Adamawa-Eastern Languages

Adamawa-Eastern Languages


central Sudan languages, a subfamily of languages belonging to the Niger-Congolese group (classification of the American linguist J. Greenberg).

The Adamawa-Eastern languages are divided into two branches: (1) The Adamawa languages are spread throughout the northern provinces of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and the Central African Republic. The total number of speakers is about 560,000 (1964). The most significant languages of the group are Chamba, Donga, Were, Yungur, Longuda, and Fali. (2) The Eastern languages are spread throughout Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the People’s Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), the northwest part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa, the Republic of Zaïre since Oct. 1971), and the Republic of the Sudan. The number of speakers is about 1.9 million persons; the most widespread languages are Gbaya, Ngbandi, Sango, Banda, and Zande. The affinity of the Adamawa-Eastern languages is apparent in the morphology (traces of nominal classes marked by affixes of different positional classes, serving to express the categories of number) and in the vocabulary. For example, in the Were, Chamba, and Mumuye languages, there is an alternating pair of suffixes le ã for expressing the singular and plural. In the languages of the eastern branch (Banda, Zande, and Barembo), a prefix a- indicates the plural of the class of animals. These languages were not regarded as related in earlier classifications; for example, in the work of the German linguist D. Westermann and the British linguist M. Bryan, these languages were classified in three isolated groups. The paucity of studies of the Adamawa-Eastern languages leaves the question of their classification still open.


Westermann, D., and M. Bryan. Languages of West Africa. Oxford, 1952.
Tucker, A. N., and M. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of North-Eastern Africa. London, 1966. Greenberg, J. The Languages of Africa. Bloomington, 1963.


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