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World Languages

Updated on September 7, 2007


We all know now, language is very important medium of communication. It is one of the most important inventions that accelerated the development of human race to the present level. Almost all the communities and groups in today's world use some sort of language to interact with others. Except a few sign languages others are spoken languages. Spoken languages are based on sounds. Different types of sounds created by some human organs to symbolize things, actions, ideas etc. Many of these languages have written forms. These are group of symbols written on some materials and they are visual form of a language. Origin of the spoken language is much earlier than the written language. Quite a number of languages do not have written forms.

If not all, most of the languages probably have a common origin. The long period of time since its origin made it split into several languages now. By comparative analysis linguists have established similarities and differences between languages. Some languages are closer to others in terms of, vocabulary, grammar etc. Based on such analysis, languages have been classified into different groups and many levels of sub-groups. These groups are generally called Language Families.

Language Families

Etnologue, an encyclopedic reference work cataloging all of the world's languages, in its year 2005 edition lists, 6,912 known living languages in the world now. According to other sources the number of languages are much less. This is because these sources consider many languages in the Ethnologue list, as dialects of other languages.

Ethnologue identifies 94 Language Families. However, major portion of world's languages and number of speakers belongs to only very few language families.

Based on population, the first 9 Families are listed below. Number of languages belong to them are indicated within brackets.

  1. Indo-Europian Language Family - 2,563 Millions (430)
  2. Sino-Tibetan Language Family - 1,275 Millions (399)
  3. Niger-Congo Language Family - 358 Millions (1,495)
  4. Afro-Asiatic Language Family - 339 Millions (353)
  5. Austronesian Language Family - 312 Millions (1,246)
  6. Dravidian Language Family - 221 Millions (73)
  7. Altaic Language Family - 145 Millions (64)
  8. Japanese Language Family - 123 Millions (12)
  9. Austro-Asiatic Language Family - 101 Millions (169)


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    • boberto profile image


      9 years ago

      After learning Spanish, German and French Im looking to move on to something more tasking and thought about learning chinese as it is becoming extremely useful as companies look to cut their costs and expand their clientele. Whats the best way to go about this?

      Great hub by the way, very informative! Keep up the good work.

    • mp3audiobooks profile image


      10 years ago from Switzerland

      Languages are important, I was lucky to learn a few when I was young and they have served me well ever since! Thanks for the overview.

    • sukritha profile image


      11 years ago from Cochin

      Informative and Influencive Comment Keep it Up. Thank You

    • Rmnathan profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Sharjah

      VickeyK, Thanks for your comments.

    • VickeyK profile image


      11 years ago

      Great information and links! Thank you--


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