The Ubangian languages
form a fairly close-knit language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...
of some seventy languages centered on the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic , is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the north east, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about ,...
. They are the predominant languages of the CAR, spoken by 2–3 million people, and include the national language, Sango.
Greenberg is a surname common in North America, with anglicized spelling of the German Grünberg or the Jewish Ashkenazi Yiddish Grinberg, an artificial surname.Notable people with the surname Greenberg include:- A–C :...
(1963) classified the then-little-known Ubangian languages as Niger–Congo and placed them within the Adamawa languages
The Adamawa languages are a putative family of 80–90 languages scattered across the Adamawa Plateau in central Africa, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Chad, spoken altogether by only one and a half million people . Joseph Greenberg classified them as one branch of the...
as "Eastern Adamawa". They were soon removed to a separate branch of Niger–Congo, for example within Blench's Savanna languages
-External links:* – Blench* by Michael & Charlene Ayotte, 2002. SIL Electronic Survey Reports SILESR 2002-048.* , Tourneaux...
. However, this has become increasingly uncertain, and Dimmendaal (2008) states that, based on the lack of convincing evidence for a Niger–Congo classification ever being produced, Ubangian "probably constitutes an independent language family that cannot or can no longer be shown to be related to Niger–Congo (or any other family)."
Although the limits of the family are clear-cut, and it consists of half a dozen coherent branches, the interrelationships of these branches are not so straightforward. Williamson & Blench (2000) propose the following arrangement:
In addition there is the Ngombe language, whose placement is uncertain due to a paucity of data.
16 agrees with Williamson & Blench on the Sere–Mba node, and calls the Gbaya languages "Gbaya–Manza–Ngbaka".
Note: The ambiguous name Ngbaka
is used for various languages in different branches of the family. Generally, singular Ngbaka language refers to one of the main Gbaya languages, whereas plural Ngbaka languages
The dozen Ngbaka languages are a family of Ubangian languages spoken in the Central African Republic and neighboring areas. It includes Pygmy languages such as Baka and Gundi...
refers to a different branch.