Sudanic Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sudanic Languages


(1) A term of classification used in African studies in the first half of the 20th century to denote all the languages of the geographical region of the Sudan.

The treatment of the Sudanic languages as a single genetic family derived from a putative protolanguage conformed to the theory of the origin of African languages advanced by C. Meinhof and, until 1927, developed by D. Westermann—namely, the theory of three language types: Hamitic, Sudanic, and Bantu. The theory was subsequently disproved, because the Sudanic languages included language groups, such as Nilotic and Mande, that cannot be traced back to a single source. Consequent to the studies of the American scholar J. Greenberg in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the term “Sudanic languages” is no longer used in a strictly scientific sense.

(2) In modern genealogical classification of the African languages (Greenberg), the terms “Eastern Sudanic languages” and “Central Sudanic languages” are used to denote the subgroups of the Chari-Nile group of the Nilo-Saharan languages.

The Eastern Sudanic languages include the Nilotic languages, Nubian, the language of the Barea (Eritrea), the languages of the Murle-Didinga-Mekan (along the Sudan-Ethiopia border), the languages of the Temein, Nyima-Afitti, Merarit-Tama, and Dagu groups (southern Sudan and eastern Chad), the language of the Ingassana (southeastern Sudan), and, in all likelihood, the languages of the Nyangiya and Teuso (northeastern Uganda and northwestern Kenya).

The Central Sudanic languages include the languages of the Bagirmi group (Chad and the Central African Republic) and Kreish (southern Sudan), the languages of the Binga and Moru-Madi groups (southern Sudan and Chad), the languages of the Mangbetu and Mangbutu groups (northern Zaire), and the language of the Lendu (northern Zaire).


Westermann, D. Die Sudansprachen. Hamburg, 1911.
Tucker, A., and M. Bryan. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of North-Eastern Africa. London-New York-Cape Town, 1966.
Greenberg, J. The Languages of Africa, 2nd ed. Bloomington, Ind., 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The better-known examples of Maasai, Dinka, and Luo are far removed from the group of North Eastern Sudanic languages of which Meroitic is a member.
Languages: Arabic (official); Nubian; Ta Bedawie; diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages; English
A similar term, Do, however, is found in Central Sudanic languages spoken today, indicating that Bantu speakers learned the word *-lo and the knowledge associated with growing finger millet from their Sudanic neighbors.
LANGUAGES spoken include Arabic (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, local Sudanic languages and English.