Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian and traditionally as Hamito-Semitic (Chamito-Semitic), is a large language family of several hundred related languages and dialects. It comprises about 300 or so living languages and dialects, according to the 2009 Ethnologue estimate. It includes languages spoken predominantly in West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel.
Afroasiatic languages have over 350 million native speakers, the fourth largest number of any language family (after Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Niger–Congo). The phylum has six branches: Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Omotic and Semitic.
By far the most widely spoken Afroasiatic language is Arabic. It is also the most widely spoken language within the Semitic branch, and includes Modern Standard Arabic and spoken colloquial varieties. Arabic has around 290 million native speakers, who are concentrated primarily in West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Malta.
Other widely spoken Afroasiatic languages include:
In addition to languages spoken today, Afroasiatic includes several important ancient languages, such as Ancient Egyptian, Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, and Old Aramaic. It is uncertain when or where the original homeland of the Afroasiatic family existed. Proposed locations include North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Eastern Sahara, and the Levant....LESS
West Africa is defined as the area south of the Sahara between the Atlantic and Lake Chad, encompassing the Sahel zone, tropical forests, and pasturelands. West Africans speak languages belonging to three major families: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic, as well as the official languages, French and English, introduced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The language of scholarship and learning has been Arabic since the seventh century, when Arab merchants, soldiers, and missionaries came south and established major trade routes. Ancient Ghana emerged as major regional powers. This study, which provides an overview of the region's history from medieval times to the twentieth century, traces the developments following colonialism; the effects of Arab nationalism on West African politics; the role of the Israelis in helping to develop new states; the politics of OPEC; and the rise of Islamic extremism.