Atlantic–Congo languages

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Sub-Saharan Africa
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
  • Atlantic–Congo

In the classification of African languages, the Atlantic–Congo languages constitute the core of the Niger–Congo family, with the noun class systems stereotypical of that family. They comprise all of Niger–Congo but Mande, Dogon, Ijoid, and part of Kordofanian. Mukarovsky's West-Nigritic corresponded roughly to modern Atlantic–Congo.

The Atlantic–Congo languages outside Kordofan have traditionally been divided into Atlantic and Volta–Congo branches, but it is doubtful that either is a valid genealogical node.[2]

In the infobox at the right, the languages which appear to be the most divergent (Senufo, Kru) are placed at the top, whereas those closer to the core (the similar Benue–Kwa branches of Kwa, Volta–Niger, and Benue–Congo) are near the bottom.[3] The erstwhile Atlantic branch has been broken up into Senegambian, Bak, Mel, Gola, and Limba, which are left next to each other merely because there is no published evidence to move them; Volta–Congo (Savannas through Benue–Congo) is intact apart from Kru and Senufo. If Kwa or Savannas prove to be invalid, the tree will be even more crowded.

There are a few poorly attested languages, such as Bayot and Bung, which may prove to be additional branches.

Glottolog (2013) does not accept that the Kordofanian branches (Lafofa, Talodi, and Heiban), or the difficult-to-classify Laal language, have been demonstrated to be Atlantic–Congo languages. It otherwise accepts the family, but not its inclusion within a broader Niger–Congo.[1]


  1. ^ a b Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Atlantic–Congo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Guillaume Segerer & Florian Lionnet 2010. "'Isolates' in 'Atlantic'". Language Isolates in Africa workshop, Lyon, Dec. 4
  3. ^ Roger Blench, Niger-Congo: an alternative view