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Niger-Congo languages

From Academic Kids

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Map showing the distribution of Niger-Congo languages

The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the world's major language families, and Africa's largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. They may constitute the world's largest language family in terms of distinct languages, although this question is complicated by ambiguity in what is a distinct language. Almost all of the most widely spoken indigenous languages of Subsaharan Africa belong to this group. A common property of many Niger-Congo languages is the use of a noun class system.

Joseph Greenberg was the first to identify the boundaries of this family, which he called Niger-Congo, in a series of articles published between 1949 and 1954. Just before these articles were collected in final book form (The Languages of Africa) in 1963, he amended his classification by adding Kordofanian as a branch co-ordinate with Niger-Congo as a whole; consequently, the family was renamed Niger-Kordofanian. Bennet and Sterk (1977) presented a reclassification based on lexicostatistics that laid the foundation for the influential classification in Bendor-Samuel 1989. Kordofanian was thought to be be one of several primary branches rather than being co-ordinate to the phylum as a whole, prompting re-introduction of the term 'Niger-Congo', which is in current use among linguists. Many classifications continue to place Kordofanian as the most distant branch, but mainly due to negative evidence (fewer lexical correspondances), rather than positive evidence that the other languages form a valid geneological group. Likewise, Mande is often assumed to be the second-most distant branch based on its loss of the Niger-Congo noun-class system, rather than any validity of the rest of the family as a group.

The major languages or subgroups belonging to Niger-Congo are,

Some linguists consider the twenty or so Kordofanian languages to form part of the Niger-Congo family, while others consider them and Niger-Congo to form two separate branches of a Niger-Kordofanian language family. There is also an on-going debate as to whether the Mande languages should be included in the Niger-Congo language family or the Nilo-Saharan language family. Others are sceptical about both Niger-Kordofanian and Niger-Congo itself.

The Laal, Mpre, and Jalaa languages are often linked with Niger-Congo, but have yet to be conclusively classified.

Sub-classification

An alternate classification, based on Blench, follows. (Families are in bold; single languages in italics.)

Niger-Congo

  • Kordofanian
  • Mande
  • West Atlantic
  • Volta-Congo
    • ? Ijaw
    • Dogon
    • North Volta-Congo (= Volta-Kru)
      • Kru
      • Savannas (= Greenberg's Voltaic and Adamawa-Ubanguian)
        • Ubangian (e.g. Gbaya, Sango, Banda, Zande)
        • ? Senufo
        • Gur I (e.g. Mossi, Dagbani, Ditamari)
        • Gur II (e.g. Kabre, Dan, Doghose)
        • Kulango
        • Bariba
        • Vyemo
        • Tyefo
        • Natyoro
        • Tusya (= Win)
        • Chamba-Mumuye
        • Mbum
        • Wadja-Bambuka
        • Ba
        • Kam
    • South Volta-Congo (= Benue-Kwa)
      • Kwa
        • Nyo (e.g. Akan)
        • Ka (e.g. Gbe)
      • West Benue-Congo (= Ogun)
        • Nupe
        • "DEAI"
          • Defoid (e.g. Yoruba)
          • Edoid (e.g. Benin)
          • Akoko
          • Igboid
        • Ayere
        • Akpes
      • (East) Benue-Congo
        • ? Ukaan
        • Platoid (e.g. Bauchi, Jukun, Birom)
        • Bantoid-Cross
          • ? Bendi
          • Cross River (e.g. Calabar, Ogoni, Abua, Efik)
          • Bantoid (e.g. Jarawa, Tiv, Bantu)

References

  • Bennett, Patrick R. & Sterk, Jan P. (1977) 'South Central Niger-Congo: A reclassification'. Studies in African Linguistics, 8, 241–273.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1963) The Languages of Africa. Indiana Univ. Press.
  • Bendor-Samuel, John & Rhonda L. Hartell (eds.) (1989) The Niger-Congo Languages — A classification and description of Africa's largest language family. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.
  • Williamson, Kay & Blench, Roger (2000) 'Niger-Congo', in Heine, Bernd and Nurse, Derek (eds) African Languages - An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, pp. 11—42.

External links

ar:نيجيرية كونغولية de:Niger-Kongo-Sprachen es:Lenguas nger-congo nl:Niger-Congotalen

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