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Linguistic Families of Africa

This map of Africa illustrates the approximate distribution of each of the six African language groups, the Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo A, Niger-Congo B (Bantu), Nilo-Saharan, Khoi-San, and Austronesian. Interestingly, the Austronesian languages spoken on Madagascar are not related to the language families spoken on the African continent. Rather, the Austronesian family has its origins in the geographic area of Polynesia rather than the African Continent. Khoi-San languages are spoken by some of the most ancient African tribes such as the Bushmen tribes and are distinctive due to their use of "click consonants." However, in the last millennia, the "Bantu expansion" by speakers of the Niger-Congo B group has reduced the number of speakers of Khoi-San languages to less than a million people, with many of these languages in danger of becoming extinct. Interestingly, some of the Bantu-speaking African tribes have incorporated some of the "click consonants" that are characteristic of the ancient Bushmen tribes. Despite the small area shown on this map of Africa, at one time the Khoi-San speakers are thought to have dominated virtually all the African Continent south of the Sahara Desert. Physical Anthropologists have made studies on the physical characteristics of the Khoi-San speakers and have found that not only is their language distinctive, but many physical characteristics such as their blood type, is different from other African tribes as well.

 

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