African Languages

“African languages: Languages indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa that belongs to the Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, Khoisan, and Afroasiatic language phyla. Africa is the most polyglot continent; estimates of the number of African languages range from 1,000 to 1,200. Many have numerous dialects. Distinctions in tone play a significant role in nearly all sub-Saharan languages. Contact between people who do not speak that same language has necessitated the development of lingua francas such as Swahili in eastern Africa, Lingala in the Congo River basin (see Bantu languages), Sango in the Central African Republic (see Adamawa-Ubangi languages), and Arabic across much of the Sahel.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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