The Amazing Languages of Africa

By Dave Huxtable on

Africa is home to amazing languages. In this entertaining video, I go on a linguistic safari around the languages of Africa, exploring their complex grammar, magnificent array of speech sounds (including the unique click consonants) and some of their home-grown writing systems. Semitic languages span three continents and I look at how Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, changes verbs at the beginning as well as the end and how it creates groups of words based on consonant roots. I love the Bantu languages, with their large number of noun classes and far-reaching agreement and I look at how this works in Swahili. The Khoisan languages of Southern Africa have an amazing array of speech sounds, including clicks, but please don’t call them “click languages”. They have shared these sounds with their neighbours and I took Xhosa lessons to learn to incorporate them into fluent speech. As well as clicks, some African languages have ejectives, lateral fricatives (which they share with Welsh!) and syllabic nasals. The Ge’ez writing system; used to write Amharic, Tigre and Tigrinya; is beautiful and works in a fascinating way, whereas Tamazight looks like it was created by a minimalist designer!

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