Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian and in older sources as Hamito-Semitic (Chamito-Semitic) or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family of about 300 languages. It includes languages spoken predominantly in West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel.
Afroasiatic languages have over 495 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 Modern Standard Arabic. A de facto group of distinct language varieties within the Semitic branch, the languages that evolved from Classical Arabic have around 290 million native speakers, concentrated primarily in West Asia, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.
Other widely spoken Afroasiatic languages include:
The original homeland of the Afroasiatic family and when the parent language (i.e. Proto-Afroasiatic) are yet to be agreed upon by historical linguists. Proposed locations include North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Eastern Sahara and the Levant (see below).
During the early 1800s, linguists grouped the Berber, Cushitic and Egyptian languages within a "Hamitic" phylum, in acknowledgement of these languages' genetic relation with each other and with those in the Semitic phylum. The terms "Hamitic" and "Semitic" were etymologically derived from the Book of Genesis, which describes various Biblical tribes descended from Ham and Shem, two sons of Noah. By the 1860s, the main constituent elements within the broader Afroasiatic family had been worked out.