Speech of the Sahara Sea


a very tentative map of Africa c. 3,000 BCE

Remember the Peoples of the Sahara Seas? Well, the original creator of the Sahara Seas map, Sean McNight, liked it! “Good job,” he said. Or words to that effect. Anyway that’s all the encouragement I need to go further! The last post took us from the birth of mitochondrial Adam to the non-drying of the Sahara 7,000 years ago. Now I’m going from there to 5,000 years ago and the dawn of history.

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(dark red) The “Khoisan” languages are a group of African languages in southern Africa that share initial click consonants, vowels distinguished by tone and quality, analytic morphology, and inflectional morphemes. “Khoisan” people also generally share genetic markers (e.g. Y-chromosome Haplogroup A and Mitochondrial Haplogroup L0) and physiology (e.g. “peppercorn” hair, common lack of alveolar ridge). “Khoisan” languages were originally thought to be genealogically related to each other, but this is no longer accepted. They now include languages from three distinct language families and two language isolates. Khoisan languages include the Khoe, Tuu, and Kx’a language families in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.

(red) Wak’ang-Hadza is a dubious phylum of languages spoken by the people between Lake Victoria and the eastern shore of Lake Chad, who often share the Y-chromosome haplotypes A and B and Mitochondrial L0, called “pygmoids” by early anthropologists. Although Wak’ang-Hadza languages share medial click consonants, and distinguish consonants by aspiration, voice, prenasalization, and ejection, genealogical relationships cannot be drawn for all of them. Therefore most linguists split Wak’ang-Hadza into at least three language families: Maric languages such as Wak’ang (spoken around the Mara mountains), Darfuric languages such as Ahaolh (south of of lake Darfur), and Chad River languages like Ndzenha. Hadza (spoken around lake Eyasi south of Lake Victoria) is an isolate unrelated to Wak’ang or any other language. Sandawe (spoken in the Dodoman region southwest of Lake Victoria), contains clicks like Hadza, but its vocabulary allies it more closely to “Khoisan” languages than “Wak’ang-hadza.”

(pink) Centimanic languages are a group of languages in western Africa and Iberia that share click consonants, lack of alveolars, overtone vowels, and a distinction between velar and glottal aspiration. Centimanic-speaking peoples (called “Hecatonchiroids” by early anthropologists) often belong to Mitochondrial Haplogroups L! and L2! and Y-Chromosome Haplogroup ! (or, in the case of a few male lines from from the Tabernas Desert in Iberia, Haplogroup “Neanderthal-1”), indicating the oldest known split from between human populations. Centimanic languages cannot be proved to be related, and most modern linguists split them into Cannimaric languages like Hirrre (spoken in the Air Mountains), North-Centimanic languages like !Kuren (spoken in the El Djof Desert), Eglabic languages like Pàq (spoken in the El Eglab Desert), Atlantic languages like Rirrr!t (spoken in the Atlas mountains), and the isolate A!xebkh (spoken in the Tabernas Desert).

(cream)  Eunymphic is a family of languages spoken from Southern Lake Chad to the Atlantic Ocean (and in overseas colonies). Eunymphic languages have an SOV sentence structure, 3 tones (high, low, and falling), lentition, and simple/centripetal/participative verbs. Some of these features are also present in Eastern Sudanic and Saharan languages, leading to a proposed “Nilo-Saharan” language family that unites them. Proposals have also been made to unite Eunymphic languages with Indo-European, either as a separate family or within Hittic, usually citing cognates between the names of ancient Taynadzian, Greek, and Hindu gods (e.g. Sus, Zeus, and Dyu). Eunymphic languages include Cascanar (spoken between Lake Chad and the Atlantic), Tsshian (spoken on the eastern bank of Lake Chad), Laal (spoken south-east of Lake Chad), and ancient Taynadzian (once spoken around most of Lake Chad). Koman (spoken on the Blue Nile) may be a Eunymphic language.

(dark orange) Eastern Sudanic is a family of languages spoken in eastern Africa north and west of Lake Victoria. Eastern Sudanic languages share a singular-collective-plurative number system with Saharan languages. Eastern Sudanic languages include Nilotic languages like Ancient Nubian, modern Nobiin (on the Nile river), and Kushtuk (formerly “Titanoid” spoken in the southern Mara mountains).

(orange) Saharan is a family of languages spoken in western Africa between Lake Chad and the Maghreb Sea. Its speakers were once grouped with the speakers of Eunymphic languages into the “Nymphoid” peoples. Saharan languages include Jiar (on the Maghreb Sea) and Kebian (around the Agadez Sea).

(yellow) Afroasiatic (formerly “Satyric“) is a family of languages spoken in northwestern Africa between lake Fezzan and the desert (and in overseas colonies).  Afroasiatic languages feature laryngeal and emphatic consonants, VSO typology, two genders (feminine marked with -t), causative -s- affix, and words inflected by changes within the root. Representative languages: Ancient Ucaptian (at the Gulf of Sidra) and modern Ingymptic (between the Sahabi and Al Kabir rivers), Gotchic (on the northwest coast of Africa), and Taram (on the Atlantic coast and overseas colonies).

(green) Niger-Congo (formerly “Echidnic“) is a family of languages spoken in southwestern Africa between the Niger river and the Congo basin. One of its sub-families, Bantu, spread to cover most of southern Africa in historical times (and in overseas colonies). Niger-Congo languages share CVCV syllable structure, verbs of a root followed by suffixes, nouns of a root preceded by classification prefixes, vowel harmony, nasal/non-nasal vowel contrast, tone, and SVO word order. Niger-Congo includes Kikongo (in central Africa) and Zulu (in southern Africa).

(light blue) Hurro-Urartian a language family spoken in southeastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula, and northeastern and central Africa. Its speakers were once grouped with the speakers of Asian Indo-European languages into the “Centauroid” peoples, a term now only used to refer to Asian — as opposed to African — Hurro-Urartian languages. Examples of Hurro-Urartian include Ancient and Middle Podzran.

(blue) Cyclopic is a language family represented by Lanthsminth, spoken on the Atlas Cape, and several extinct languages, once spoken on Sardina, Crete, and other islands in the Mediterranean. Cyclopic languages feature agglutinative nouns and ergative–absolutive alignment, leading some to propose links to Basque, Kartvelian, and Hurro-Urartian.

(light purple) Indo-European is a language family spoken in most of Europe, northern India, parts of the near-east, and the Cape of Sidra in northwestern Africa (and in overseas colonies). In Africa, it is represented by Hittic languages, including ancient Cramantean (of the Lower Nile), and ancient Watran on Lake Chad. The only surviving Hittic language is Seussian (on the Cape of Sidra).

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