Chadian languages

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Chadian (ocher) within the Afro-Asian languages

The Chadian languages (also called Chad languages ) are an independent branch of the Afro-Asian language family . It comprises around 195 genetically related languages that are spoken in Nigeria , Niger , Chad and Cameroon , i.e. around Lake Chad . The best-known and most traditional language of this branch is Hausa . Hausa belongs to the west branch.

Research and classification history

Scientific research into Chadian languages ​​began in the first half of the 19th century when European explorers began to collect lexical and grammatical material of Chadian languages. In 1934, Johannes Lukas divided a number of languages ​​in the area around Lake Chad into a “Chadian” and a “Chadohamite” group, whereby the genetic affiliation to Afro-Asian was considered but not fully recognized. It was only Joseph Greenberg in 1950 that showed that the "Chadian" and "Chadohamite" languages ​​form a genetic unit and form a separate primary branch of the Afro-Asian language family. Since then, the external classification of Chadian could no longer be specified; However, the steadily growing number of published material in Chadian languages ​​made it possible to specify the internal classification as well as approaches to the historical reconstruction of Proto-Chadian and subordinate proto languages. In 1966 Paul Newman and Roxana Ma first tried to reconstruct phonology and a number of lexemes of Proto-Chadian and proposed a classification that provided for a "Biu-Mandara" branch and a "Plateau Sahel" branch. However, this classification soon had to be revised. In 1977 Newman proposed a widely accepted four-branch structure; the unification of Biu-Mandara and Masa to form a Central Chadian by some scientists could not be generally accepted.

External classification

Chadian is one of the six primary branches of the Afro-Asian language family that is widespread in North and East Africa and the Middle East , which also includes Egyptian , Berber , Cushitic , Omotic and Semitic . The genetic relationship between Chadian and these languages ​​results from both lexical and morphological properties. The latter mainly include the personal pronouns and the systems for verbal and nominal derivation; the Chadian inflection, on the other hand, has a large number of independent developments. The following list contains some examples of isoglosses from the lexicon and morphology, which, together with many other equivalents, prove both the genetic relationship of the Chadian languages ​​to one another and their affiliation to Afro-Asian:

(Basic) meaning Chadian Egyptian Berber Cushy Omotic Semitic
West Chadian Biu-Mandara Eastern Chadian
"Tongue" Bole lisìm Musgu ɛlɛsí Mubi lɛ̀ésí * lés Kabyle iləs Dime lits'- ("lick") Arabic lisān
"Surname" Hausa súúnáá Margi ɬǝm Somrai súmí Kabyle isəm Bench sum Akkadian šumum
"to die" Hausa mútù Logon with Mubi māt mwt Tuareg ummät Rendille -mut- Arabic māta, ya-mūtu
"You" (masculine) Hausa ka Kotoko -ku Mokilko k- kw Tuareg kăy Beja -k Arabic -ka
"her" Hausa kun Kotoko-kun Mokilko kún- ṯn (<* kn) Tuareg kăwăneḍ Beja-kna Arabic -kum, -kunna


The majority of scholars divide Chadian into four branches:

Surname languages speaker States
West Chadian 75 27 million Niger , Nigeria
Biu-Mandara 76 2.9 million Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad
Masa 9 650,000 Chad , Cameroon
Eastern Chadian 33 500,000 Chad

These branches are in turn divided into subgroups, resulting in the following classification:

For orientation purposes, the corresponding branch is given in brackets after the names of Chadian languages.

Sociolinguistic situation

The vast majority of Chadian languages ​​are spoken by fewer than 50,000 people in a small region and are therefore only of local significance. In order to enable supraregional communication, certain lingua franca are used. In addition to French and Arabic , this is mainly in Nigeria and Niger in the West Chadian Hausa , which is spoken by several million people. Hausa is probably the only Chadian language in which a large amount of literature was written in Arabic or Latin script .



The Chadian consonant system has some properties that characterize it as typically Afro-Asian. So there are several glottalized consonants, especially the implosives [⁠ Ɓ ⁠] and [⁠ Ɗ ⁠] and one or two lateral fricatives ( [⁠ ɬ ⁠] , [⁠ ɮ ⁠] ). The Chadian language also shows deviations: there are no pharyngeal fricatives and, in general, no glottal sounds with phonemic status. In contrast, a number of languages ​​have prenasal consonants that are not otherwise found in Afro-Asian.

The vowel phonemes of the Chadian languages ​​show a considerable diversity; Systems with one phoneme were observed as well as those with twelve vowel phonemes. Reconstructing the proto-Chadian vowels is difficult; Accordingly, the previous attempts at reconstruction differ considerably from one another; there are reconstructed systems with between one and five phonemes.

Suprasegmental properties

All Chadian languages ​​- like two other Afro-Asian primary branches - are tonal languages . The majority of Chadian languages ​​have a high and a low tone, which are usually marked in the transcription by the acute for the high tone and the grave accent for the low tone. Some individual languages ​​also have more complicated sound systems. Another common characteristic is the downdrift pattern, in which a high note following a low note is spoken lower than usual. In scientific transcription, the tones are usually marked as follows:


Nominal and pronominal morphology

Personal pronouns

Depending on the syntactic position, the personal pronouns appear in different forms, but these are etymologically closely related. It is possible to distinguish between subject pronouns and object pronouns, possessive pronouns that are suffixed to their reference word, and finally absolute, thematized pronouns. A specialty of some Chadian languages ​​are intransitive copy pronouns , which are suffixed to the verbal stem of an intransitive verb and which congruent with the subject in person, number and gender. Examples from the Bole (West):

  • Subject pronouns
ítá sòorá-kkò "she fell"
  • direct object pronoun
íshí ɗòppée- "that he should follow me"
  • indirect object pronoun
íshí ɗòppì- "that he will follow for me"
  • Possessive pronouns
mòrɗó- "your (m.) millet"
  • Intransitive Copy Pronouns
ítá ʾyòráj- jìitó "she stopped"

The following table summarizes personal pronouns in various Chadian languages:

  Hausa (West)
subject pronouns of the perfect
Mofu-Gudur (Biu-Mandara)
Noun personal pronouns
Mokilko (East)
subject pronouns
Singular 1. náá ya n-
2. m. káá ka k-
2. f. kín m-
3. m. yáá áa y-
3. f. táá t-
Plural 1. exclusive mún ála Ɂáy-
1. inclusive álákwa Ɂín-
2. kún ákwar kún-
3. sún átá Ɂán-


In most languages, a Chadian noun belongs to one of the two genera masculine and feminine , although certain correlations with sex , i.e. with natural gender, can be recognized. The gender is generally not marked. A gender-neutral plural can be derived from nouns , although there is generally a greater number of educational opportunities available, which in the Biu-Madara, on the other hand, are greatly reduced. The following types of education can be found:

  • Suffixes
    • Hausa (West) itààc-èè "tree" - ítáát-úúwà "trees"
  • Reduplication
    • Hausa (West) téébùr "table" - téébúróóríí "tables"
  • ablaut
    • Bade (West) də̀máán "tree" - dàmə́n "trees"

Nomina agentis, instrumenti and loci are formed with a prefix m - inherited from Proto-Afro-Asian : Bade (West): súúy " fischen " - màsúúyáán "fisherman", ə̀rbə̀cú "open" - márbə̀cə́n "key", ə̀kfú "to go in" - màkfáán "entrance".

Verbal morphology


The personal conjugation takes place in Chadian using special forms of personal pronouns that come before the verbal stem; Most Chadian languages ​​have complex morphological systems for identifying tense , mode , aspect and type of action , with both clitics that come before or after the verb, as well as changes in the verbal stem itself. Although the conjugation systems of the various languages ​​are outwardly similar, the Proto-Chadic conjugation system has so far only been partially reconstructed. For example, a perfect marker * k- is very widespread and can therefore also be used for the proto language.

Some languages, including Hausa (West), express aspects through the use of aspect-specific subject pronouns, which historically have partly arisen from the amalgamation of subject pronouns and aspect markers, and partly also modification of the verb stem:

analysis shape translation
3rd person Sg.Mask. Progressive yánàà tàfíyáá "He is going (straight)"
3rd person Sg. Masked habitual yákàn tàfí "He goes (usually)"
3rd person Sg. Masked subjunctive yà tàfí "That he goes"
3rd person Sg. Masked future tense (1) zâi tàfí "he will go"
3rd person Sg.Mask. Future tense (2) yâa tàfí "he will go"
3rd person Sg. Mask. Perfect yáá tàfí "he went"
imperative tàfí "Go!"
Verbal nouns tàfíyáá "Walking"

Complicated Klitika, often changed by Sandhi, characterize aspects, modes and types of action in Karekare (West):

Shape determination Form with analysis and translation
Completely nà às-ukò
I - cancel - complete
"I picked up"
Complete + indirect pronominal object (2nd person Sg. F.) nà às-êê-ci
I - cancel - completely - for you
"I picked up for you"
Complete + totality nà às-uusi-kò
I - cancel - totality - complete
"I picked up completely"
Complete + ventive nà às-nee-kò
I - cancel - ventive - complete
"I lifted over here"
Complete + additive: nà às-uudù-go
I - cancel - additive - complete
"I also picked up"
Incomplete + totality nà naa às-aasì
I - incomplete 3rd person Sg. m. - cancel - totality
"He cancels completely"

The Mofu-Gudur (Biu-Mandara) uses pre- and post-verbal clitics to express various aspects and types of action:

Shape determination Form with analysis and translation
Aorist á zəməy ɗáf
he - eat - food
"He eats food"
Durative fá zəməy ɗáf
Durative 3rd person Sg. M. - eat - food
"He is currently eating food"
Perfect tá zəməy ɗáf lá
Perfect 3rd person Sg. M. - eat - food - perfect
"He ate food"
Aorist + Ventiv vəl-d-íy-wa
give - causative - me - ventiv
"give it to me"

The Zulgwe (Biu-Mandara) marks three aspects with different subject pronouns; further affixes, the plurality of the verb, the object or the subject, the direction of an action and the like, are placed after the verb.

Shape determination Form with analysis and translation
Generalis hímbíɗ à gé íŋá
Wind - it (Generalis) - do - Generalis
"the wind blows"
Specific action + egressive á sə̀kə́m ára slú í kwàskwà ya
he (one-time act) - buy - egressive (1) - meat - in - market - egressive (2)
"He bought meat in the market"
Specific action + egressive kà sə̀kə́m áwá ama slú í kwàskwà
2nd person - buy - habitual - 1st + 2nd person Sg. - meat - in - market
"Me and you, we both usually bought meat at the market"

Aspect tribes in Proto-Chadian?

Many Chadian languages ​​mark aspects with the ablaut of the verbal stem. The vowel -a- in the past tense is particularly involved, cf. Mubi (East) Perfect síì - Past tense súwáà "to drink". A number of scientists like Herrmann Jungraithmayr trace these formations back to the Proto-Chadian and beyond that to the Proto-Afro-Asian; however, other researchers see the formations in question as more recent innovations. Although this discussion has existed since the 1960s, it has not yet been finally decided.


Chadian languages ​​can derive deverbal verbs through a series of affixes, ablaut and reduplication. Transitive verbs are formed with a suffix * - t such as Bade (West) ju "go" - jədù "take" derived. Another suffix * - s also forms transitive and causative - factual verbs: Hausa karàntaa "learn" - karàntas "teach". a -Ablaut and reduplication express verbal plurality: Lamang: kəla “take”, kala “take a lot”, kalala “take a lot”. Verbs can also be derived from the tone pattern and ablaut of the last stem vowel, cf. for example Hausa sàyáá "buy" - sáyàà "buy someone something", sáyèè "buy everyone from a lot", sáyóó "buy and bring here".


Most Chadian languages ​​have SVO as their normal sentence order, as the following example from Zime (Masa) shows:

Ekwa zìw sínará
Ekwa threw rope in flow
"Ekwa threw a line into the river."

Only part of the Biu-Mandara has the VSO position instead. The following sentence comes from the Gude:

Ɂush Raabi ɗâfna
Perfect Cook Rabi Porridge
"Rabi cooked porridge."

As in other primary branches of Afro-Asian, nominal and pronominal objects behave differently in many Chadian languages: nominal indirect objects are expressed with prepositional phrases, pronominal indirect objects, on the other hand, are suffixed directly to the verb:

Bole (West)
ítá à ɗòppà no íshì
she Past tense consequences for me him
"She will follow him for me"
Mofu-Gudur (Biu-Mandara)
Sentence 1 Sentence 2
a fə́c ka a fəc way
Perfective clean you Perfective clean to you hut
"He cleans you" "He will clean your hut"
Bole (West)
Bamoi kàppū mòrɗo ḿ bō-nì yes
Bamoi planted millet For Father - be With hoe
"Bamoi planted millet with a hoe for his father"

Individual evidence

  1. for example Jungraithmayr, Shimizu 1981; Vladimir E. Orel and Olga V. Stolbova: Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for a Reconstruction. Brill, Leiden 1995. ISBN 90-04-10051-2 .
  2. data mostly from [1]
  3. founded by Newman 1977; on the other hand: Jungraithmayr, Ibriszimow 1994
  4. ^ Numbers according to Ernst Kausen, The Classification of Afro-Asian Languages. (DOC; 127 kB).
  5. ^ After Newman 1977
  6. ^ William J. Frawley: International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: AAVE - Esperanto, Volume 1 , Oxford University Press , 2003, ISBN 9780195139778 , p. 306 [2]
  7. Catherine Bow: The Vowel System of Moloko (Dissertation, 1999), PDF , p. 8.
  8. see e.g. B. Ekkehard Wolff: Reconstructing Vowels in Central Chadic. In: Ekkehard Wolff, Hilke Meyer-Bahlburg (Ed.): Studies in Chadic and Afroasiatic Linguistics. Helmut Buske Verlag, Hamburg 1983. pp. 211–232, who uses only one vowel phoneme / a / at least for the Proto-Biu-Mandara.
  9. Newman 1977.
  10. Alhaji Maina Gimba: Bole Verb Morphology. (Dissertation), 2000 ( [3] ); Russel G. Schuh: unpublished chapters of a grammar of Bole ( [4] )
  11. Herrmann Jungraithmayr: Le du fontionnement verbe dans l'énoncé simple en Mokilko. In: H. Jungraithmayr, H. Tourneux (Ed.): Fonctionnement du verbe dans trois langues tchadiques. Africana Marburgensia, special issue 6. Marburg 1982, pp. 25-29.
  12. Compare: Paul Newman: Nominal and verbal plurality in Chadic. Foris, Dordrecht 1990. ISBN 90-6765-499-X .
  13. Examples from: Russel G. Schuh: The Karekare Verbal System (PDF).
  14. a b Daniel Barreteau: , Description du Mofu-Gudur, langue de la famille tchadique parlée au Cameroun Livre II:. Lexique. Orstom, Paris 1988. ISBN 2-7099-0841-7 , pp. 54-55.
  15. U. Wiesemann (Ed.): Chadic language studies in northern Cameroon. Africana Marburgensia. Special issue 5th Marburg University Library, Marburg 1981.
  16. a b Schuh 2003, p. 58.


  • Herrmann Jungraithmayr, Kiyoshi Shimizu: Chadic lexical roots. Reimer, Berlin 1981. ISBN 3-496-00135-6 .
  • Herrmann Jungraithmayr, Dymitr Ibriszimow: Chadic lexical roots. 2 volumes. Reimer, Berlin 1994. ISBN 3-496-00560-2 .
  • Paul Newman, Roxana Ma: Comparative Chadic: phonology and lexicon. In: Journal of African Languages, 5, 1966. pp. 218-251.
  • Paul Newman: Chadic classification and reconstructions. In: Afroasiatic Linguistics 5, 1. 1977. pp. 1-42.
  • Paul Newman: The Classification of Chadic within Afroasiatic . Leiden 1980.
  • Russel G. Schuh: Chadic overview . In: M. Lionel Bender, Gabor Takacs, David L. Appleyard (Eds.): Selected Comparative-Historical Afrasian Linguistic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff . LINCOM Europe, Munich 2003. ISBN 3-89586-857-4 . Pp. 55-60. ( )
  • H. Ekkehard Wolff: Semitic-Chadic Relations. In: Stefan Weninger et al. (Ed.): The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. DeGruyter - Mouton, Berlin 2011, 27–38.

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