Afroasiatic languages

Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic,[2] Semito-Hamitic,[3] or Erythraean[4] is a large language family of about 300 languages that are spoken predominantly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel.[5] With the exception of Semitic, which is also spoken in the Middle-East and in Malta, all branches of the Afroаsiatic family are spoken exclusively on the African continent.

Malta, Horn of Africa, North Africa, Sahel, and the Middle East
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
ISO 639-2 / 5afa
Distribution of the Afro-Asiatic languages

Afroasiatic languages have over 500 million native speakers, which is the fourth largest number of native speakers of any language family (after Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Niger–Congo).[6] The phylum has six branches: Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian (†), Semitic, and Omotic, however the inclusion of Omotic remains controversial, and several linguists see it as independent language family, which stood in long-term contact with Afroasiatic languages.[7][8] By far the most widely spoken Afroasiatic language or dialect continuum is Arabic. A de facto group of distinct language varieties within the Semitic branch, the languages that evolved from Proto-Arabic have around 313 million native speakers, concentrated primarily in the Middle East and North Africa.[9]

In addition to languages spoken today, Afroasiatic includes several important ancient languages, such as Ancient Egyptian, which forms a distinct branch of the family, and within the Semitic family, Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew and Old Aramaic. There is no consensus among historical linguists concerning the original homeland of the Afroasiatic family, or the period when the parent language (i.e. Proto-Afroasiatic) was spoken. Proposed locations include the Horn of Africa, North Africa, the Eastern Sahara and the Levant.