Language in Africa • There are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken in Africa. The American linguist Joseph Greenberg classified all African languages in six major linguistic families: • Southwest Asia (accepted) • Nilo-Saharan is centered on Sudan and Chad (questionable) • Niger-Congo covers West, Central, and Southeast Africa (accepted) • Khoe is concentrated in the deserts of Namibia and Botswana (not generally accepted) • Austronesian on Madagascar. • Indo-European on the Southern tip of the continent.
AustronesianandIndo-European • Several languages spoken in Africa belong to language families concentrated or originating outside of the African continent: Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, is an Austronesian language. Afrikaans is Indo-European, as are the lexifiers of most African creoles (Afrikaans is the only Indo-European language developed in Africa from the colonial era). • Since the colonial era, Indo-European languages such as Afrikaans, English, French and Portuguese have held official status in many countries, and are widely spoken, generally as lingua francas. (See African French and African Portuguese.) Indian languages such as Gujarati are spoken by South Asian expatriates exclusively. In earlier historical times, other Indo-European languages could be found in various parts of the continent, such as Old Persian and Greek in Egypt, Latin in North Africa, and Modern Persian in the Horn of Africa.
Officiallanguages Besides the former colonial languages of English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, only a few languages are official at the national level. These are: • Arabic, in Algeria, Comoros, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania,Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, andTunisia • Swahili in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, andRwanda • Chichewa in Malawi • Amharic in Ethiopia • Somali in Somalia • Tigrinya in Eritrea (technically a workinglanguage) • sh.
Kinyarwanda in Rwanda and the closely related Kirundi in Burundi • Sango in the CAR • Swazi in Swaziland and South Africa • Malagasy in Madagascar • Seychellois Creole in the Seychelles • Shona in Zimbabwe • Afrikaans, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swazi, Venda, and Tsonga in South Africa, the only multilingual country with widespread official status for its indigenous languages, in addition to Engli