language families of the world
This overview article on the world's language families begins with the problem of language identification and language counting. Below is a list of language families with at least one million speakers. The third section provides a statistical overview of all genetic language units worldwide. The main part lists all language families and isolated languages known today for each continent, with the number of their languages and speakers and their main areas of distribution.
A language is either isolated - that is, there is no genetically related language to it - or it can be assigned to a specific language family, a group of genetically related languages that descended from a common ancestor language - also protolanguage or protolanguage.
Problems of language identification and language counting
In many cases, it is not possible to precisely determine the number of languages in a language family:
- So e.g. For example, some researchers consider the 39 Quechua languages listed here to be a single language with 39 – sometimes very different – dialects (“language or dialect” problem).
- Another problem are large dialect clusters , in which neighboring dialects are mutually intelligible, but the peripheral dialects are so different that mutual understanding is no longer possible. Different authors have different views of whether it is a language with different dialects or several languages. The unambiguous identification of languages is also made more difficult by the existence of transitional dialects . For example, the modern Indo-Aryan languages of North India represent a continuous language or dialect continuum , making it very difficult to differentiate between individual languages. It follows political, cultural and literary traditions rather than linguistic criteria.
- Languages are often also “politically defined”: For example, Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian are classified as separate languages, although they clearly represent only one language – Serbo-Croatian – according to linguistic criteria.
- An attempt to put the identification of languages on a scientific basis are the terms "distance language" and "development language" (see the article distance and deconstruction ). But these terms can also be interpreted subjectively and do not always lead to clear, generally accepted solutions.
The numbers given here for the languages of a family are based on the relevant specialist research on the individual language families and come from the web link "The language families of the world" given below. The variant of classification and language identification preferred by the majority of researchers was used as a basis.
These explanations are intended to make it clear that the apparently "precise" figures should be put into perspective. A statement of the type "The language family X consists of n languages" does not claim absolute truth, but states that, based on a specific classification model and a specific distance definition for language variants, the majority of the relevant researchers of this language family have arrived at this order of magnitude. There may also be other researchers who come to very different conclusions.
Language families with at least one million speakers
There are 24 language families worldwide and one isolated language ( Korean ) with at least one million speakers. Over 99.5% of humanity speak a language that belongs to one of these 25 most spoken language units. In total, there are around 200 language families or isolated languages worldwide today, and another 100 extinct units are known.
number of speakers
|1||Indo-European||280||220||3,000 million||Europe , Southwest and South Asia ; worldwide today|
|2||Sino-Tibetan||343||335||1,288 million||China , Himalayan region, Southeast Asia|
|3||Niger Congo||1386||1364||354 million||West , Central and South Africa|
|4||Afroasiatic||354||311||347 million||North Africa , Middle East|
|5||Austronesian||1144||1119||296 million||Taiwan , Philippines , Indonesia , Madagascar , Pacific Ocean|
|6||Dravidian||27||27||220 million||South and Central India , North India, Pakistan|
|7||Turkish||41||37||160 million||Western and Central Asia , Eastern Europe , Northeast Siberia|
|8th||Japanese Ryūkyū||4||4||126 million||Japan , Okinawa|
|9||Austroasiatic||157||156||95 million||Northeast India, Southeast Asia|
|10||Tai-Kadai||69||68||83 million||South China , Southeast Asia|
|12||Nilosaharan||196||188||34 million||Africa: South Sahara Zone, Sudan|
|13||Uralic||31||28||24 million||Northeast Europe , Hungary , Ural region , Western Siberia|
|14||Quechua||39||38||10 million||Peru , Ecuador , Colombia , Bolivia , Argentina|
|15||Mongolian||14||14||7.5 million||Mongolia , North China ; Buryatia , Kalmykia|
|16||Hmong Mien (Miao Yao)||21||21||6.3 million||South China, North Southeast Asia|
|17||Tupi||74||60||5.3 million||Paraguay , Bolivia, Brazil|
|18||Kartvelian||4||4||5.0 million||Georgia ; also Turkey|
|19||Maya||33||31||4.2 million||Mexico , Guatemala , also Belize|
|20||Trans New Guinea||533||530||3.2 million||New Guinea ; Timor , Alor , Pantar|
|21||Nachish-Dagestan||29||29||3.0 million||Russia : Chechnya , Ingushetia , Dagestan|
|22||Aymara (Aru)||3||3||2.2 million||Bolivia, Peru, Chile , Argentina|
|23||Oto Mangue||21||19||2.0 million||Mexico, also Nicaragua , Costa Rica|
|24||Uto-Aztec||32||22||1.6 million||Western USA , Northwest and Central Mexico|
|25||Abkhaz-Adyghe||5||4||1.1 million||Georgia : Abkhazia , Russia: Adygea , Kabardia|
The concept of the root continent
The spread of European languages to other continents as a result of modern colonization (from about 1500 AD) is usually not taken into account when assigning language families to major geographic areas (master continents). In particular, e.g. For example, the Indo-European languages English, Spanish, Portuguese and French were counted as part of the parent continent "Eurasia", although they are now spoken worldwide. In other words, only its indigenous language families, languages and their speakers are assigned to each parent continent. “Australian languages” are e.g. e.g. only the languages of the Australian Indigenous People ("Aborigines"), "American languages" are those of the Indigenous American peoples, etc.
Eurasia as the parent continent includes Europe and the Asian mainland. A division into "European" and "Asian" languages is not possible because of the many overlapping units - e.g. B. Indo-European, Uralic, Turkic, Caucasian languages - not useful. The artificial geographic border between Europe and Asia never had any linguistic meaning. The island world of Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea), the Malayan peninsula and the islands of the Pacific are combined to form the Greater Indo-Pacific region, which primarily includes the Austronesian and the so -called Papua languages . As usual, the African languages contain the entire Afroasiatic language family , so also the Semitic languages of the Middle East.
Statistics: Languages and language families by home continent
In the following table, the term "main continent" must be taken into account: In this sense, e.g. B. English to the parent continent Eurasia, even if it is spoken worldwide. Like all Indo-European languages, its number of speakers is attributed to the parent continent of Eurasia.
Number of languages, speakers, language families, and isolated languages by parent
continent (extinct = extinct)
|genetics An H.
|genetics An H.
|genetics An H.
Explanations of the statistics
The table gives a statistical overview of all languages and genetic units in the world. A genetic unit is a language family or an isolated language. The source of the table is the web link given below, which is based on the primary sources for each language family.
The dates given include for each parent continent:
- the total number of languages
- the number of known extinct (but known through tradition) languages
- the number of known languages alive today (as of 2009)
- the number of native speakers (in millions) of the languages assigned to the home continent
- the total number of genetic units (i.e. language families and isolated languages)
- the number of extinct genetic units
- the number of genetic units existing today
- the number of isolated languages
- the number of extinct isolated languages
- the number of living isolated languages
For the sake of completeness, the numbers of the creole and pidgin languages worldwide are also given, which - like the unclassifiable languages - cannot be assigned to any language unit. (For the difference between "unclassified" and "isolated" see the articles Unclassified Languages and Isolated Languages .)
Notes on the numerical values
When reporting all numbers, the limitations summarized above under “Problems of Language Identification and Language Counting” should be observed. All numbers are therefore not to be regarded as objectively correct and precise values, but as the best possible technical estimate, which depends on the factors mentioned above (language identification, classification, determination of the number of speakers) and can vary from author to author.
The total number of around 6,500 languages worldwide recorded here is now cited by many researchers as a guide value; the range of the total number in the literature is between 5,000 and 7,500. The number of genetic units (about 300 here, 200 of which still exist today) depends on the assessment of the overall genetic structure of all languages worldwide, which is the task of comparative linguistics . Here the current "majority opinion" of research on the individual language families is represented, as it was extracted from the primary sources and finally consolidated.
The total number of speakers given here is almost six billion, which is less than the world population, which reached 6.8 billion in 2009. This difference results from the relative age of the available speaker numbers for almost all language families and thus roughly reflects the statistical situation of 2000. However, it is problematic to make a constant percentage markup on the speaker numbers mentioned here, since they have developed extremely differently depending on the language family and continent. It is also possible that some of the languages and language families classified here as "almost extinct" are now extinct. There are reliable estimates that by 2050 over 30% of the languages recorded here will no longer exist.
All language families and isolated languages are listed by their continent of origin in the following sections. The isolated languages are also given because they can be viewed as a language family with a single member. Language federations or areal language groups, on the other hand, are not taken into account because they do not represent a genetic unit. Sources are the information from the current standard works for each individual language group, which have been summarized in the web link given below.
Eurasia: Europe and mainland Asia
The parent continent of Eurasia – defined here as “Europe and mainland Asia” – includes around 1000 languages spoken by around 4.8 billion people worldwide. In particular, the Indo-European colonial languages English, Spanish, Portuguese and French have spread far beyond their home continent.
There are 29 Eurasian genetic units in total, five of which are extinct. Eleven of these units are isolated languages, four of which are extinct.
Language families and isolated languages of Eurasia
|Indo-European||280||220||2,675 million||Europe , Southwest and South Asia ; worldwide today|
|Sino-Tibetan||343||335||1,288 million||China , Himalayan region, Southeast Asia|
|Dravidian||27||27||220 million||South and Central India ; North India; Pakistan|
|Turkish||41||37||160 million||Western and Central Asia , Eastern Europe , Northeast Siberia|
|Japanese Ryūkyū||4||4||126 million||Japan , Okinawa|
|Austroasiatic||157||156||95 million||Northeast India, Southeast Asia|
|Tai-Kadai||69||68||83 million||South China , Southeast Asia|
|Uralic||31||28||24 million||Northeast Europe , Hungary , Ural region , Western Siberia|
|Mongolian||14||14||7.5 million||Mongolia , North China ; Buryatia , Kalmykia|
|Hmong Mien (Miao Yao)||21||21||6.3 million||South China, north Southeast Asia|
|Kartvelian||4||4||4.5 million||Georgia ; also Turkey|
|Nachish-Dagestan||29||29||3.0 million||Russia : Chechnya , Ingushetia , Dagestan|
|Abkhaz-Adyghe||5||4||1.1 million||Northwest Caucasus : Abkhazia , Adygea , Kabardia|
|Basque||1||1||800,000||Basque Country : NE Spain, SW France (Pyrenean region)|
|Burushaski||1||1||100,000||North Pakistan: Hunza Valley and Yasin Valley in the Karakorum Mountains|
|Tungusic||12||11||75,000||Russia : Eastern Siberia ; Manchuria|
|5||5||14,000||Russia: Chukchi Peninsula, Kamchatka Peninsula|
|Nahali (Kalto)||1||1||2,000||India: Maharashtra (Nimar District)|
|Yenisei||6||1||800||Russia: Central Siberia (Yenisei Region)|
|Nivkh (Gilyak)||1||1||700||Russia: Sakhalin, Amur|
|Yukagir||3||1||200||Russia: Northeast Siberia|
|ainu||1||1||nearly †||Russia: Sakhalin/ Japan: Hokkaido|
|Kusunda||1||1||nearly †||Nepal: Tanhun District|
|Tyrsenian †||3||0||†||Italy: Etruria, Raetia; lemnos|
|hat table †||1||0||†||Central Anatolia|
|Hurro-Urartian †||2||0||†||Eastern Anatolia, Northern Syria|
|Sumerian †||1||0||†||Southern Mesopotamia|
|Elamite †||1||0||†||Iran: Southwest|
In addition to the extinct language units mentioned, there were a number of other languages in Eurasia, of which only minimal traces have survived. See the articles Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Isolated Languages .
Areal language groups in Eurasia
The Indo-Pacific region, which geographically includes the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, New Guinea and the islands of the Pacific, includes the widespread Austronesian language tribe , the small Andaman language family and 17 non-Austronesian language units of New Guinea and surrounding islands, which are known as Papuan languages summarized.
The main continent of the Indo-Pacific includes around 2,000 languages spoken by around 300 million people. There are 19 genetic units in total, 5 of which are isolated languages.
Language Families and Isolated Languages of the Indo-Pacific
|Austronesian||1.144||1.119||296 million||Philippines , Malaysia , Indonesia , Madagascar , New Guinea , Oceania|
|Trans New Guinea||533||530||3.2 million||New Guinea ; Timor , Alor , Pantar|
|West Papua||25||25||310,000||Halmahera ; Papua Barat : Vogelkop|
|Sepik Ramu||102||102||235,000||Northwest & North-Central Papua New Guinea|
|East Papua||36||33||120,000||New Britain , Bougainville ; Solomon Islands|
|Torricelli||47||47||95,000||Northwest Papua New Guinea|
|East Bird's Head||3||3||40,000||Papua: Vogelkop Peninsula|
|Geelvink Bay Languages||33||33||22,000||Papua: Cenderawasih Bay , Yapen|
|sko||7||7||7,000||Border Region Papua New Guinea - Papua (Indonesia)|
|Kwomtari-Baibai||6||6||4,000||Papua New Guinea: West Sepik|
|Left May (Arai)||7||7||2,500||Northwest Papua New Guinea|
|Karkar Yuri||1||1||1,100||Papua New Guinea: West Sepik|
|kibiri||1||1||1,100||Papua New Guinea: Gulf, Aird Hills|
|Lower Mamberamo||2||2||800||Papua: Mamberamo River|
|Yale||1||1||600||Papua New Guinea: West Sepik|
|Andaman||13||4||500||India: Andaman Islands|
|Amto-Musan languages||2||2||300||Papua New Guinea: Upper Sepik|
|Burmese||1||1||300||Papua: Lake Holmes|
|Busa||1||1||300||Papua New Guinea: West Sepik|
Australia and Tasmania
It is based on the classification by Dixon 2002, in which the "genetic unity of all Australian languages" previously represented by him was abandoned. The Pama-Nyunga unit was also not retained, although this has been criticized by other researchers (see the article Australian languages ). Areal closely related groups of typologically similar languages, whose genetic unit could not be conclusively proven, are marked in the table by "(ar)".
There are around 250 known Australian languages, of which 80 are still spoken today by a total of no more than 40,000 people. Most Australian languages are on the brink of extinction, with only ten languages still having at least 1,000 speakers. The 250 Australian languages are grouped into about 50 genetic or narrow areal units, 23 of which are entirely extinct. The table lists all language groups and isolated languages that have not yet become extinct. The extinct language units are then listed alphabetically.
Language families, areal groups and isolated languages of Australia
|Nyungar (creole language)||2||1||8,000||Western Australia, South West|
|Western Desert||1||1||6,000||Western Desert|
|Aranda (Arrernte)||2||2||5,700||Northern Territories|
|Northern Desert Fringe||7||5||4,700||Northern Territories|
|West Torres||1||1||4,000||Queensland, Torres Strait|
|Arnhem land (ar)||23||16||3,000||Northern Territory, Arnhem Land|
|Yolngu||8th||6||2,500||Northern Territory, Arnhem Land|
|Tiwi||1||1||1,500||Bathurst & Melville Islands|
|Daly River (ar)||9||5||1,000||Northern Territory, Arnhem Land, Daly River|
|North Cape York||17||6||800||Queensland, Cape York|
|Gascoyne to Pilbara (ar)||13||6||700||Western Australia, Gascoyne - Pilbara River|
|Magunj (ar)||3||3||500||Western Australia, Port Hedlund|
|Waanji Garrwa||2||1||200||Northern Territories, Queensland|
|Whyungu||1||1||200||Northern Territory, Tennant Creek|
|Bunaba||2||2||200||Western Australia, South Kimberley|
|Northwest Arnhem Land||5||2||200||Northern Territory, Arnhem Land|
|West Cape York (ar)||10||2||200||Queensland, West Cape York|
|North Kimberley (ar)||3||1||200||Western Australia, North Kimberley|
|Kitja-Miriwung||2||2||100||Western Australia, Turkey Creek|
|Ngarna||4||1||100||Northern Territories; Queensland|
|Kuku Yalanji||1||1||nearly †||Queensland, Cape York, Cooktown|
|cairns||2||1||nearly †||Queensland, Cairns|
|Tangk||4||2||nearly †||Northern Territories; Queensland|
|mindy||5||3||nearly †||Northern Territory, north-central|
|Fitzroy River||2||2||nearly †||Western Australia, Fitzroy river|
|Herbert River (ar)||4||2||nearly †||Queensland, Herbert River|
|Spencer Gulf (ar)||3||1||nearly †||Central-South Australia, Spencer Gulf Basin|
|Moore to Gascoyne||9||2||nearly †||Western Australia, Moore - Gascoyne River|
Extinct language families, language groups and isolated languages of Australia
(Area language groups are indicated by (ar), isolated languages by •.) Baagandji • – Central East Coast (ar) – Central New South Wales (ar) – Darambala-Bayali – Darwin (ar) - Giimbiyu (Erre) • - Kalkatungu-Yalarnnaga (ar) - Lake Eyre Basin (ar) - Lower Burdekin (ar) - Lower Murray River (ar) - Makro-Mari (ar) - Mayi - Mukhtang - Sidney - South-East Cape York (ar) - South New South Wales (ar) - Umbidhamu • - Upper Murray River (ar) - West Victoria (ar) - Western Bight (ar) - Wirangu • - Yota Yabala (ar)
Africa and Middle East
Thanks to the pioneering work of the American linguist Joseph Greenberg in the 1950s, the world of languages in Africa has become very clear. The nearly 2000 African languages have been grouped into just four major families (“phyla”), namely Afroasiatic , Niger-Congo , Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan . However, today the Khoisan languages are no longer understood as a genetic unit , but broken down into the groups North , Central and South . The languages of the Sandawe , Hadza and Kwadi - which Greenberg also included in the Khoisan languages - are now generally regarded as isolated . (See also the review article African languages .)
Language families and isolated languages of Africa and the Middle East
|Niger Congo||1,386||1,364||354 million||West , Central and South Africa|
|Afroasiatic||354||311||347 million||North Africa , Middle East , Horn of Africa|
|Nilosaharan||196||188||34 million||Africa: South Sahara Zone, Sudan , Eritrea|
|Central Khoisan (Khoe)||15||13||290,000||Namibia , South Africa , Botswana|
|Sandawe||1||1||40,000||Tanzania : Kondoa District|
|North Khoisan (Ju)||4||4||20,000||Angola , Northern Namibia, Botswana|
|Southern Khoisan ( Taa-ǃWi )||6||3||5,000||Botswana, South Africa|
|Hadza||1||1||200||Tanzania: Lake Eyasi|
|kwadi †||1||0||†||Southwest Angola|
- Na-Dené (which, according to Greenberg , includes Tlingit , Haida , Eyak , and the Athabaskan languages )
- Amerindian (all rest of all Indigenous American languages)
This tripartite division was supported by human genetic studies by Cavalli-Sforza (cf. Cavalli-Sforza 1996) and by archaeological research which shows that these three groups migrated from Siberia across the Bering Strait to America at different times, first the carriers of the so-called Amerindian languages, then the Na Dené peoples, finally the Eskimos.
However, the vast majority of Americanists are of the opinion that Amerindian does not represent any, or at least no demonstrable , genetic unit , but on the contrary breaks down into well over a hundred language families and isolated languages. The present account essentially follows the widely accepted classifications by Campbell (1997) and Mithun (1999) (see also the article Amerindian languages ).
Almost 1,000 languages known by name belong to the parent continent of America, 370 of which are extinct. The remaining approximately 600 languages are spoken by 28.5 million people. The indigenous American languages can be divided into about 190 genetic units, 70 of which are already extinct. Of the 120 surviving units, 45 are isolated single languages. In the following, the language families of the Americas are divided into North America , Central America , and South America .
About 270 languages belong to the parent continent of North America, 125 of which are extinct. The remaining approximately 150 languages are spoken by 500,000 people. The North American languages can be divided into 56 genetic units, 27 of which are already extinct. Of the 29 units that still exist, 8 are isolated languages.
The most important North American language families are Athabaskan (182,000 speakers), the Algonquian languages (146,000) and the Eskimo languages (80,000).
Language families and isolated languages of North America
(NW = Northwest, NE = Northeast, SE = Southeast)
|Athabaskan Tlingit||43||30||182,000||western North America|
|Algonquian-Ritwan||29||16||146,000||NE, Eastern and Central North America; USA : California|
|Eskimo-Aleut||8th||8th||80,000||Greenland , Northern Canada , USA: Alaska , NE Siberia|
|Sioux Catawba||18||8th||22,000||South-Central Canada, Central USA: Carolina|
|Kiowa Tano||7||5||6,400||USA: Oklahoma, New Mexico|
|Sahaptin-Nez Perce||4||4||4,000||USA: Idaho, Oregon|
|Salish||26||17||3,800||Canada: British Columbia; USA: Washington, Oregon|
|Tsimshian||2||2||3,000||Canada: British Columbia; USA: Alaska|
|Yuma Cochimi||11||10||3,000||USA: Southern California, Mexico: Northern Baja California|
|Wakashan||7||6||800||Canada: British Columbia (Vancouver Island); United States: Washington|
|Caddo Pawnee||5||4||250||USA: Oklahoma (North Dakota Reservation)|
|Ktunaxa||1||1||200||Canada: British Columbia; United States: Washington, Idaho, Montana|
|Karuk||1||1||100||USA: NW California|
|haida||1||1||nearly †||Canada: British Columbia (Queen Charlotte Islands); USA: Southern Alaska|
|Chimacum||2||1||nearly †||USA: NW Washington|
|Chinook||3||2||nearly †||USA: Washington, Oregon|
|Klamath Modoc||1||1||nearly †||USA: Oregon, California|
|Wintu||4||3||nearly †||USA: North Central California|
|maidu||4||1||nearly †||USA: South-Central California|
|Miwok Costano||12||2||nearly †||USA: Central California|
|shasta||4||1||nearly †||USA: California|
|pomo||7||4||nearly †||USA: North Central California|
|washo||1||1||nearly †||USA: East-Central California, Western Nevada|
|Yokuts||3||3||nearly †||USA: South-Central California|
|Yuchi||1||1||nearly †||USA: Oklahoma, Georgia|
Extinct language families and isolated languages of North America
(Isolated languages are denoted by •.) Adai • - Alsea • - Aranama • - Beothuk • - Cayuse • - Chimariko • - Chitimacha • - Chumash - Coahuiteco • - Comecrudo - Coos - Cotoname • - Esselen • - Karankawa • - Molala • - Natchez • - Palaihni • - Salinan • - Siuslaw • - Solano • - Takelma • - Kalapuya • - Timucua • - Tonkawa • - Tunica • - Yana • - Yuki-Wappo
Area language groups of North America
The following groupings are considered by some researchers to be larger genetic units, but this is rejected in the standard classifications (Campbell 1997, Mithun 1999).
- Na Dené languages . They include Haida and Tlingit-Athabaskan
- Penuti languages . They include Tsimshian , Chinook , Sahaptin-Nez Perce , Klamath-Modoc , Wintu , Maidu , Miwok-Costano , Yokuts , and the extinct entities Alsea , Siuslaw , Coos , Takelma , Kalapuya , Molala , and Cayuse
- Hoka languages . They include Karuk , Shasta , Pomo , Washo , Yuma-Cochimi , and the extinct entities Chimariko , Palaihni , Yana , Salinan , and Esselen
About 120 languages belong to the parent continent of Central America, 35 of which are extinct. The remaining approximately 85 languages are spoken by almost 9 million people. The Central American languages can be divided into 17 genetic units, 5 of which are extinct. Of the 12 units that still exist, 4 are isolated languages.
The most important Mesoamerican language families are the Mayan languages (4.2 million speakers), the Oto-Mangue languages (2 million) and the Uto-Aztec (1.6 million). In addition, there are another 6 units with more than 100,000 speakers. Overall, the proportion of indigenous native speakers in the total population in Central America is much larger than in North America.
Language families and isolated languages of Central America
|Maya||33||31||4.2 million||Mexico , Guatemala , also Belize|
|Oto Mangue||21||19||2.0 million||Mexico, also Nicaragua , Costa Rica|
|Uto-Aztec||32||22||1.6 million||Western USA , Northwest and Central Mexico|
|Totonac Tepehua||2||2||280,000||Mexico: Puebla , Veracruz , Hidalgo|
|Misumalpa||4||2||193,000||Honduras , Nicaragua, El Salvador|
|Mixe Zoque||3||2||165,000||Mexico: Oaxaca, Gulf, Chiapas, etc.|
|Huave||1||1||18,000||MEXICO: South Oaxaca|
|Tequistlatecan||3||2||4,500||MEXICO: South Oaxaca|
|Jicaque (Tol)||2||1||500||Honduras: La Montana de Flor|
|lenca||1||1||nearly †||Honduras, El Salvador|
|Cuitlatec †||1||0||†||Mexico: Guerrero|
|Guaicura †||8th||0||†||Mexico: Baja California|
|Maratino †||1||0||†||Northeast Mexico|
|Naolan †||1||0||†||Mexico: Taumalipas|
|xinca †||4||0||†||South Guatemala|
About 600 languages belong to the parent continent of South America, of which over 200 have become extinct. The remaining approximately 400 languages are spoken by almost 20 million people. The South American languages are divided into 113 genetic units (Campbell 1997, Adelaar et al. 2004, Dixon & Aikhenvald 1999), 37 of which are already extinct. This makes South America the continent with the greatest linguistic diversity. Of the 76 units that still exist, 33 are isolated languages.
The most important South American language families are the Quechua languages with 10 million speakers, the Tupí languages (5.3 million) and the Aymará (2.2 million). Another four language families have more than 100,000 speakers.
The South American language families are presented in two tables and a list below: first the genetic units with at least or fewer than 1,000 speakers, then the extinct units.
Language families and isolated languages of South America with at least 1,000 speakers
|Quechua||39||38||10 million||Peru , Ecuador , Colombia , Bolivia , Argentina|
|Tupi||74||60||5.3 million||Paraguay , Bolivia, Brazil|
|Aymara (Aru)||3||3||2.2 million||Bolivia, Peru, Chile , Argentina|
|Arawak (Maipure)||83||45||640,000||Central America , Caribbean , North and Central South America|
|Chibcha||25||15||255,000||Mesoamerica , Colombia|
|chocolate||7||2||78,000||Panama , Colombia|
|Mataco||6||6||64,000||Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina|
|Guaicuru||7||4||60,000||Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina|
|caribbean||46||32||55,000||Colombia, Venezuela , Guyana , Brazil|
|Pano Tacana||38||23||47,000||Peru, Bolivia, Brazil|
|Tucano||30||24||28,000||Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil|
|ticuna||1||1||25,000||Colombia, Peru, Brazil|
|Guarao (Warao)||1||1||18,000||Venezuela, Guiana, Suriname|
|Bora Witoto||6||6||8,500||Colombia, Peru|
|chapacura||11||6||2,300||Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela|
|Nambikwara||3||3||1,000||Brazil: Mato Grosso|
Language families and isolated languages of South America with fewer than 1,000 speakers
|Irantxev||1||1||200||Brazil: Mato Grosso|
|Yuri||1||1||200||Brazil: Amazon area|
|Trumai||1||1||100||Brazil: Xingu, Mato Grosso|
|Aikana (Tubarao)||1||1||100||Brazil: Rondonia|
|Alacaluf (Kaweskar)||2||1||nearly †||Chile|
|Arutani||1||1||nearly †||Brazil: Roraima; Venezuela|
|Chon||5||2||nearly †||Argentina: Tierra del Fuego|
|Kapixana||1||1||nearly †||Brazil: Rondonia|
|koaya||1||1||nearly †||Brazil: Rondonia|
|Yamana (Yagan)||1||1||nearly †||Chile|
Extinct language families and isolated languages of South America
Andaqui • - Baenan • - Betoi • - Canari-Puruhua - Charrua - Cholon-Hibito - Culli • - Cunza • - Esmeralda • - Gamela • - Guamo • - Huarpe - Jirajara - Kamaka - Katembri • - Kariri • - Kukura • - Leco • – Matanawi • – Mochica • – Muchik – Munichi • – Natu • – Oti • – Otomaco – Pankararu • – Puquina – Puri – Secura-Tallan – Tarairu • – Taruma • – Tequiraca • – Tuxa • – Uamoe • – Xoco • – Xukuru (Ichikele) • – Yurumangui
Most of the extinct languages of South America could not be assigned to any language family, so they are isolated or unclassified. Isolated extinct languages are marked by •. The list is based on Campbell (1997).
- Ancient Near Eastern Languages
- List of the most spoken languages
- List of Sign Languages#Sign Language Families
- macro family
- List of ISO-639-5 codes with all language families encoded there
Current review literature
- Raymond G. Gordon (ed.): Ethnologue. Languages of the World. 15th edition. SIL International, Dallas TX 2005, ISBN 1-55671-159-X .
- Ernst Kausen : The language families of the world. Part 1: Europe and Asia. Buske, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-87548-655-1 .
- Ernst Kausen: The language families of the world. Part 2: Africa - Indo-Pacific - Australia - America. Buske, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-87548-656-8 .
- Merritt Ruhlen : A Guide to the World's Languages. Volume 1: Classification. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 1987, ISBN 0-8047-1250-6 .
- Charles F. Voegelin, Florence M. Voegelin: Classification and Index of the World's Languages. Elsevier, New York NY et al. 1977, ISBN 0-444-00155-7 .
- Bernard Comrie : The Languages of the Soviet Union. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1981, ISBN 0-521-23230-9 .
- Miloš Okuka (ed.): Lexicon of the languages of the European East (= Wieser encyclopedia of the European East. Vol. 10). Wieser, Klagenfurt and others 2002, ISBN 3-85129-510-2 .
- Glanville Price (ed.): Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford et al. 1998, ISBN 0-631-19286-7 .
- George van Driem : Languages of the Himalayas. An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the greater Himalayan Region (= Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 2: India. Vol. 10, 1-2). 2 volumes. Brill, Leiden et al. 2001, ISBN 90-04-10390-2 .
- Bernd Heine , Derek Nurse (eds.): African Languages. An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2000, ISBN 0-521-66178-1 .
- John Lynch: Pacific Languages. An Introduction. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu HI 1998, ISBN 0-8248-1898-9 .
- Robert MW Dixon : Australian Languages. Their Nature and Development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2002, ISBN 0-521-47378-0 .
- Willem FH Adelaar , Pieter C Muysken : The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2004, ISBN 0-521-36275-X .
- Lyle Campbell : American Indian Languages. The historical Linguistics of Native America (= Oxford Studies in Anthropological Linguistics. 4). Oxford University Press, New York NY et al. 1997, ISBN 0-19-509427-1 .
- Robert MW Dixon, Alexandra Y Aikhenvald (eds): The Amazonian Languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1999, ISBN 0-521-57021-2 .
- Joseph Harold Greenberg : Languages in the Americas. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 1987, ISBN 0-8047-1315-4 .
- Marianne Mithun: The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1999, ISBN 0-521-23228-7 .
- Roger D. Woodard (ed.): The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2004, ISBN 0-521-56256-2 .
- A comprehensive bibliography on language families worldwide is available in:
Ernst Kausen: Bibliography Language and Writing. (DOC; 1.2MB)
- Franz Nikolaus Finck : The language tribes of the world (= from nature and the spirit world. Volume 267, ). Teubner, Berlin 1909, ( digital copy ).
- Ernst Kieckers : The language tribes of the earth (= culture and language. 7, ). Winter, Heidelberg 1931.
- Wilhelm Schmidt : The language families and language groups of the earth (= Cultural History Library . Series 1: Ethnological Library. 5, ). Winter, Heidelberg 1926, (Reprint: Buske, Hamburg 1977, ISBN 3-87118-277-X ).
- Ethnologue: Languages of the World
- MultiTree (scientific database on hypotheses about language relationships; English)
- Otto Weikopf, The World of Languages - The Languages of the World (popular science)
- (see picture above) The languages of the Horn of Africa also belong to the Afroasiatic language family, as shown in the picture above.