The languages of Africa include more than 3,000 languages. These languages include native languages (languages that come from Africa) and colonial languages, which were brought to Africa by colonists from Europe. The continent has the highest concentration of languages in the world. At least 30% of the world's languages come from and are spoken in Africa.
Over the years, many African languages have died out and become extinct. This happens for several reasons, including wars and genocide by other African tribes. Other languages were abandoned, or its speakers disappeared.
Most linguists organize the African languages into four major language families. These are:
- Afroasiatic languages, spoken by 350 million people in the Middle East, North Africa, Horn of Africa, and Sahei.
- Niger-Congo languages, possibly the world's largest language family, spoken in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Nilo-Saharan languages, spoken by 50 million people in the upper parts of the Chari River and Nile River.
- Khoisan languages, spoken by about 120,000 people, which include all "click" languages.
This classification of languages is based on the research of the linguist Joseph Greenberg, who published The Languages of Africa in 1963.
- Afroasiatic languages, spoken from North Africa to the Horn of Africa and Southwest Asia
- Niger-Congo languages, spoken in West, Central, and Southeast Africa
- Nilo-Saharan languages, spoken in Sudan and Chad
- Khoe languages, spoken in the deserts of Namibia and Botswana
- Austronesian languages, spoken in Madagascar
- Indo-European languages, spoken in Southern Africa
Still other linguists believe that the Nilo-Saharan languages and the Niger-Congo languages are part of the same family. These linguists organize the African languages into only three language families: Niger-Congo languages, Afroasiatic languages, and Khoisan languages.
No matter how the major language families are organized, there are many smaller families and language isolates. In addition, there are some obscure (rare, uncommon) languages that are not yet classified into any family. Africa also has some sign languages, which are mostly language isolates.
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