SIL International Home

Find An evaluation of Niger-Congo classification on the new SIL International website.

SIL Electronic Working Papers 2004-005

An evaluation of Niger-Congo classification

Author  Olson, Kenneth S.

This paper examines the presently received classification of the Niger-Congo language family, with the aim of evaluating the classification and suggesting areas of further research. We find that the exact placement of Ijoid, Kru, and Dogon within the Niger-Congo tree remains to be determined and that the unity of each of the following nodes needs to be better established: Atlantic, (new) Kwa, (new) Benue-Congo, Wide Bantu, Narrow Bantu, and Adamawa-Ubangi. The macro classification is based on the method of resemblances, with refining based on lexicostatistics paired with the examination of shared innovations. The comparative method has mostly been applied at a micro level to specific subgroups. A comprehensive reconstruction of Niger-Congo, including the establishment of sound laws, remains the major future task.

  An evaluation of Niger-Congo classification
Published  2004
Subjects  Language classification
Keywords  historical linguistics; Niger-Congo; language classification; Africa; Language classification