List of language families

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This List of language families includes also language isolates, unclassified languages and other types of languages.

Major language families[edit]

By number of native speakers[edit]

Pie chart of world languages by percentage of speakers

This is a list of the top ten families that are fairly often recognized as phylogenetic units, in terms of numbers of native speakers as a proportion of world population, listed with their core geographic areas.

  1. Indo-European languages 45% (Europe, Southwest to South Asia, North Asia, North America, South America, Oceania, South Africa)
  2. Sino-Tibetan languages 22% (East Asia)
  3. Niger–Congo languages 6.4% (Sub-Saharan Africa)
  4. Afroasiatic languages 6.0% (North Africa to Horn of Africa, West Asia)
  5. Austronesian languages 5.9% (Oceania, Madagascar, maritime Southeast Asia)
  6. Dravidian languages 3.7% (South Asia)
  7. Altaic languages (controversial combination of Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic families) 2.3% (Central Asia, Northern Asia, Anatolia, Siberia)[1]
  8. Japonic languages (sometimes included in an expanded Altaic proposal) 2.1% (Japan)
  9. Austroasiatic languages 1.7% (mainland Southeast Asia)
  10. Tai–Kadai languages 1.3% (Southeast Asia)

Phyla with historically wide geographical distributions but comparatively few contemporary speakers include Eskimo–Aleut, Na-Dené, Algic, Quechuan and Nilo-Saharan.

By number of languages[edit]

According to the numbers in Ethnologue, the largest language families in terms of number of languages are the following. Some families are controversial, and in many the language count varies between researchers.

  1. Niger–Congo (1,532 languages)
  2. Austronesian (1,257 languages)
  3. Trans–New Guinea (477 languages)
  4. Sino-Tibetan (449 languages)
  5. Indo-European (439 languages)
  6. Afro-Asiatic (374 languages)
  7. Nilo-Saharan (205 languages)
  8. Pama–Nyungan (178 languages)
  9. Oto-Manguean (177 languages) (number varies; Lyle Campbell counts 27)
  10. Austroasiatic (169 languages)
  11. Tai–Kadai (92 languages)
  12. Dravidian (85 languages)
  13. Tupian (76 languages)

Language families[edit]

In the following, each numbered item is a known or suspected language family. The geographic headings over them are meant solely as a tool for grouping families into collections more comprehensible than an unstructured list of a few hundred independent families. Geographic relationship is convenient for that purpose, but these headings are not a suggestion of any "super-families" phylogenetically relating the families named.

Africa and Southwest Asia[edit]

The language families of Africa.
  1. Afro-Asiatic languages
  2. Niger–Congo languages
  3. Nilo-Saharan languages
  4. Khoe languages (part of the Khoisan proposal)
  5. Tuu languages (part of Khoisan)
  6. Kx'a languages (part of Khoisan)
  7. Ubangian languages
  8. Mande languages (perhaps Niger–Congo)
  9. Songhay languages (perhaps Nilo-Saharan)
  10. Kadu languages (perhaps Nilo-Saharan)
  11. Koman languages (perhaps Nilo-Saharan)

Europe and North, West and South Asia[edit]

Map of major European languages
Distribution of the Turkic languages across Eurasia
  1. Mongolic languages (part of Altaic proposal)
  2. Tungusic languages (part of Altaic proposal)
  3. Turkic languages (part of the Altaic proposal)
  4. Caspian languages (often included in Caucasic)
  5. Hurro-Urartian languages (extinct, perhaps related to Northeast Caucasian)
  6. Pontic languages (often included in Caucasic)
  7. Yeniseian languages (part of proposed Dené–Yeniseian family)
  8. Dravidian languages
  9. Indo-European languages
  10. Kartvelian languages
  11. Luorawetlan languages
  12. Tyrsenian languages (extinct)
  13. Uralic languages
  14. Yukaghir languages

East Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast India and the Pacific[edit]

  1. Japonic languages (part of the Altaic proposal)
  2. Andamanese languages
  3. Austroasiatic languages
  4. Austronesian languages (perhaps includes Tai-Kadai and/or the Ongan)
  5. Ongan languages (part of the Austronesian–Ongan proposal)
  6. Tai–Kadai languages (part of the Austro-Tai proposal)
  7. Miao-Yao languages
  8. Siangic (proposed, may be Sino-Tibetan)
  9. Sino-Tibetan languages

New Guinea and neighboring islands[edit]

Area of the Papuan languages.
  1. Baining languages
  2. Border languages
  3. Central Solomons languages
  4. East Bird's Head – Sentani languages
  5. Eastern Trans-Fly languages (one in Australia)
  6. Fas languages
  7. East Geelvink Bay languages
  8. Lakes Plain languages (upper Mamberamo River)
  9. Left May languages
  10. Kwomtari languages
  11. Mairasi languages
  12. Nimboran languages
  13. North Bougainville languages
  14. Piawi languages
  15. Ramu – Lower Sepik languages
  16. Senagi languages
  17. Sepik languages
  18. Skou languages
  19. South Bougainville languages
  20. Tor–Kwerba languages
  21. Torricelli languages
  22. Trans-Fly – Bulaka River languages
  23. Trans–New Guinea (the largest family)
  24. West New Britain languages
  25. West Papuan languages
  26. Yuat languages

Australia[edit]

Map of the Australian languages
  1. Bunaban languages
  2. Daly languages
  3. Limilngan languages
  4. Djeragan languages
  5. Nyulnyulan languages
  6. Wororan languages
  7. Mirndi languages
  8. Arnhem Land languages (3 families and 2 isolates)
  9. Gunwinyguan languages
  10. Pama–Nyungan languages (the largest family)
  11. Tasmanian languages [perhaps 4 families; extinct]

North America and Mesoamerica[edit]

Distribution of language families and isolates north of Mexico at first contact.
  1. Algic languages (incl. Algonquian languages) (14)
  2. Caddoan languages (4)
  3. Chimakuan languages (1)
  4. Chumashan languages (0)
  5. Eskimo–Aleut languages (5)
  6. Hokan (21: Chimariko, Yana, Karuk, ShastanPalaihnihan, Pomoan, Washo, Esselen, Salinan, Yuman, Seri, Coahuilteco, Comecrudan, Tequistlatec, Jicaque)
  7. Iroquoian languages (7)
  8. Keres languages (2)
  9. Mayan languages (Mesoamerica) (31)
  10. Mixe–Zoquean languages (Mesoamerica) (19)
  11. Muskogean languages (5)
  12. Na-Dene languages (44) (part of proposed Dené–Yeniseian family)
  13. Oto-Manguean languages (Mesoamerica) (27)
  14. Penutian (16: Tsimshian, Chinook, Oregon Coast, Kalapuyan, Takelma, Yok-Utian, Maidu, Plateau)
  15. Salishan languages (16)
  16. Siouan–Catawban languages (10)
  17. Tanoan languages (6)
  18. Totonacan languages (Mesoamerica) (2)
  19. Uto-Aztecan languages (North America & Mesoamerica) (31)
  20. Wakashan languages (7)
  21. Wintuan languages (1)
  22. Yukian languages (0)

Central America and South America[edit]

The major South American language families.
  1. Alacalufan languages (2)
  2. Arauan languages (8)
  3. Araucanian languages (2)
  4. Arawakan languages (South America & Caribbean) (73)
  5. Arutani–Sape languages (2)
  6. Aymaran languages (3)
  7. Barbacoan languages (7)
  8. Cahuapanan languages (2)
  9. Carib languages (29)
  10. Catacaoan languages (0)
  11. Chapacuran languages (5)
  12. Charruan languages (10)
  13. Chibchan languages (Central & South America) (22)
  14. Chimuan languages (0)
  15. Choco languages (10)
  16. Chon languages (2)
  17. Esmerelda–Yaruro languages (2)
  18. Guaicuruan languages (a.k.a. Waikurian) (8)
  19. Hibito–Cholon languages (0)
  20. Hodï languages (2)
  21. Ge languages (13)
  22. Jicaquean languages (Central America)
  23. Jirajaran languages (0)
  24. Jivaroan languages (4)
  25. Katembri–Taruma languages (0)
  26. Katukinan languages (3)
  27. Lencan languages (Central America)
  28. Lule–Vilela languages (1)
  29. Mascoian languages (5)
  30. Mashakalian languages
  31. Matacoan languages (4)
  32. Misumalpan languages (Central America) (9)
  33. Mosetenan languages (1)
  34. Mura languages (1)
  35. Nadahup languages (4)
  36. Nambiquaran languages (5)
  37. Otomakoan languages ? (3)
  38. Pano–Tacanan languages (36)
  39. Peba–Yaguan languages (2)
  40. Puinavean languages (Maku) (9)
  41. Quechuan languages (46)
  42. Salivan languages (2)
  43. Tequiraca–Canichana languages (2)
  44. Timotean languages (0)
  45. Tiniguan languages (1)
  46. Tucanoan languages (25)
  47. Tupian languages (70)
  48. Uru–Chipaya languages (2)
  49. Witotoan languages (6)
  50. Xincan languages (Central America)
  51. Yabutian languages (2)
  52. Yanomam languages (4)
  53. Zamucoan languages (2)
  54. Zaparoan languages (7)

Language isolates[edit]

Central & South America[edit]

  1. Aikaná (Brazil: Rondônia)
  2. Andoque (Colombia, Peru)
  3. Betoi (Colombia)
  4. Camsá (Colombia)
  5. Candoshi-Shapra (Peru)
  6. Cayubaba (Bolivia)
  7. Cofán (Colombia, Ecuador)
  8. Fulniô (Brazil: Pernambuco)
  9. Guató (Brazil, Bolivia)
  10. Huaorani (a.k.a. Sabela, Waorani, Waodani) (Ecuador, Peru)
  11. Irantxe (Brazil: Mato Grosso)
  12. Itonama (Bolivia)
  13. Kapixaná (Brazil)
  14. Koayá (Brazil: Rondônia)
  15. Leco (Bolivia)
  16. Mapudungun (Chile, Argentina)
  17. Movima (Bolivia)
  18. Omurano (Peru)
  19. Otí (Brazil: São Paulo) [extinct]
  20. Páez (Colombia) (see also Paezan)
  21. Puelche (Argentina, Chile)
  22. Puquina (Bolivia) [extinct]
  23. Ticuna (Colombia, Peru, Brazil)
  24. Warao (Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela)
  25. Yámana (a.k.a. Yagan) (Chile)
  26. Yuracare (Bolivia)
  27. Yuri (Colombia, Brazil)
  28. Yurumanguí (Colombia)

North America[edit]

  1. Atakapa "(US: Louisiana, Texas)" [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  2. Chitimacha (US: Louisiana) [extinct] (possibly part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  3. Cuitlatec (Mexico: Guerrero) [extinct]
  4. Haida (Canada: British Columbia; US: Alaska)
  5. Huave (Mexico: Oaxaca)
  6. Karankawa (US: Texas) [extinct]
  7. Kootenai (Canada: British Columbia; US: Idaho, Montana)
  8. Natchez (US: Mississippi, Louisiana) (linked to Muskogean in the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  9. Purépecha (a.k.a. Tarascan) (Mexico: Michoacán)
  10. Timucua (US: Florida, Georgia) [extinct]
  11. Tonkawa (US: Texas) [extinct]
  12. Tunica (US: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  13. Yuchi (US: Georgia, Oklahoma)
  14. Zuni (a.k.a. Shiwi) (US: New Mexico)

Australia[edit]

  1. Enindhilyagwa (AKA Andilyaugwa, Anindilyakwa)
  2. Laragiya
  3. Minkin [extinct; perhaps a member of Yiwaidjan or Tankic]
  4. Ngurmbur (perhaps a member of Macro-Pama–Nyungan)
  5. Tiwi (Melville and Bathurst Islands)

New Guinea[edit]

  1. Abinomn (Baso, Foia) (north Irian)
  2. Anêm (New Britain)
  3. Ata (Pele-Ata, Wasi) (New Britain)
  4. Busa (Sandaun)
  5. Isirawa (north Irian)
  6. Kol (New Britain)
  7. Kuot (Panaras) (New Ireland)
  8. Massep
  9. Pyu
  10. Sulka (New Britain)
  11. Taiap (Gapun) (Sepik)
  12. Yalë (Nagatman) (Sandaun)
  13. Yawa (Geelvink Bay)
  14. Yélî Dnye (Yele) (Rennell Island)
  15. Yuri (Karkar) (Sandaun)

Asia[edit]

  1. Ainu language or languages (Japan, Russia) (like Arabic or Japanese, the diversity within Ainu is large enough that some consider it to be perhaps up to a dozen languages while others consider it a single language with high dialectal diversity)
  2. Nivkh or Gilyak (Russia) (sometimes linked to Chukchi–Kamchatkan)
  3. Korean (North & South Korea, China, USA) (sometimes linked to Altaic)
  4. Kusunda (Nepal)
  5. Nihali (India) (sometimes linked to Munda)
  6. Burushaski (Pakistan, India) (sometimes linked to Yeniseian)
  7. Elamite (Iran) [extinct] (sometimes linked to Dravidian)
  8. Sumerian (Iraq) [extinct]
  9. Hattic (Turkey) [extinct] (sometimes linked to Northwest Caucasian)

Africa[edit]

  1. Bangime (Mali) (ethnically Dogon)
  2. Hadza (Tanzania)
  3. Sandawe (Tanzania) (may be related to Khoe)

Europe[edit]

  1. Basque (Spain, France) (related to extinct Aquitanian)

Unclassified languages[edit]

Languages are considered unclassified either because, for one reason or another, little effort has been made to compare them with other languages, or, more commonly, because they are too poorly documented to permit reliable classification. Most such languages are extinct and most likely will never be known well enough to classify.

Europe[edit]

  1. Iberian (Spain) [extinct]
  2. Tartessian (Spain, Portugal) [extinct]
  3. North Picene (Italy) [extinct]
  4. Pictish (Scotland) [extinct]

Africa[edit]

  1. Ongota (perhaps Afro-Asiatic)
  2. Kwadi (extinct; perhaps Khoe)
  3. Dompo
  4. Mpre (probably Niger–Congo)
  5. Jalaa
  6. Laal
  7. Meroitic (extinct; proven to be Nilo-Saharan, esp. Nubian)
  8. Shabo (probably Nilo-Saharan)
  9. Bayot
  10. Rimba

Asia[edit]

  1. Quti [extinct]
  2. Kaskian [extinct]
  3. Sumerian [extinct]

South America[edit]

  1. Baenan (Brazil) [extinct]
  2. Culle (Peru) [extinct]
  3. Kunza (Chile, Bolivia, Argentina) [extinct]
  4. Gamela (Brazil: Maranhão) [extinct]
  5. Gorgotoqui (Bolivia) [extinct]
  6. Huamoé (Brazil: Pernambuco) [extinct]
  7. Malibu languages (Colombia) [extinct]
  8. Munichi (Peru) [extinct]
  9. Natú (Brazil: Pernambuco) [extinct]
  10. Pankararú (Brazil: Pernambuco) [extinct]
  11. Panzaleo (Ecuador) [extinct]
  12. Sechura (Peru) [extinct]
  13. Tarairiú (Brazil: Rio Grande do Norte) [extinct]
  14. Taushiro (Peru)
  15. Tuxá (Brazil: Bahia, Pernambuco) [extinct]
  16. Xokó (Brazil: Alagoas, Pernambuco) [extinct]
  17. Xukurú (Brazil: Pernambuco, Paraíba) [extinct]
  18. Yurumanguí (Colombia) [extinct]

North America[edit]

  1. Adai (US: Louisiana, Texas) [extinct]
  2. Alagüilac (Guatemala)
  3. Aranama-Tamique (US: Texas) [extinct]
  4. Atakapa (US: Louisiana, Texas) [extinct]
  5. Beothuk (Canada: Newfoundland) [extinct]
  6. Calusa (US: Florida) [extinct]
  7. Cayuse (US: Oregon, Washington) [extinct]
  8. Cotoname (northeast Mexico; US: Texas) [extinct]
  9. Maratino (northeastern Mexico) [extinct]
  10. Naolan (Mexico: Tamaulipas) [extinct]
  11. Quinigua (northeast Mexico) [extinct]
  12. Solano (northeast Mexico; US: Texas) [extinct]

Mixed languages[edit]

Mixed languages do not fit easily into language families.

Creoles[edit]

Creole languages do not fit easily into language families.

Sign languages[edit]

The family relationships of sign languages are not well established, and many are isolates (cf. Wittmann 1991).[2]

Proposed language stocks[edit]

Note that many of the listed proposals disagree with one another (for example Nostratic with Pontic, or Keresiouan with Hokan–Siouan).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Since the Mongolic and Tungusic language families have only a relatively small number of speakers, the majority of the Altaic percentage represents speakers of Turkic languages
  2. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215-88.PDF

External links[edit]