Opinions on Afroasiatic languages

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"Afro-Asiatic" redirects here. For other uses, see Afro-Asiatic (disambiguation).

Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian and traditionally as Hamito-Semitic (Chamito-Semitic), is a large language family of several hundred related languages and dialects. It comprises about 300 or so living languages and dialects, according to the 2009 Ethnologue estimate. It includes languages spoken predominantly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel. The Afroasiatic family is significant to the field of historical linguistics as possessing the longest recorded history of any language family.

Afroasiatic languages have 350+ million native speakers, the fourth largest number of any language family. The most widely spoken Afroasiatic language, Arabic (including literary Arabic and the spoken colloquial varieties), has around 200 to 230 million native speakers, living mostly in the Middle East and in parts of North Africa. Berber (including all its varieties) is spoken in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, northern Mali, and northern Niger by about 25 to 35 million people. Other widely spoken Afroasiatic languages include:

  • Hausa, the dominant language of northern Nigeria and southern Niger, spoken as a first language by 25 million people and used as a lingua franca by another 20 million across West Africa and the Sahel
  • Oromo of Ethiopia and Kenya, with about 33 million speakers total
  • Amharic of Ethiopia, with over 25 million native speakers, not including the millions of other Ethiopians speaking it as a second language
  • Somali, spoken by 15.5 million people in Greater Somalia
  • Modern Hebrew, spoken by around seven million people worldwide
  • Modern Aramaic, spoken by about 550,000 people worldwide. This isn't just one language — It includes a number of subdivisions, with Assyrian Neo-Aramaic being the most spoken variety (232,300).

In addition to languages spoken today, Afroasiatic includes several important ancient languages, such as Ancient Egyptian, Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, and Old Aramaic.


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