The language in Africa belongs to many different language families and varies
greatly in structure. One expects that there are just over 2000 different
African languages. Then dialects are not included.
In the face of the census, Africa is the world part that has the largest
linguistic diversity. One possible reason for this is that Africa is a "human
being". In Africa, Homo sapiens originated some 300,000 years ago, in
Africa the language must have originated more than 100,000 years ago, and in
Africa the language has had a much longer time to divide into different variants
than any other city in the world. But on the whole, the linguistic diversity is
huge in those parts of the world where people don't have to travel - or can travel
- so far to get everything they need. This applies
to tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world - that is, not just
Africa, but equally in South and Central America and New Guinea area.
African language families
Since the American linguist Joseph Harold Greenberg in 1963 published the
book The languages of Africa, it has been customary to divide the
African languages into four main families, as shown below.
The speech on familiar is still highly contentious. Many linguists believe
that the basis for operating with just four familiar is deficient, and that a
more realistic number lies more than twenty, according to the article language
families and language isolate in Africa.
There are some languages in Africa that Greenberg did not include in his
classification, because they belong to language families in other parts of the
world. In Madagascar, they speak (mada) Gassi, which belongs to the
Malayo-Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family. In eastern and
southern Africa, indigenous languages such as Hindi and Gujarati are benefited
by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. In southern Africa, the Germanic
languages become English and African useful to both European immigrants and
people of African descent. Several cities in Africa find people who speak Creole
languages. Greenberg also did not use the sign language for the deaf.
The classification of African languages at Greenberg
In 1963, American linguist Joseph Harold Greenberg presented a classification
of languages in Africa based on countries listed by
Countryaah.com. He divided them into four language families, with some
- Congo-Kordofan languages, with two main groups, Kordofan and
Niger-Congo languages. He divided the Niger-Congo language into six
- West Atlantic languages, nowadays most commonly called Atlantic
- Mande languages
- voltaic languages, nowadays most commonly called gurs
- Benue-Congo languages, with the subgroups Plateau languages,
Jukunoid languages, Cross River languages and Bantu languages. Between the
Bantu languages we find between other Bantu languages.
- Adamawa-Ubangi language, which Greenberg calls Adamawa-Eastern
- Nilo-Saharan languages,with six branches:
- Saharan languages
- Mabane language
- Chari-Nil languages, with four subgroups: Austsudan languages,
Central Sudanese languages, berta and kunama
- Afro-Asian languages, with five branches:
- Semitic languages
- Berber language
- Cushitic languages
- Chad languages
- Khoisans claim, with three branches:
- South African Khoisans, with a northern, central and southern
A more detailed review of the classification of Joseph Harold Greenberg is
found in the article Joseph H. Greenberg's classification of African
Auxiliary languages, official languages and school languages in Africa
Due to the large linguistic diversity in Africa, a number of regional aid
languages (lingua franca) are being used across language boundaries, peoples
groups and national borders. In North Africa, Arabic is most prevalent, in East
Africa Swahili and in West Africa the Hausa. Other important auxiliary language
is Lingala, fanagalo, Sango, Bambara-maninka,
fulfulde, Amharic, Wolof and Congo. Many cities in Africa - among others in
parts of Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Cameroon of - one has to master three
languages in order to function in society: the local first language (the
mother tongue), the regional auxiliary language and the national official
In many sub-Saharan countries, the old colonial
languages English, French, Portuguese and Spanish are still the only official
languages. Unnataka is South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi,
Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea,
where one or more local languages are official, usually some colony language,
and those countries in the north of Africa where Arabic is the only or one of
languages: Mauritania, Chad, Sudan, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. In
some states, African languages have official status in state states. One
example is Ethiopia, where Amharic is the official language at the national
level, while Oromo is the official language of the state of Oromia, Somali is
the official language of the state of Sumale, tigrinja is the official language
of the state of Tigray and afar is the official language of the state of afar.
It is not uncommon for the old colonial language to be the only language that
children learn at school, despite the fact that the children do not speak this
language when they begin school - with dramatic consequences. It often takes
years before students understand everything that happens in the hour, many have
to go years on the same school steps, and many drop out of school.
In the countries where local languages are used in school, this applies
with few exceptions to the first years of primary school. In the upper classes
in the elementary school and in the upper secondary school, the language of the
colony dominates, and in the universities they are almost exclusively
monolingual. The widespread lack of textbooks in African languages is an
important reason for this situation. In Ethiopia, Amharic is the official
language, while all teaching at the University of Addis Ababa (Addis Ababa
University) is in English.
Structural features of African languages
African languages do not belong at home to a long line of different
language families. These also vary greatly in grammatical
and phonological structure.
One very widespread grammatical phenomenon in African languages is genus :
nouns are divided into two or more groups that required different congruence by
different adjectives, speech words and pronouns. In Afro-Asian languages, it is
common to have two genders, masculine and feminine. In some khoisans, such as
khoekhoe, there are three genus, masculine, feminine and neuter. Languages in
all branches of the Niger-Congo family except for the male language has genus,
usually between ten and twenty, which differ semantically from one another by
contradictions such as human/non-human, countable/non-countable or
form. Another typical feature of African languages is that syntactic function
is expressed in ways other than the case. Kasus is generally found in Afro-Asian
and Saharan languages. In other languages it is usually word order
or morphological marking on the verb that shows what is the subject or object of
African languages vary greatly phonologically. While the Berber language
allows many consonant groups, as in tashelhit lqiṣt 'history', in many
bantu languages a consonant must always be followed by a vowel, as in the
Zulu isikole 'school'. Most sub-Saharan languages have tone (word
differentiating tone), cf. Hausa bààbá 'daddy' and báábà 'mom,
aunt', whose gravity accent (`) marks low tone and acute accent (´) marks high
African Sign Language
One knows about 27 sign languages that are used by deaf people in African
countries, as shown in the list below. In addition, American Sign Language (ASL)
and several other non-African sign languages are used in several African
languages. Note that Gassian sign language is related to Norwegian Sign Language
- Adamorobe sign language, which has been useful in the village of
Adamorobe Ghana for about 200 years. Not related to other known sign
- Algerian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Bamako sign language in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Not related to
other known sign languages.
- Bura-sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Egyptian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Ethiopian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Gambian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- gassic sign language. Related to Norwegian Sign Language (NTS).
- Ghanaian sign language. Related to American Sign Language (ASL).
- Guinean sign language. Related to American Sign Language (ASL).
- Hausa-sign language. Not related to other known sign languages.
- Kenyan sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Congolese sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Libyan sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Mbour sign language in Senegal. Of unknown origin.
- Moroccan sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Mozambican sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Namibian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Nigerian sign language. Related to American Sign Language (ASL).
- Sierra Leonean sign language. Of unknown origin.
- South African sign language. Related to British Sign Language (BSL).
- Tanzanian sign language. Not related to other known sign languages.
- Chadian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Tunisian sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Ugandan sign language. Of unknown origin.
- Zambian sign language. Not related to other known sign languages.
- Zimbabwean sign language. Of unknown origin.