The Linguasphere Register

of the world’s languages and speech communities

The linguascale


Geosector 0= AFRICA

Phylosector 1= AFRO-ASIAN

Geosector 2= AUSTRALASIA

Phylosector 3= AUSTRONESIAN

Geosector 4= EURASIA

Phylosector 5= INDO-EUROPEAN

Geosector 6= NORTH-AMERICA

Phylosector 7= SINO-INDIAN

Geosector 8= SOUTH-AMERICA

Phylosector 9= TRANSAFRICAN



Total number of voices covered by the languages of each zone (or of each part of a divided zone) :

  • More than 100 million
  • More than 10 million
  • More than 1 million
  • More than 100 thousand
  • Less than 100 thousand
PDF - 1.2 Mb
Téléchargez l’ensemble du secteur au format pdf. Extrait de l’édition 2000 du répertoire Linguasphère.

This phylosector covers 60 sets of languages (= 802 outer languages, composed of 2,816 inner languages) spoken by communities across the African continent south of the Sahara, from Senegal to South Africa, constituting the Transafrican ("old Niger-Congo less Mande" or "Atlantic-Congo") continental affinity. The dimensions and nature of a more extensive "Niger-Kordofanian" (or "new Niger-Congo") hypothesis are uncertain, and the additional sets involved have been classified within the 0=African geosector (see 00=Mandic and 06=Kordofanic).

This phylosector is named Transafrican (rather than "Atlantic-Congo" or "old Niger-Congo less Mande") to maintain the broad geographic nomenclature of all ten sectors of the linguasphere, representing intercontinental or continental entities in each case.Zones 90= to 93= cover languages spoken by communities westwards from Senegal through the northern interior of West and Central Africa as far as northern Congo/Zaire and southern Sudan.

Zones 94= to 97= cover languages spoken by communities westwards from Guinea through the coastal regions of West Africa as far as the Niger Delta.

Zones 98= and 99= cover languages spoken through Nigeria and across the whole continent as far as Tanzania and South Africa.

The name "Transafrican" is also introduced in the Register as an appropriate label for the continental affinity to which all the languages covered by phylozone 9= belong, by definition. The use of this term provides an escape from the now confusing succession of shifting and overlapping classificatory names, created during the second half of the 20th century from combinations of the river-name Congo (old "Niger-Congo", "new Niger-Congo", "Congo-Kordofanian", "Atlantic-Congo", "Volta-Congo", "Benue-Congo", etc.). It marks a clear boundary between this undisputed affinity (known most recently in the literature as "Atlantic-Congo") and its more speculative enlargements to embrace also the Mande and "Kordofanian" languages (which are treated in the Register under geosector 0=). Although the overall relationship of the languages covered by this phylosector is not in question, the boundaries among certain of their conventional ’branches’ (treated here as phylozones) should be regarded as referential rather than historical (see note below on zones 90=, 91=, 92=, 96=, 98= and 99=). Sets of languages covered by zones 90=Atlantic and 97=Deltic are less closely related to other sets in the "Transafrican" affinity than the latter (collectively labelled "Volta-Congo") are among themselves. The external unity of the inter-related sets within each of the zones 90=Atlantic, 91=Voltaic, 92=Adamawic and 96=Aframic (West-Kwa) (among themselves, as potential groupings within the Transatlantic affinity) has not been established, and the sequence of sets covered by each of these zones is therefore more safely described as a reference area. The extensive sequence of sets covered by the pair of zones 98=Benuic and 99=Bantuic is likewise treated in the Register as a reference area.

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