Chad Languages

Chad Languages


a group of languages spoken in West and Central Africa and related to the Afrasian, or Afro-Asiatic, languages (seeHAMITO-SEMITIC LANGUAGES).

The Chad languages are classified genealogically into numerous subgroups. The western subgroup, spoken in northern Nigeria, includes (1) Hausa; (2) Angas, Sura, Gerka, Ankwe, and Montol; (3) Karakare, Bolewa, Ngamo, and Kanakuru (Dera); (4) Warjawa and Afawa (Pa’a); (5) Bedde (Bade) and Ngizim; and (6) Ron, Fyer, Bokkas, Sha, and Kulere. The central subgroup, spoken in northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Chad, includes (1) Tera and Ga’anda; (2) Bura, Margi, and Kuba; (3) Higi (Hiji), Bata, Hidkala (Laamang), and related languages; (4) Wandala (Mandara), Gamergu, Paduko, and Glavda; (5) Sukur, Matakam, and Gisiga; (6) Daba; (7) Gidder; (8) Kotoko, Logone, Buduma, and related languages; and (9) Musgoi, Masa, and related languages. The eastern subgroup, spoken in Chad and the Central African Republic, includes Chire, Nancere, Somrai, Modgel, Sokoro, Mubi, Tumak, and Tuburi. There are more than 150 Chad languages.

The German scholars J. Lukas and D. Westermann classified the Chad languages by typological features into two independent groups, the Chad and Chado-Hamitic; only the latter were considered to be related to the Afrasian languages. J. Greenberg demonstrated that all the Chad languages are Afrasian.

The phonology of the Chad languages is characterized by a rich consonant system that includes globalized obstruents: the injective (preglottalized) consonants and and such ejective consonants as and . The central subgroup has voiced and voiceless lateral sibilants. Vowels are short or long. Certain tones serve to differentiate lexical and grammatical meaning in otherwise identical words.

The morphological structures of the Chad languages are typo-logically diverse. Masculine and feminine genders are distinguished in many of the languages. Verbs have a highly developed system of aspect and tense forms; in many of the languages these forms are expressed by analytic markers that often form a single complex with personal adverbal markers of the subject. The highly developed system of derived forms of the verb, which includes the intensive, iterative, causative, and reflexive, is based on suffixes, internal inflection, reduplication, and, in some cases, prefixes. The central subgroup exhibits an opposition between inclusive and exclusive pronouns.


D’iakonov, I. M. Semito-khamitskie iazyki. Moscow, 1965.
Zentralsudanische Studien. Edited by J. Lukas. Hamburg, 1937.
Greenberg, J. H. The Languages of Africa, 2nd ed. Bloomington, Ind., 1966.
Newman, P., and R. Ma. “Comparative Chadic: Phonology and Lexicon.” Journal of African Languages, 1966, vol. 5, part 3.
Westermann, D., and M. Bryan. The Languages of West Africa. London, 1970.