The superfamily containing most of the languages of Africa. The genealogy of African languages proposed by Joseph Greenberg allocated most languages to six large families, which together are called the Niger-Congo group. A small number of languages in the Kordofan region of Sudan are called the Kordofanian family. This group is distantly related to the Niger-Congo group, so the whole structure is known as the Niger-Kordofanian phylum.

The largest branch of the Niger-Congo family is the easternmost one, the Benue-Congo family. This contains all the Bantu languages, which have spread over the last several thousand years all over central, eastern, and southern Africa.

Here are the main divisions of Niger-Kordofanian, according to Greenberg's classification, and some important individual languages. Of course any such classification is provisional and may be disputed in detail, and alternative names for some branches may be seen.

Niger-Kordofanian is one of four language phyla native to Africa. The other three are the Afro-Asiatic family, which covers all of North Africa (Arabic, Berber, Amharic, Somali, and Hausa being the main representatives); the Nilo-Saharan family (including Nilotic languages like Dinka and Masai); and the Khoe or Khoisan family (those of the "Bushmen" and "Hottentots").

Malagasy of Madagascar is an Austronesian (Indonesian) language, and Afrikaans in South Africa is Indo-European, a variety of Dutch.


Here is a more recent classification, from the Ethnologue site. They are impossibly over-precise in counting languages and in deciding which branch and sub-branch each one belongs to, but the total number of languages in each family is included. The branch names are sometimes their own invention. However, I now gather this higher-level classification is one accepted as an improvement on Greenberg's original one. West Atlantic was renamed Atlantic, Adamawa-Eastern became Adamawa-Ubangi, the Kru group was taken from Kwa, many other Kwa languages were moved into Benue-Congo, and the Ijo and Dogon languages were elevated.

Niger-Congo 1436

  • Atlantic-Congo 1347
    • Atlantic 65
    • Ijoid 10
    • Volta-Congo 1272
      • Benue-Congo 895
        • Bantoid 646
        • Cross River 63
        • Defoid 15
        • Ekoid 24
        • Idomoid 9
        • Igboid 7
        • Kainji 55
        • Nupoid 5
        • Oko 1
        • Platoid 63
        • Ukaan-Akpes 2
        • unclassified 5
      • Dogon 1
      • Kru 41
      • Kwa 78
      • North 257
        • Adamawa-Ubangi 157
        • Gur 100
  • Kordofanian 31
  • Mande 58

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