Adamawa languages

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eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, northwestern CAR, southern Chad
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo

The Adamawa languages are a putative family of 80–90 languages scattered across the Adamawa Plateau in central Africa, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Chad, spoken altogether by only one and a half million people (as of 1996). Joseph Greenberg classified them as one branch of the Adamawa–Ubangi family of Niger–Congo languages. They are among the least studied languages in Africa, and include many endangered languages; by far the largest is Mumuye, with 400,000 speakers. A couple of unclassified languages—notably Laal and Jalaa—are found along the fringes of the Adamawa area.


Greenberg postulated the group as part of Adamawa–Ubangian (then called Adamawa–Eastern), and divided them into 14 numbered groups. Group G3, Daka (or Dakoid), is now known to be a branch of Benue–Congo. The relationships of the other branches has undergone considerable revision. Boyd (1989) added the Day language and classified them as follows:

The Fali languages (G11) were excluded.

Kleinewillinghöfer (1996)[2] modified Waja–Jen by splitting Bikwin–Jen into two branches and moving Baa up as a primary branch of Adamawa. He was agnostic about the inclusion of Fali.

Groups (Greenberg)[edit]

Joseph Greenberg's 14 numbered Adamawa groups can be summarised as:

Number Group
G1 Tula–Waja
G2 Leko
G3 Daka
G4 Duru
G5 Mumuye–Yendang
G6 Mbum
G7 Bəna–Mboi (Yungur)
G8 Nyimwom (Kam)
G9 Bikwin–Jen
G10 Longuda
G11 Fali languages
G12 Nimbari
G13 Bua
G14 Kim

Groups (Güldemann)[edit]

Güldemann (2018) recognises 14 coherent Adamawa "genealogical units", but is agnostic about their positions within Niger-Congo.[3]

Groups (Kleinewillinghöfer)[edit]

Kleinewillinghöfer (2019), in the Adamawa Languages Project website, recognises the following 17 groups as Adamawa languages.[4]


More recently, Roger Blench (2012)[20] has posited that the Adamawa languages are a geographic grouping, not a language family, and has broken up its various branches in his proposal of the Savannas family. He retained Boyd and Kleinewillinghöfer's Leko–Nimbari and Mbum–Day families, but gave them no special connection to each other. He removed Waja from the Waja–Jen branch and reassigned it with Kam isolate; the placement of Baa is not clear. Fali is excluded from Savannas altogether. Blench also suggests that some of the western Adamawa languages are in fact closer to the Gur languages.

Geographically, the Adamawa languages lie near the location of the postulated Niger–Congo – Central Sudanic contact that may have given rise to the Atlantic–Congo family, and so may represent the central radiation of that family.

Unclassified Adamawa languages[edit]

The Oblo language of Cameroon has been included in several versions of the Adamawa group, but its position within it is unclear.[21]

It has been speculated that the unclassified Laal language of Chad may be Adamawa; the Jalaa language of Nigeria is probably not Adamawa, but shows heavy Adamawa influence. However, both are generally now considered to be language isolates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Adamawa". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Kleinewillinghöfer, Ulrich. 1996. Die nordwestlichen Adamawa-Sprachen - Eine Übersicht. In: Seibert, Uwe (ed). Afrikanische Sprachen zwischen Gestern und Morgen. Frankfurter Afrikanistische Blätter, 8: 80-103.
  3. ^ Güldemann, Tom (2018). "Historical linguistics and genealogical language classification in Africa". In Güldemann, Tom (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of Africa. The World of Linguistics series. 11. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 58–444. doi:10.1515/9783110421668-002. ISBN 978-3-11-042606-9.
  4. ^ Kleinewillinghöfer, Ulrich. 2019. Adamawa Language Groups. Adamawa Languages Project.
  5. ^ Tula-Waja comparative wordlist (Swadesh 100)
  6. ^ Tula-Waja pronouns and numbers
  7. ^ Bikwin-Jen Comparative wordlist (Swadesh 100)
  8. ^ Bikwin-Jen Pronouns and Numbers 1-10
  9. ^ Kleinewillinghöfer, Ulrich. 2015. Some notes on Nyiŋɔm (aka Nyingwom or Kam).
  10. ^ Longuda ~ Nʋngʋra wordlist (Swadesh 100)
  11. ^ Longuda Pronouns and Numbers
  12. ^ Baa Wordlist (Swadesh 100)
  13. ^ Baa pronouns and numbers
  14. ^ Blench, Roger. 2009. The Maya (Yendang) languages.
  15. ^ Gimme-Vere-Doyayo wordlists
  16. ^ Vere wordlists
  17. ^ Ɓəna-Mboi comparative wordlist (Swadesh 100)
  18. ^ Ɓəna-Mboi pronouns and numbers
  19. ^ Evidence of noun classes in languages of the Yungur group
  20. ^ Blench, Roger. 2012. Niger-Congo: an alternative view.
  21. ^ Ayotte, Michael and Charlene Ayotte. 2002. Sociolinguistic language survey of Dama, Mono, Pam, Ndai and Oblo. SIL International.

External links[edit]