Koman languages

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Not to be confused with Koma language.
SudanEthiopia border region
Linguistic classification Nilo-Saharan?
Glottolog koma1264[1]

The Koman languages are a small close-knit family of languages located along the SudanEthiopia border with about 50,000 speakers. They are commonly believed to belong to the Nilo-Saharan family, but evidence is slight, and among scholars who do accept inclusion, opinions vary as to their position within it.

The poorly known Shabo language (600 speakers) shows strong Koman influence, and it has been suggested (on little evidence) that it may be a Koman language. Gule is generally classified as Koman, but the evidence is as yet insufficient.

Dimmendaal (2008) notes that mounting grammatical evidence has made the Nilo-Saharan proposal as a whole more sound since Greenberg proposed it in 1963, but that such evidence has not been forthcoming for Songhay, Gumuz, and Koman: very few of the more widespread nominal and verbal morphological markers of Nilo-Saharan are attested in the Coman languages plus Gumuz ... Their genetic status remains debatable, mainly due to lack of more extensive data. (2008:843) And later, In summarizing the current state of knowledge, ... the following language families or phyla can be identified — ... Mande, Songhai, Ubangian, Kadu, and the Coman languages plus Gumuz. (2008:844) However, Ahland (2010) reports that with better attestation, both Koman and Gumuz do appear to be Nilo-Saharan, and perhaps closest to each other.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Koman". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Colleen Ahland, 2010. "The Classification of Gumuz and Koman Languages",[1] presented at the Language Isolates in Africa workshop, Lyons, December 4, 2010
  • Lionel Bender, 2000. "Nilo-Saharan". In Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse, eds., African Languages: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
  • Gerrit Dimmendaal, 2008. "Language Ecology and Linguistic Diversity on the African Continent", Language and Linguistics Compass 2/5:842.