Glossary
Abkhaz A living language belonging to the Northwest Caucasian linguistic
family and ethnic group living in Abkhazia on the east coast of the Black Sea
to the northwest of Georgia.
Africa Africa fits the conventional definition of a continent as a large body
of land surrounded by water. Like the concept of ‘‘continent’’ itself, the
definition of ‘‘Africa’’ is problematic. Africa contains a range of climates,
from desert to rainforest, and is divided by many natural boundaries: deserts,
mountains, and rainforests. Furthermore, as the continent in which modern
humans have lived for the longest period, the inhabitants of Africa have a
wider genetic variety than the rest of the world put together. There is, how-
ever, a surprising degree of linguistic uniformity. The conventional view is
that all African languages can be classified as belonging to one or other of
the Khoisan, Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic, or Nilo-Saharan language families,
although it may be that the Nilo-Saharan family is an unjustifiably cohe-
sive grouping. Nevertheless, the linguistic clustering indicates widespread
interaction across the continent, often when geographical barriers were less
formidable than they have been during the past few millennia. In particular,
during the warm/wet period after the last Ice Age, there were significant cul-
tural connections across what is now the Sahara desert. For these reasons,
despite the continent’s very real diversity, ‘‘Africa’’ remains too useful a con-
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