The Afro-Asiatic languages are a language family of about 240 languages and 250 million people widespread throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia.
The following language subfamilies are included:
Older literature used the term Hamito-Semitic instead of Afro-Asiatic.
All languages except the Semitic ones were lumped together as Hamitic.
This does not reflect modern understanding of the group: probably the greatest diversity is among the Cushitic and Omotic groups, suggesting that what is now Ethiopia
is the original homeland, and the other groups spread out from there many thousands of years ago.
The Semitic group was the only one to spread as far as Asia.
In historical or near-historical times some Semitic speakers crossed from South Arabia back into Ethiopia, so some modern Ethiopian languages (such as Amharic
) are Semitic rather than belonging to the substrate Cushitic or Omotic groups.