Kordofanian languages

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Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo
  • Kordofanian
ISO 639-5kdo

The Kordofanian languages are a geographic grouping of five language groups spoken in the Nuba Mountains of the Kurdufan, Sudan: Talodi–Heiban languages, Lafofa languages, Rashad languages, Katla languages and Kadu languages. The first four groups are branches of the Niger–Congo family, whereas Kadu is now widely seen as a branch of the Nilo-Saharan family.


In 1963, Joseph Greenberg added them to the Niger–Congo family, creating his Niger–Kordofanian proposal. The Kordofanian languages have not been shown to be more distantly related than other branches of Niger–Congo, however, nor have they been shown to constitute a valid group. Today the Kadu languages are excluded and the others usually included in Niger–Congo proper.

Roger Blench notes that the Talodi and Heiban families have the noun class systems characteristic of the Atlantic–Congo core of Niger–Congo, but that the two Katla languages have no trace of ever having had such a system, whereas the Kadu languages and some of the Rashad languages appear to have acquired noun classes as part of a Sprachbund rather than having inherited them. He concludes that Talodi and Heiban are core Niger–Congo whereas Katla and Rashad form a peripheral branch along the lines of Mande.

Talodi–Heiban languages[edit]

The Heiban languages, also called Koalib or Koalib–Moro, and the Talodi languages, also called Talodi–Masakin, are part of the Talodi–Heiban group.[1]

Lafofa languages[edit]

Lafofa (Tegem) was for a time classified with Talodi, but appears to be a separate branch of Niger–Congo.

Rashad languages[edit]

The number of Rashad languages, also called Tegali–Tagoi, varies among descriptions, from two (Williamson & Blench 2000), three (Ethnologue), to eight (Blench ms). Tagoi has a noun-class system like the Atlantic–Congo languages—apparently borrowed,—while Tegali does not.

Katla languages[edit]

The two Katla languages have no trace of ever having had a Niger–Congo-type noun-class system.

Kadu languages[edit]

Since the work of Thilo Schadeberg in 1981, the "Tumtum" or Kadu branch is now widely seen as Nilo-Saharan. However, the evidence is slight, and a conservative classification would treat it as an independent family.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Gerrit Dimmendaal, 2008. "Language Ecology and Linguistic Diversity on the African Continent", Language and Linguistics Compass 2/5:842.