly aimed at multilingualism.


Cross-border languages

The colonial borders established by European powers following the Berlin Conference in 1884-5 divided a great many ethnicities and African language speaking communities. In a sense, then, "cross-border languages" is a misnomer. Nevertheless it describes the reality of many African languages, which has implications for divergence of language on either side of a border (especially when the official languages are different), standards for writing the language, etc. The conference of Berlin The Berlin Conference (German: or Congo Conference) of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germanys sudden emergence as an imperial power. ...


Some prominent Africans such as former Malian president and current Chairman of the African Commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, have referred to cross-border languages as a factor that can promote African unity.[3] The commission serves as the AUs administrative branch. ... Alpha Oumar Konaré (born 2 February 1946) was the president of Mali for two five-year terms (1992 to 2002), and has been Chairman of the African Commission since 2003. ...


Language change & planning

Language is not static in Africa any more than in other world regions. In addition to the (probably modest) impact of borders, there are also cases of dialect levelling (such as in Igbo and probably many others), koines (such as N'Ko and possibly Runyakitara), and emergence of new dialects (such as Sheng). In some countries there are official efforts to develop standardized language versions. There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ... Igbo is a language spoken in Nigeria by around 18 million people (1999 WA), the Igbo, especially in the southeastern region once identified as Biafra. ... In linguistics, a koiné language (common language) is a standard language or dialect, specifically one that has arisen as a result of language contact much as pidgins or creoles, but where the original dialects are mutually intelligible. ... The word NKo written in the NKo alphabet NKo is both a script devised by Solomana Kante in 1949 as a writing system for the Mande languages of West Africa, and the name of the literary language itself written in the script. ... Runyakitara is a recent standardized form (dating to the early 1990s) of four linguistically closely-related languages of western Uganda: Nyoro or Runyoro Chiga or Rukiga Nyankore or Runyankole Tooro or Rutooro It might be considered a koine of the abovementioned tongues. ... Sheng is a Swahili-based patois, originating in Nairobi, Kenya, and influenced by the many languages spoken there. ... A standard language (also standard dialect or standardized dialect) is a particular variety of a language that has been given either legal or quasi-legal status. ...


There are also many less-widely spoken languages that may be considered endangered languages. An endangered language is a language with so few surviving speakers that it is in danger of falling out of use. ...


Demographics

Further information: Demographics of Africa

Of the 890 million Africans (as of 2005), about 20% speak an Arabic dialect (the vast majority of North Africans). About 10% speak Swahili, the lingua franca of Southeastern Africa, and about 5% speak Hausa, a West African lingua franca. Other important West African languages are Yoruba (3%) and Fula (2%). Major East African languages are Oromo (4%) and Somali (2%), important South African languages Zulu and Afrikaans. For other uses, see Africa (disambiguation). ... The Arabic language is classified as a Semitic language. ... Swahili (also called Kiswahili; see Kiswahili for a discussion of the nomenclature) is an agglutinative Bantu language widely spoken in East Africa. ... Lingua franca, literally Frankish language in Italian, was originally a mixed language consisting largely of Italian plus a vocabulary drawn from Turkish, Persian, French, Greek and Arabic and used for communication throughout the Middle East. ... Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more. ... Yoruba (native name èdè Yorùbá, the Yoruba language) is a dialect continuum of West Africa with over 22 million speakers. ... Categories: Africa-related stubs | Burkina Faso | Cameroon | Ethnic groups of Africa | Fulani Empire | Mali | Nigeria ... Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, Oromiffa(a), and sometimes in other languages as variant spellings of these names (Oromigna, Afan Oromo, etc. ... Zulu (called isiZulu in Zulu), is a language of the Zulu people with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority (over 95%) of whom live in South Africa. ... Look up Wiktionary:Swadesh lists for Afrikaans and Dutch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...



List of major African languages (by total number of speakers)

Swahili (Southeast Africa) 5-10 million native + 80 secondary
Maghrebi Arabic 80
Egyptian Arabic 76
Hausa (West Africa) 24 native + 15 secondary
Oromo (East Africa) 30-35
Yoruba (West Africa) 25
Sudanese Arabic 19
Somali (Somalia) 15
Ibibio Language (Ibibio/Annang/Efik, Nigeria) 8-12
Igbo (Nigeria) 10-16
Fula (West Africa) 10-16
Malagasy (Madacascar) 17
Zulu (South Africa) 10
Afrikaans (South Africa) 10
Chichewa (East Africa) 9
Akan 9
Shona 7
Xhosa (South Africa) 8
Kinyarwanda (Rwanda) 7
Kongo 7
Tigrinya 7
Tshiluba (Congo) 6
Wolof 3 native + 3 secondary
Gikuyu (Kenya) 5
More (West Africa) 5
Kirundi (Central Africa) 5
Sotho (South Africa) 5
Luhya 4
Tswana (Southern Africa) 4
Kanuri (West Africa) 4
Umbundu (Angola) 4
Northern Sotho (South Africa) 4

This article is about the language. ... Maghrebi Arabic is a cover term for the dialects of Arabic spoken in the Maghreb, including Western Sahara, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. ... Egyptian Arabic (MarÄ« مصري) is part of the Arabic macrolanguage of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. ... Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more. ... Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, Oromiffa(a), and sometimes in other languages as variant spellings of these names (Oromigna, Afan Oromo, etc. ... Yoruba (native name èdè Yorùbá, the Yoruba language) is a dialect continuum of West Africa with over 22 million speakers. ... Sudanese Arabic, as spoken throughout much of northern Sudan, is the result of a mixing of Egyptian Arabic and Arabic from the Arabian peninsula with local languages (El Rutana). ... Igbo is a language spoken in Nigeria by around 18 million people (1999 WA), the Igbo, especially in the southeastern region once identified as Biafra. ... The Fula language is a language of West Africa, spoken by the Fula people from Senegal to Cameroon and Sudan. ... Zulu (called isiZulu in Zulu), is a language of the Zulu people with about 10 million speakers, the vast majority (over 95%) of whom live in South Africa. ... Look up Wiktionary:Swadesh lists for Afrikaans and Dutch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Chichewa (Chicheŵa in Malawian English) is one of the two official national languages of the Republic of Malawi, the other being English. ... See also Akan languages Akan is the name that has been adopted by Ghanaians today and was given to them by the Arabs. ... ShonaThe word Shona is derived from the Ndebele word itshonalanga(where the sun set)(or ChiShona) is native language of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia; the term is also used to identify those Bantu-language speaking peoples in Southern Africa who speak one of the Shona languages(dialects) namely Zezuru,Karanga... For the Xhosa people, see Xhosa. ... Kinyarwanda is the chief spoken language in Rwanda. ... Kongo or Kikongo is the Bantu language spoken by the Bakongo people living in the tropical forests of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo and Angola. ... Tigrinya (Geez ትግርኛ tigriññā, also spelled Tigrigna) is a Semitic language spoken by the Tigray-Tigrinya people in central Eritrea (there referred to as the Tigrinya people), where it is one of the main working languages (Eritrea does not have official languages), and in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia (whose... Contents // Categories: Bantu languages | Languages of the Democratic Republic of the Congo | Language stubs ... Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. ... Gikuyu (sometimes written Kikuyu, pronounced Gĩkũyũ) is a language in the Central Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family spoken primarily by the Kĩkũyũ people of Kenya. ... More language is a language spoken primarily in Burkina Faso. ... Introduction Kirundi (also written Rundi) is a Bantu language (D62 in Guthries classification) spoken by some 6 million people in Burundi and adjacent parts of Tanzania and Congo-Kinshasa, as well as in Uganda. ... Sesotho (Sotho, Southern Sotho or Southern Sesotho[1]) is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa, where it is one of the 11 official languages, and in Lesotho, where it is the national language. ... Luhya (also Luyia, Luhia) is a group of Bantu languages spoken in the western part of Kenya by the Luhya people residing between Lake Victoria, Uganda and Mount Elgon. ... Tswana (Setswana), is a Bantu language. ... Kanuri is a Nilo-Saharan language which is spoken by about 4 million people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. ... Umbundu (autonym úmbúndú) is a language spoken by the Ovimbundu people in the central highlands of Angola. ... Northern Sotho, Sepedi, or Sesotho sa Leboa, is one of the official languages of South Africa, and is spoken by 4,208,980 people (2001 Census Data), mostly in the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga. ...

Linguistic features

The one thing African languages have in common is the fact that they are spoken in Africa. Africa does not represent some sort of natural linguistic area. Nevertheless, some linguistic features are cross-linguistically particularly common to languages spoken in Africa, whereas other features seem to be more uncommon. The hypothesis that shared traits like this would point to a common origin of all African languages is highly dubious. Language contact (resulting in borrowing) and, with regard to specific idioms and phrases, a similar cultural background have been put forward to account for some of the similarities. Language contact occurs when speakers of distinct speech varieties interact. ...


Among common pan-African linguistic features are the following (Greenberg 1983): certain phoneme types, such as implosives; doubly articulated labial-velar stops like /kp/ and /gb/; prenasalised consonants; clicks; and the lower high (or 'near close') vowels /ʊ/ and /ɪ/. Phoneme types that are relatively uncommon in African languages include uvular consonants, diphthongs, and front rounded vowels. Quite frequently, only one term is used for both animal and meat; additionally, the word nama or nyama for animal/meat is particularly widespread in otherwise widely divergent African languages. Widespread syntactical structures include the common use of adjectival verbs and the expression of comparison by means of a verb to surpass. Look up implosive in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Labial-velar consonants are doubly articulated at the velum and the lips. ... Clicks are stops produced with two articulatory closures in the oral cavity. ... Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. ... In phonetics, a diphthong (also gliding vowel) (Greek δίφθογγος, diphthongos, literally with two sounds, or with two tones) is a monosyllabic vowel combination involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another, often interpreted by listeners as a single vowel sound or phoneme. ...


Tonal languages are found throughout the world; in Africa, they are especially numerous. Both the Nilo-Saharan and the Khoi-San phyla are fully tonal. The large majority of the Niger-Congo languages is also tonal. Tonal languages are furthermore found in the Omotic, Chadic, and South & East Cushitic branches of Afro-Asiatic. The most common type of tonal system opposes two tone levels, High (H) and Low (L). Contour tones do occur, and can often be analysed as two or more tones in succession on a single syllable. Tone melodies play an important role, meaning that it is often possible to state significant generalizations by separating tone sequences ('melodies') from the segments that bear them. Tonal sandhi processes like tone spread, tone shift, and downstep and downdrift are common in African languages. A Tonal language is a language that uses tone to distinguish words. ... Tone sandhi refers to tone manipulation rules governing the pronunciation of tonal languages. ...


See also

Africa Portal

Download high resolution version (1624x1824, 535 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Polyglotta Africana is a study written by Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle in 1854 in which he compared about 120 African languages (according to todays classification). ... The Languages of Africa is a seminal 1963 book of essays by Joseph Greenberg, in which he sets forth a genetic classification of African languages that, with some changes, continues to be the most commonly used one today. ... Joseph Greenberg Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ... Diedrich Hermann Westermann (June 24, 1875–May 31, 1956) was a German missionary, Africanist, and linguist. ... Malcolm Guthrie (1903-1972), professor of Bantu languages, is known primarily for his classification of Bantu languages (Guthrie 1971). ... Wilhelm Bleek Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek (March 8, 1827 - August 17, 1875) was a German linguist. ... Karl Richard Lepsius 1810 - 1884 Karl (or Carl) Richard Lepsius (December 23, 1810–July 10, 1884) was a pioneering Egyptologist and linguist. ... Carl Friedrich Michael Meinhof (July 23, 1857 — February 11, 1944) was a German linguist known as one of the first linguists to study African languages. ... The languages of the African Union (AU) are languages used by citizens within the member states of the AU. The Union has defined all languages of Africa as official, and currently uses Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese as its working languages [1], due to the Arab conquest of North Africa... Egyptian Hieroglyphs The NKo Alphabet The Writing Systems of Africa refer to the current and historical practice of written language on the African continent. ... . ...

Notes

References

African languages

  • Childs, G. Tucker (2003) An Introduction to African Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.
  • Elugbe, Ben (1998) "Cross-border and Major Languages of Africa." In K. Legère, ed. Cross-border languages : reports and studies, Regional Workshop on Cross-Border Languages, National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), Okahandja, 23-27 September 1996. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan
  • Heine, Bernd & Derek Nurse (eds.) (2000) African languages: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Webb, Vic and Kembo-Sure (eds.) (1998) African Voices. An introduction to the languages and linguistics of Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1983) 'Some areal characteristics of African languages', in Dihoff, Ivan R. (ed.) Current Approaches to African Linguistics (vol. 1) (Publications in African Languages and Linguistics vol. 1). Dordrecht: Foris, 3-21.
  • Wedekind, Klaus (1985) 'Thoughts when drawing a map of tone languages' Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 1, 105-24.
  • Ellis, Stephen (ed.) (1996) Africa Now. People – Policies – Institutions. The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).
  • Chimhundu, Herbert (2002) Language Policies in Africa. (Final report of the Intergovernmental conference on language policies in Africa) Revised version. UNESCO.
  • Cust, Robert Needham (1883) Modern Languages of Africa.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1966) The Languages of Africa (2nd ed. with additions and corrections). [Originally published as International journal of American linguistics, 29, 1, part 2 (1963)]. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Westermann, Diedrich H. (1952). The languages of West Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Ethnologue.com's Africa: A listing of African languages and language families.

Robert Needham Cust (1821-1909) was a British colonial administrator and linguist. ... The Languages of Africa is a seminal 1963 book of essays by Joseph Greenberg, in which he sets forth a genetic classification of African languages that, with some changes, continues to be the most commonly used one today. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
African Languages - MSN Encarta (1785 words)
Languages in the Mande subgroup are spoken in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Bambara, spoken in Mali, is the principal language in this subgroup.
Languages of the Adamawa East subgroup are spoken in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), and the Central African Republic.
African Languages - ninemsn Encarta (1277 words)
Languages of the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family are spoken by a substantial portion of the population in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia; by scattered groups elsewhere in North Africa; and along the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert in western Africa.
The Nubian alphabet was derived from that of the Coptic language.
Languages spoken farther to the south-east, including Maasai in Kenya, have long been called Nilo-Hamitic; recent investigations, however, appear to prove that these tongues have no direct relationship to languages of the Afro-Asiatic family, but are most closely related to the Nilotic languages.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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