Niger–Congo languages

language family spoken over the majority of sub-Saharan Africa, uniting the Mande languages, the Atlantic-Congo languages and possibly several smaller groups of languages

The Niger–Congo languages are a hypothetical language family. They are spoken in the southern half of Africa. They may be world's largest language family in terms of number of languages. Most of the most widely spoken languages of Subsaharan Africa belong to this group. A common part of many Niger-Congo languages is the use of a noun class system. The most widely spoken Niger-Congo languages by native speakers are Yoruba, Igbo, Fula and Shona. The most widely spoken by total number of speakers is Swahili.

Niger–Kordofanian (obsolete)
Sub-Saharan Africa
Linguistic classification:If valid, one of the world's primary language families
Dogon(inclusion disputed)
Ijoid (inclusion disputed)
Mande (inclusion disputed)
Katla (Kordofanian)(inclusion disputed)
Rashad (Kordofanian) (inclusion disputed)
Atlantic–Congo (noun classes)
ISO 639-2 and 639-5:nic

Map showing the distribution of Niger–Congo languages (yellow). The area is divided into B (Bantu) and A (rest) to show the extent of the Bantu subfamily.
Map showing the localization of Niger Congo subgroups and important single languages of that family
Map of languages of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin,

Subgroups and important single languages of the Niger-Congo family of languages.


  • Williamson, Kay (1989) 'Niger-Congo overview', in Bendor-Samuel & Hartell (eds.) The Niger-Congo Languages, 3-45.
  • Williamson, Kay & Blench, Roger (2000) 'Niger-Congo', in Heine, Bernd and Nurse, Derek (eds) African Languages - An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 11–42.

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