Africa is undoubtedly the region of the world where the linguistic situation is the most diverse (there are no less than a thousand languages), and the most poorly known. The proposed classifications have been questioned in turn. African civilizations are civilizations of orality: the transmission of culture does not pass through writing but through sound (voice, drum, whistle) and through memory (collective memory and memory of some specialized people). All the written documents we have, are relatively recent (one of the earliest, a Swahili poem written in Arabic characters, dates from 1714) and were collected by non-native speakers. The first lexical collections date from the end of the 17th century, but were only intensified in the second half of the 19th century. The linguistics of this period, formed in the comparative school which had so brilliantly established the unity of the Indo-European domain, could not apply, without some arbitrariness, the same methods to that of the languages of black Africa: These had no history, the written sources, besides their poverty, were mainly lexical. It was at the end of the 19th century that the first syntheses dated: around 1860, W. H Bleek established the Bantu unity, around 1880 appeared the first general classifications (F Muller and K Lepsius) which grouped all the Black Africa's languages into a single family comprising, on the one hand, Bantu and, on the other, all the others. At the beginning of the 20th century, two new syntheses appeared: that of C Meinhof and that of D Westermann. The latter proposes a division: chamitic, Bantu, Sudanese; The khoisan languages were sometimes linked to the chamitic, sometimes treated separately, a classification criticized by the French Delafosse and Homburger, who separated the Khoisan languages and grouped all the others into a vast family. The Greenberg classification 1955-63 takes into account 730 distinct languages and proposes to distinguish four main groups: the Nilo-Saharan family, the most heterogeneous of the four and the most criticized, the Niger-Congolese (congo-Kordofanian) family, the Khoisan family (essentially the clicking languages of the Hottentots and Bushmen), and finally the Chamito-Semitic (Afro-Asian) family, including Semitic (Arabic and Ethiopian languages), Berber, Egyptian (Old and Coptic), Cushitic , and certain languages of the Chadian group including Hausa. The area of Nilo-Saharan languages concerns a discontinuous zone extending across Chad, Central Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, with an extension in Mali and Niger (songhai), and consists of six groups (Songhai, Saharan, Kanopuri, Toubou). The Nigerian-Congolese family consists of a group of 800 languages divided into six groups: Western Atlantic (foulani, wolof, serer, jula, etc.), mande (Bambara, Malinke, Mende, Soninke), Voltaic or Gour (Mossi), Kwa (Yoruba, ibo, Akan, Fon Ewe, Kru), Oriental Adamaoua and Benoue-Congo (mainly Bantu languages).
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