Critically endangered languages in Africa


It is a very regular occurrence to hear a story about an endangered species in the wild, or about one that is about to go extinct because of reckless human behavior towards the animal itself and its habitat. What we don’t often hear about is what we do to languages. The list of extinct languages of Africa, languages which have undergone language death, have no native speakers and no spoken descendant on Wikipedia is  52 Languages long, including but not limited to an ancient South Semitic language called Geez! What a loss… On this list we will be looking at five of the fifty two languages we have lost as we grew. There is no chronological order except off course one country has an A, two have a B, and two have a C, fun fact for our truth seekers out there, *wink, wink*.

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Tamazight language-Algeria

Tamazight are Berber languages which are a branch of the Afro-asiatic family. According to a new report about the world’s most threatened languages especially highlights the languages of the indigenous Berber people in Morocco and Algeria. Despite constituting around 50 percent of the population, their languages have been discriminated against and ignored. The Berbers are considered North Africa’s indigenous population. There is proof they inhabited the region in Phoenician times. The Berbers remained the dominant population group in North Africa long after the Arab conquer of the region.

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In Morocco, it is estimated that around 50 percent of the population is Berber, although authorities allow no registration of ethnicity and claim numbers are far lower. In Algeria, between 25 and 30 percent of the population considers itself Berber.

Despite this long history and populous strength, Berber languages still are considered to be threatened in Algeria and Morocco. The reason for this is purely political, as the two countries consider themselves Arab and flatly deny the existence of a larger Berber population. Especially in Morocco, people have been fined and even detained for speaking Berber in public.

Tchumbuli language-Benin

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The number of individual languages listed for Benin is 54.. Of these, 9 are institutional, 18 are developing, 25 are vigorous, 1 is in trouble, and 1 is dying. (Unseen Benin)

Tchumbuli is a northern Guang language spoken in three villages in the Department de Collinse between Save and Ousse, in the villages of Okuonfo, Gbede, and Endanigbe. It goes by other Alternate names including  Basa, Chombulon, Tchombolo, Tshummbuli. With only 1,838 speakers of the language left it is at an 80% certainty rating for extinction. In Okounfo village, the switch to Cabe has occurred, with pervasive bilingualism and Tchumbuli known only to the older generation. In Edaningbe, Maxi is replacing Tchumbuli although a more complex ethnic mixture in the village means that the process of replacement is less straightforward. In Gbede, Tchumbuli remains widely spoken although Cabe is used to communicate with outsiders and appears to be spreading among younger children.”

Danisi language-Botswana

Also known as Shua or Shwakhwe, is a Khoe language of Botswana. It is spoken in central Botswana (in Nata and its surroundings), and in parts of the Chobe District in the extreme north of Botswana. There are approximately 2,000 (Brenzinger 2013b). The term Shwakhwe means people (khwe) from the salty area (shwa).Central district: Boteti subdistrict, Letlhakane, Mmatshumu, Mokoboxane, Motopi, and Popipi; Tutume subdistrict, Gweta and Nata; North West district: small area southeast.

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Akum language-Cameroon

Just so that you know the Akum language is really at risk of disappear into the oblivion of forgetfulness, the following is how much Wikipedia could afford it in terms of a description… Akum is a  Plateau language of Cameroon and across the border in Nigeria. Coming from among others the Niger–Congo languages family which constitutes one of the world’s major language families and Africa’s largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers and number of distinct languages it’s a wonder this language is failing to stand the test of time. With only 1,400speakers left  in Cameroon (2002)  and fewer in Nigeria it’s a marvel that it has managed to hang on till 2018.  Akum is spoken in five distinct villages. Three of these villages are, Upkack, Izong, and Konkum are found in the Fura-Awa Subdivision, Menchum Division, North West Province of the Republic of Cameroon, respectively. Two of them, Ibang and Manga are found in Nigeria.
The paramount ruler of these villages, based in Upkack, Mr. Galadima Achipo
reports a local population of 7,000 speakers. According to his report, the population
is distributed as follows:
Upkack 4,000
Izong 1,000
Konkum 400
Ibang (Nigeria) 1,000
Manga (Nigeria) 600
TOTAL 7,000 

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Birri language-CAR

Birri is a nearly extinct, possibly Central Sudanic language of Central African Republic and formerly of (South) Sudan. According to Boyeldieu (2010), its classification as Central Sudanic has yet to be demonstrated, but Starostin (2016) finds its closest relative to be Kresh, a small language group of South Sudan. It is generally considered to be a branch of the Central Sudanic languages. Boyeldieu (2010) judges that this has yet to be demonstrated satisfactorily, but Starostin (2016) finds convincing evidence, and that its closest relative within that family appears to be Birri. It became extinct in Southern Sudan by 1993, and by 1996 it only had 200 speakers left. In the CAR there are approximately 5,000 speakers remaining of the Nilo-Saharan language family language.

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Written by James Gathitu

I am a writer, performer, creative entrepreneur, and adventurer! My journey has been crazy and has led me at this very moment to you.

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