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ethnic groups
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ethnic groups
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in this section
Languages by region

language families:
Afro-Asiatic
Niger-Congo
Nilo-Saharan
Khoisan
Other
Languages in Africa

Africa can be divided into five regions: North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa. Each of these represents a cultural and geographic region which is different from the others in many ways: for example with regard to the languages spoken.

The four main language families are: Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan, and Khoisan. Each of these language families can be further broken down into smaller groups. At least 1,000 different languages have been identified in Africa. They reflect the great ethnic diversity of this continent. To understand the complexity of these language families and their subfamilies you should visit the Ethnologue Languages of the World web site. This specific link will show you the Khoisan language family and its subfamiliesREMOTE. The information on this site is based on the "Ethnologue Language Family Index", 1996, Joseph E. Grimes and Barbara F. Grimes, Editors. You will also find more information on African languages in the books listed in our Further Reading section.

Language is often a barrier between different ethnic groups. Two of the more widely spoken languages in northern Africa are Arabic (Egypt and The Sudan) and Berber (Morocco and Algeria). The sub-Saharan languages are more numerous and are grouped into language families. The larger language families include Bantu (spoken in countries in central and southern Africa), Kordofanian (in between northern Africa and the Bantu region) and Khoisan (southwestern Africa).



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