Culture: Four Ancestral African Languages Older Than English, But Still Spoken

by Duke Magazine

The Africa continent that is geographically well-situated with 54 countries can boast of over 3,000 African languages aside being the second largest and most populated continent on earth. 

Moreover, of all these widely spoken languages across the black continent, linguistic evolution has since been taking place for over 5,000 years, with some of the ancestral languages waning into extinction. 

A Berber man
Image credit:

Berber languages

A concept of emergence of the Berber languages traces the North African tongue back to about 200 AD despite the fact that the proto-Berber language has spanned for over 5,000 years. 

The Berber languages are of Afroasiatic stock, sharing similarities with Hebrew and Arabic. Today the languages referred to as Berber are spoken across in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Morocco by more than 30 million people.

Although pervasive in the aforementioned countries, but the Berber languages are regarded as official state languages in only Morocco and Algeria.

Khoisan Hunter-gatherers

Khoisan languages

The umbrella group of Khoisan languages is the oldest spoken language in Africa. This is not surprising, because the speakers are the Africans with the oldest established biological connection to prehistoric humanity dating back to nearly 100,000 years ago.

The languages have been spoken for at least, 5,000 years. They are known for their click consonants.

The languages are spoken by the southern African San tribe-folk (Khoikhoi) whose numbers are diminishing. This account, coupled with the fact the Bantu languages are the most spoken in that area, means that the Khoisan languages are at the brink of extinction.

Image credit:

Malagasy language

The Malagasy are no doubt the largest ethnic group in Madagascar. They are identified with seafaring Austronesian peoples who settled on the indian ocean island over 1,500 years ago.

Malagasy, which is also the language of the people, is an official Madagascan language. This seems well within reason seeing that the language has been spoken on the island before the 5th century.

The language is also the most spoken Astronesian language in the world.

Image credit: Nairaland forum

Cushitic languages

Unlike the Khoisan languages spoken by some 400,000 or so people and are very localized, the Cushitic languages are spoken by millions and have formed the foundation of national identities.

Although some tongues in Kenya and Tanzania have been linked with the Cushites, those unarguably linked to the Cushite culture from about 1,000 BC are the peoples of the countries in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

Over 15 languages are in this category, some of which have been spoken for 3,000 years.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

WeCreativez WhatsApp Support
Our support team is here to answer your questions. Ask us anything!
? Hi, how can I help?