The Linguasphere Register

of the world’s languages and speech communities

The linguascale

Change sector or zone

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

Phylosector 9= TRANSAFRICAN



Covers the "broad Bantu", "narrow Bantu + Bantoid" or Isizulu + Tiv set (the central-southern section of "old Benue-Congo") within the "Volta-Congo" affinity, within the wider "Transafrican" continental affinity.

Comprising 1 set of languages (= 259 outer-languages), spoken by communities throughout a major part of Africa south of the Sahara, from the Jos Plateau and Cameroon Highlands eastwards and southwards to the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic coasts.

Including 1 arterial language: Kiswahili (Swahili).

A continuum of relationships among languages covered by phylozones 98=Benuic and 99=Bantuic passes through the transitional languages of the [98] Junaare + Tagbo (Mambila + Samba-Daka) chain.

The “Wider Bantu" or Isizulu+Tiv set contains the largest group of closely related languages in the world, in terms of the number of idioms within a single set. Any sequential listing represents an over-simplification of the internal geographic links which bind adjacent languages more or less closely together in all directions, but the sequence imposed below is designed to lead the user through the increasingly close-knit relationships within this set, as one moves from West Africa towards Southern Africa.

The languages of this phylozone and set, especially in Cameroon and parts of adjacent countries, illustrate how the linguasphere continues to operate as a fluid continuum, linguistic differences accumulating over long distances as one moves from community to community, but without the continuum of inter-intelligibility among neighbouring communities being interrupted severely along any consistent divide. In this situation, the classification of adjacent languages and dialects is often guided by local perceptions of ethno-linguistic identity.

Wherever relevant, references to the Guthrian codes for "narrow" Bantu, e.g. bantu-A11, are included in column 3 below. The convention of an initial "widowed" hyphen has been employed in column 3, for this zone only, to facilitate the recording of linguistic and ethnic names without their traditional prefix. In the conventional citation of the names of Bantu languages in other sources, prefixes are sometimes distinguished by deferring the upper-case initial letter to the beginning of the stem, e.g. isiZulu. In the Linguasphere Register, this typographical device is employed for the citation of the reference names of outer-languages, in bold-type in columns 2 and 3, but only from chain [99-AP] onwards (since separation of prefix from stem is less straight-forward in the languages of West Africa listed to that point).

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