Africa is traditionally seen as hosting four large indigenous phyla, or language families, namely, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Khoisan. This four-way division is overly simplistic, and the true number of African language families likely surpasses 20, including a number of isolates and sign languages. There are estimated to be more than 2,000 languages on the continent.

The Niger-Congo label covers about 1,500 languages spoken across most of sub-Saharan Africa and includes many of the largest languages of West Africa such as Yoruba, Bambara, Wolof, Ewe, and Akan. Many of the largest languages spoken across Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa belong to the Bantu language family, the largest subgroup of Niger-Congo.

Afroasiatic includes languages spoken in both the Middle East and Africa, including extinct languages known from ...

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