Intorduction

The recent statistical report says that, in the continent of Africa there are more than 200 languages spoken by the people.To be specific the number of languages, spoken in African continent lies between 2000 and 3000 languages.

Apart from this there are over 8000  dialects, that fits into these 300 languages.The major four classification of  language families that are spoken in Africa can be divided into six types namely

1)Afro - Asiatic

2)Nilo - Saharan

3)Niger - Congo A

4)Niger - Congo B

5)Khoi - San

6)Austronesian

In this article let us discuss about one type of these sixfamily, i.e Afro - Asiatic Family

Features of Afro - Asiatic family

The languages belong to this Afro-Asiatic family is spoken by around 20 crores to 30 crores people in Africa.Usually the languages to Afro-Asiatic family shares many features and one shared feature is the emphatic consonant, i.e, the amount of stress which the speaker places on a consonant changes for  the meaning of certain words.

For example,let us consider the language of one of the subgroup of this family Hausa. In Hausa word "mana" literally means “for us,” whereas with an emphatic pronunciation of the consonant n in manna, it means “press against.”

Apart from this the languages in this family, also distinguish between masculine and feminine nouns.In the case of the feminine nouns, they typically have a final t. For example, in one of the language in this family , i.e,. in the language called Amharic, the word for man is "sew" and for woman is "set" and similary "ligu" means boy, and "ligitu" means girl.

Distribution

The main region where lots of people spek the languages belong to this family includes, the speakers from

i)Northern Africa

ii)Somalia

iii)Ethiopia

iv)Eritrea and

v)The area around Lake Chad in central Africa.

Subgroups

Usually when we look into this Afro - Asiatic languages, the  basic vocabulary which they use  reflects a pastoral life spent raising and herding livestock and also growing food crops.Under this Afro-Asiatic family , there is further divison and it is divided into five subgroups and these five subgroups usually contains more than 350 languages

The 5 subgroups of the Afro - Asiatic family includes

1)Chadic

2)Berber

3)Semitic

4)Cushitic and

5)Egyptian.

History goes wayback in years with respect to this family of languages, as the protolanguage of this family, which began to diverge into separate branches about 6000 years ago,and so it is called as ancestral Semitic.This family is also the protolanguage of other Semitic languages, which includes Arabic and Hebrew.Now let us disscuss each of this subgroup in detail.The image below shows the distribution of these sub groups in Africa

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1)Chadic

#)This sub group consists of more that 100 languages

#)The number of speakers for this language is about 3 crores people

#)So naturally this language is considered as the most spoken language for this subgroup

#)This made this language as the most important language of this family.

#)Of this subgroup,the principal language is Hausa and it is also the most important language in the Afro-Asiatic family.

#)More than 2.2 crore of people speak Hausa and the consider this as their first language or some people consider this as  fluent second language

#)The people speaking Hausa are conined mainly in the region of Northern Nigeria and southern Niger.

#)Apart from these large number of speakers for Hausa,it also serves as the lingua franca,i.e, this is language which is used for trade and communication especially in  Western African countries like Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, and also in some parts of Libya.

#)But historians believe that Hausa has borrowed many words from neighboring languages, such as Yoruba, Tuareg and also extensively from Arabic.

2)Berber

#)The number of speakers for this language is about 1.1 crores people and it is confiend mostly to Northern Africa

#)The most dominant language of this group,is Tamarshak (also spelled as Tamasheq),and it is spoken by the Tuareg people.

3)Semitic

#)Semitic languages includes languages like Amharic and Tigrinya

#)Their linguists trace back to Ge’ez,which is a type of language spoken mostly in northern Ethiopia more than 2000 years ago.

4)Cushitic

#)The principal languages includes Beja and Oromo

#)Beja language is spoken in Sudan and Eritrea

#)The languauge Oromo is mostly spoken in Ethiopia.

5)Egyptian

#)The history for this Egyptian subgroup of language goes back to 5000 years ago

#)But unfortunately historians believ thaese Egyptian language has not been spoken for about 600 years.

#)The last and final phase of this groups is the language called as as Coptic, remains alive as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church.


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