Due to its breadth, Africa and its 54 nations are highly diverse; linguists estimate that almost 2,000 native languages, as well as more widely spoken ones like English and French, are spoken throughout Africa. Many Africans are at least multilingual, if not trilingual, as a result of their cultural richness. Languages spoken on the African continent are classified geographically rather than linguistically as African languages. The word historically refers to the languages of sub-Saharan Africa, which are dispersed among several different linguistic stocks and do not form a single family. Africa is home to more than 800 languages, but just a small number of language groups, according to estimates. A total of 50 African languages have more than 500,000 speakers apiece, although many more are only spoken by a small number of individuals. Tonality is a recurring theme in the native African tongues. To distinguish between semantic or grammatical categories, two or three tones are typically utilized (based on pitch levels rather than the rising and falling inflections of Chinese tones). In the last few decades great strides have been made in the study and classification of the African languages, although the results are still far from definitive. The principal linguistic families of Africa are now generally said to be Afroasiatic; Niger-Kordofanian (including Niger-Congo); Nilo-Saharan; and Khoisan, or Click; two other stocks, Indo-European and Malayo-Polynesian, are also represented. Niger-Kordofanian and Nilo-Saharan are two large families of languages spoken exclusively in Africa. These languages are spoken in all parts of the continent, from the extreme south up to the territory of the Afroasiatic languages of N Africa. The Afroasiatic family is also spoken in the Middle East. Some authorities believe that the languages spoken in the Niger-Kordofanian and Nilo-Saharan families are sufficiently similar to suggest that both stocks had the same ancestor language.


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