Africa is widely acknowledged to contain four major language families. Each of the languages has a common ancestor in the distant past and writing systems.
West Africa is home to languages from three groups; Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic, and Nilo-Saharan.
The Niger-Congo family is the most significant in the region.
The Niger-Congo family comprises:
- Mande languages of Mali
- Côte D’Ivoire
- Sierra Leone
- Liberia, which has about 10-12 million speakers
- The Atlantic Coast with several million language speakers, like Fulfulde and Wolof.
- Yoruba and Igbo, two of Nigeria’s major languages, are also members of the Niger-Congo grouping.
Writing systems of Africa
The term “African writing systems” refers to the historical and contemporary use of writing systems on the African continent, both indigenous and introduced.
The Latin script is now widely used throughout Africa, particularly in Western, Central, and Southern Africa.
The Arabic script is mostly spoken in North Africa, whereas the Ge’ez/Ethiopic alphabet is spoken in the Horn of Africa. Other scripts may be prominent regionally and in some regions.
To justify the Transatlantic slave trade, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Africans had no writing systems. Africa had numerous writing systems.
Ancient Egyptian writing: is probably the most well-known globally ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Later, they evolved into Hieratic, Demotic, and Coptic forms via Phoenician and Greek. The Coptic language is still the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Coptic Catholic Church of Alexandria.
- Ancient Meroitic: during the Meroitic period, the Meroitic language and writing system were employed in Mero and the larger Kingdom of Kush (modern-day Sudan). From 300 BCE until 400 CE, it was in use.
- Tifinagh: Tifinagh alphabet is still actively used in commerce and modernized versions for writing Berber languages. Some of the examples of the Berber languages are Tamazight, Tamashek, etc. in the Maghreb, Sahara, and Sahel areas.
- Ge’ez: The Geez script was created in the 8th and 9th century BC in the Horn of Africa. It was employed in the writing of the Geez language. Today, the script is used for Amharic, Tigrinya, and a number of other languages in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
- Nsibidi: Nsibidi is an indigenous sign language system belonging to the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. It appears to be an ideographic script with logographic elements. The early versions of the symbols have been discovered on unearthed potteries in what are most likely ceramic stools and headrests from the Calabar region.
- Adinkra: Adinkra is a language symbol from Ghana that represent concepts or aphorisms. Adinkra is used extensively in fabrics, logos and pottery.
- Lusona: Lusona is a system of ideograms that functioned as mnemonic devices to record proverbs, fables, games, riddles and animals and transmit knowledge. They originate in what is now eastern Angola, northwestern Zambia and adjacent areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.