Chadic languages

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Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon
Linguistic classificationAfro-Asiatic
  • Chadic
ISO 639-5cdc
Chadic languages in Africa map.svg
Map of the distribution of the Chadic languages within Africa

Detailed map of the distribution of Chadic languages in Western and Central Africa

The Chadic languages form a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. They are spoken in parts of the Sahel. They include 150 languages spoken across northern Nigeria, southern Niger, southern Chad, the Central African Republic, and northern Cameroon. The most widely spoken Chadic language is Hausa, a lingua franca of much of inland Eastern West Africa.


Paul Newman (1977) classified the languages into the four groups which have been accepted in all subsequent literature. Further subbranching, however, has not been as robust; Roger Blench(2006), for example, only accepts the A/B bifurcation of East Chadic.[1] Kujargé has been added from Blench (2008), who suggests Kujargé may have split off before the breakup of Proto-Chadic and then subsequently became influenced by East Chadic.[2] Subsequent work by Joseph Lovestrand argues strongly that Kujarge is a valid member of East Chadic. The placing of Luri as a primary split of West Chadic is erroneous. Bernard Caron (2004) shows that this language is South Bauchi and part of the Polci cluster.

(A) the Hausa, Ron, Bole, and Angas languages; and
(B) the Bade, Warji, and Zaar languages.
(A) the Bura, Kamwe, and Bata languages, among other groups;
(B) the Buduma and Musgu languages; and
(C) Gidar
(A) the Tumak, Nancere, and Kera languages; and
(B) the Dangaléat, Mukulu, and Sokoro languages
A chart of the Chadic branch of the Afroasiatic languages.


Main Chadic-speaking peoples in Nigeria.
Hausa-speaking areas in Nigeria and Niger.

Modern genetic studies of Northwestern Cameroonian Chadic-speaking populations have observed high frequencies of the Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R1b in these populations (the R1b-V88[3] variant). This paternal marker is common in parts of West Eurasia, but otherwise rare in Africa. Cruciani et al. (2010) thus proposed that the Proto-Chadic speakers during the mid-Holocene (~7,000 years ago) migrated from the Levant to the Central Sahara, and from there settled in the Lake Chad Basin.[4]

However, a more recent study in 2018 found that haplogroup R1b-V88 entered Chad much more recently during "Baggarization" (the migration of Baggara Arabs to the Sahel in the 17th century AD), finding no evidence of ancient Eurasian gene flow. [5]

Another study in 2018 had R1b-V88 arriving and spreading in the area of Lake Chad approximately 3720-3230 BCE. This is due to the Starlike nature of the spread of specific R1b-V88 subclades notably R-V1589 suggesting an origin point for the spread near Lake Chad. [6]


Chadic languages contain many Nilo-Saharan loanwords from either the Songhay or Maban branches, pointing to early contact between Chadic and Nilo-Saharan speakers as Chadic was migrating west.[7]

Although Adamawa languages are spoken adjacently to Chadic languages, interaction between Chadic and Adamawa is limited.[8]


Pronouns in Proto-Chadic, as compared to pronouns in Proto-Afroasiatic (Vossen & Dimmendaal 2020:351):[9]

Pronoun Proto-Chadic Proto-Afroasiatic
1 *ní *i ~ *yi
2M *ka *ku, *ka
2F *ki(m) *kim
3M *nì *si, *isi
3F *ta
1PL *mun (incl.), *na (excl.) (*-na ~ *-nu ~ *-ni) ?
2PL *kun *kuuna
3PL *sun *su ~ *usu

Comparative vocabulary[edit]

Sample basic vocabulary in different Chadic branches listed in order from west to east, with reconstructions of other Afroasiatic branches also given for comparison:

Language eye ear nose tooth tongue mouth blood bone tree water eat name
Proto-Chadic[10] *ydn *km/*ɬm *ntn *s₃n; *ƙ-d *ls₃- *bk *br *ƙs₃ *ymn *hrɗ (hard); *twy (soft) *s₃m
Hausa[11] ido kunne hanci haƙori harshe baki jini ƙashi itaci; bishiya ruwa ci suna
Proto-Ron[12] *kumu **atin *haŋgor *liʃ *fo ɟɑ̄lɑ̄, tɾɔ̃̄ *kaʃ *sum
Proto-South Bauchi[13] *(gwà)yìr(-ŋ) *kə̂m(-si) *bʸak(-ì) *bìràm *gu(ŋ)ul *pit-ə̀ *(yì)sûm(-s₃)
Polci[14] yiir kəəm cin shen haƙori bii buran; bəran gooloo pət maa ci suŋ
Proto-Central Chadic[15] *hadaj; *tsɨʸ *ɬɨmɨɗʸ *hʷɨtsɨnʸ *ɬɨɗɨnʸ *ɗɨrɨnɨhʸ; *ɣanaɗʸ; *naɬɨj *maj *ɗiɬ; *kɨrakaɬʸ *hʷɨp *ɗɨjɨm *zɨm *ɬɨmɨɗʸ
Proto-Masa[16] *ir *hum *cin *s- *si *vun *vuzur *sok *gu *mb- *ti *sem
Kujarge[17] kunɟu kumayo ~ kime kaata kiya aliŋati apa ɪbɪrí (kaɟeɟa), kàyɛ́ya kaʃíè ʃia (tona), tuye [imp. sg.]; tuwona [imp. pl.] rúwà
Other Afroasiatic branches
Proto-Cushitic[18] *ʔil- *ʔisŋʷ- *ʔiɬkʷ- *caanrab- *ʔaf-/*yaf- *mikʷ’-; *moc’- *-aħm-/*-uħm-; *ɬaam- *sim-/*sum-
Proto-Maji[19] *ʔaːb *háːy *aːç’u *eːdu *uːs *inču *haːy *um
Tarifiyt Berber[20] ŧit’t’ aməžžun, aməz’z’uɣ ŧinzā ŧiɣməsŧ iřəs aqəmmum iđammən iɣəss aman šš isəm
Coptic ia ma'aje ša šol, najhe las ro snof kas šēn mou wōm ran
Proto-Semitic[21] *ʕayn- *ʔuḏn- *ʔanp- *šinn- *lišān- *dam- *ʕaṯ̣m- *ʕiṣ̂- *mā̆y- *ʔ-k-l (*šim-)
Proto-Afroasiatic[22] *ʔǐl- *-ʔânxʷ- *sǐn-/*sǎn- 'tip, point' *-lis’- 'to lick' *âf- *dîm-/*dâm- *k’os- *ɣǎ *âm-; *akʷ’- *-mǎaʕ-; *-iit-; *-kʷ’-̌ *sǔm-/*sǐm-


  • Caron, Bernard 2004. Le Luri: quelques notes sur une langue tchadique du Nigeria. In: Pascal Boyeldieu & Pierre Nougayrol (eds.), Langues et Cultures: Terrains d’Afrique. Hommages à France Cloarec-Heiss (Afrique et Langage 7). 193–201. Louvain-Paris: Peeters.
  • Lukas, Johannes (1936) 'The linguistic situation in the Lake Chad area in Central Africa.' Africa, 9, 332–349.
  • Lukas, Johannes. Zentralsudanische Studien, Hamburg 1937;
  • Newman, Paul and Ma, Roxana (1966) 'Comparative Chadic: phonology and lexicon.' Journal of African Languages, 5, 218–251.
  • Newman, Paul (1977) 'Chadic classification and reconstructions.' Afroasiatic Linguistics 5, 1, 1–42.
  • Newman, Paul (1978) 'Chado-Hamitic 'adieu': new thoughts on Chadic language classification', in Fronzaroli, Pelio (ed.), Atti del Secondo Congresso Internazionale di Linguistica Camito-Semitica. Florence: Instituto de Linguistica e di Lingue Orientali, Università di Firenze, 389–397.
  • Newman, Paul (1980) The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic. Leiden: Universitaire Pers Leiden.
  • Herrmann Jungraithmayr, Kiyoshi Shimizu: Chadic lexical roots. Reimer, Berlin 1981.
  • Herrmann Jungraithmayr, Dymitr Ibriszimow: Chadic lexical roots. 2 volumes. Reimer, Berlin 1994
  • Schuh, Russell (2003) 'Chadic overview', in M. Lionel Bender, Gabor Takacs, and David L. Appleyard (eds.), Selected Comparative-Historical Afrasian Linguistic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff, LINCOM Europa, 55–60.
Data sets
  • Robert Forkel, & Tiago Tresoldi. (2019). lexibank/kraftchadic: Chadic Wordlists (Version v3.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. doi:10.5281/zenodo.3534953

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blench, 2006. The Afro-Asiatic Languages: Classification and Reference List (ms)
  2. ^ Blench, Roger. 2008. Links between Cushitic, Omotic, Chadic and the position of Kujarge. 5th International Conference of Cushitic and Omotic languages.
  3. ^ "R-Y7771 YTree".
  4. ^ Cruciani, F; Trombetta, B; Sellitto, D; Massaia, A; Destro-Bisol, G; Watson, E; Beraud Colomb, E; Dugoujon, JM; Moral, P; Scozzari, R (2010). "Human Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88: a paternal genetic record of early mid Holocene trans-Saharan connections and the spread of Chadic languages". European Journal of Human Genetics. 18 (7): 800–7. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.231. PMC 2987365. PMID 20051990.
  5. ^ Shriner, Daniel; Rotimi, Charles N. (December 31, 2018). "Genetic history of Chad". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 167 (4): 804–812. doi:10.1002/ajpa.23711. PMC 6240361. PMID 30259956.
  6. ^ D’Atanasio, Eugenia; Trombetta, Beniamino (February 12, 2018). "The peopling of the last Green Sahara revealed by high-coverage resequencing of trans-Saharan patrilineages". Genome Biology. 19 (20): 20. doi:10.1186/s13059-018-1393-5. PMC 5809971. PMID 29433568.
  7. ^ Ehret, Christopher. 2006. The Nilo-Saharan background of Chadic Archived 2019-08-01 at the Wayback Machine. In P. Newman and L. M. Hyman (eds), West African linguistics: studies in honor of Russell G. Schuh, pp. 56–66. Studies in African Linguistics Suppl. 11. Columbus: Ohio University Press.
  8. ^ Blench, Roger. 2012. Linguistic evidence for the chronological stratification of populations South of Lake Chad. Presentation for Mega-Tchad Colloquium in Naples, September 13–15, 2012.
  9. ^ Vossen, Rainer and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal (eds.). 2020. The Oxford Handbook of African Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  10. ^ Jungraithmayr, Herrmann; Ibriszimow, Dymitr (1994). Chadic Lexical Roots: Tentative reconstruction, grading, distribution and comments. (Sprache und Oralität in Afrika; 20), volume I, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.
  11. ^ Cosper, Ronald. 2015. Hausa dictionary. In: Key, Mary Ritchie & Comrie, Bernard (eds.) The Intercontinental Dictionary Series. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (Available online at, Accessed on 2019-12-31.)
  12. ^ Blench, Roger. no date. Ron comparative wordlist.
  13. ^ Shimizu, Kiyoshi. 1978. The Southern Bauchi group of Chadic languages: a survey report. (Africana Marburgensia: Sonderheft, 2.) Marburg/Lahn: Africana Marburgensia.
  14. ^ Cosper, Ronald. 2015. Polci dictionary. In: Key, Mary Ritchie & Comrie, Bernard (eds.) The Intercontinental Dictionary Series. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (Available online at, Accessed on 2019-12-31.)
  15. ^ Gravina, Richard. 2014. Proto-Central Chadic Lexicon. Webonary.
  16. ^ Shryock, Aaron. 1997. The classification of the Masa group of languages. Studies in African Linguistics 26(1): 29‒62.
  17. ^ Doornbos, Paul. 1981. Field notes on Kujarge, language metadata, 200-word list plus numerals and pronouns.
  18. ^ Ehret, Christopher. 1987. Proto-Cushitic reconstruction. In Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 8: 7–180. University of Cologne.
  19. ^ Aklilu, Yilma. 2003. Comparative phonology of the Maji languages. Journal of Ethiopian studies 36: 59–88.
  20. ^ Kossmann, Maarten. 2009. Tarifiyt Berber vocabulary. In: Haspelmath, Martin & Tadmor, Uri (eds.) World Loanword Database. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  21. ^ Kogan, Leonid (2012). "Proto-Semitic Lexicon". In Weninger, Stefan (ed.). The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 179–258. ISBN 978-3-11-025158-6.
  22. ^ Ehret, Christopher (1995). Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): vowels, tone, consonants, and vocabulary. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09799-8.