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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The Central Sudanic family consists of some sixty languages that are spoken in the center of Africa. According to Greenberg, who coined the label, it is part of the Nilo-Saharan phylum (this point is, however, debatable and not addressed here). The chapter discusses the genetic unity of Central Sudanic, a hypothesis that still needs to be confirmed by application of a strict comparative-historical method. After reviewing previous internal classifications, it establishes five consistent subgroups, plus several ‘indeterminate’ languages. The subgroups are then submitted to a series of criteria—lexicostatistics, distribution of likely cognates, regular consonantal correspondences, derivational affixes, and syntactic typology—which lead to the provisional conclusion that these subgroups represent more or less equidistant parts of a genetic Central Sudanic unit. It considers whether the linguistic distance between languages spoken in such a limited area can simply be explained by diversification.

Keywords: Central Sudanic, internal classification, comparative-historical method, lexicostatistics, cognate, regular consonantal correspondence

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