Bantu languages

The Bantu languages (English: /ˈbænt/, Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages spoken by the Bantu peoples of Central, Southern, and Southeast Africa. They form the largest branch of the Southern Bantoid languages.

Bantu
EthnicityBantu peoples
Geographic
distribution
Central Africa, Southeast Africa, Southern Africa
Linguistic classificationNiger–Congo?
Proto-languageProto-Bantu
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5bnt
Glottolognarr1281
The Bantu languages shown within the Niger–Congo language family. Non-Bantu languages are greyscale.

The total number of Bantu languages ranges in the hundreds, depending on the definition of "language" versus "dialect", and is estimated at between 440 and 680 distinct languages.[1] For Bantuic, Linguasphere[2] has 260 outer languages (which are equivalent to languages, inner languages being dialects). John McWhorter said, using a comparison of 16 languages from Bangi-Moi, Bangi-Ntamba, Koyo-Mboshi, Likwala-Sangha, Ngondi-Ngiri and Northern Mozambiqean, mostly from Guthrie Zone C, that many varieties are mutually intelligible.[3]

The total number of Bantu speakers is in the hundreds of millions, estimated around 350 million in the mid-2010s (roughly 30% of the total population of Africa or roughly 5% of world population).[4] Bantu languages are largely spoken southeast of Cameroon, throughout Central Africa, Southeast Africa and Southern Africa. About one-sixth of Bantu speakers, and about one-third of Bantu languages, are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone (c. 60 million speakers as of 2015). See list of Bantu peoples.

The Bantu language with the largest total number of speakers is Swahili; however, for the majority of its speakers it is a second language (L1: c. 16 million, L2: 80 million, as of 2015).[5]

Other major Bantu languages include Xhosa with 13 million speakers (South Africa and Zimbabwe), Zulu with 12 million speakers and Shona with less than 10 million speakers (if Manyika and Ndau are included); Zimbabwe has Kalanga, Matebele, Nambiya and Xhosa speakers.[6][7] Ethnologue separates the largely mutually intelligible Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, which together have 20 million speakers.[8]


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