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Language family



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Language families of the world today.

Language families are groups of languages that are related to each other because they come from a common older language. The languages in such a family are similar in their vocabulary or structure.

For example, French and Spanish both come from Latin. Latin was spoken a long time ago, and some of the people who spoke it started to speak one way, saying, for example, for good: "bueno" while another group started saying "bon." Most words are said a little differently in Spanish and French, so the two are called different languages.

Most languages belong to a language family, but some languages do not. These languages are called Language isolates.

There also are constructed languages, like for example Esperanto. Constructed languages are made for different reasons: making a 'world language', for fun, for use in fiction, etc.

Major language families

By number of languages

Ethnologue 22 (2019) lists these language families as "major". Each has at least 1% of all languages on Earth:

  1. Niger–Congo (1,542 languages) (21.7%)
  2. Austronesian (1,257 languages) (17.7%)
  3. Trans–New Guinea (482 languages) (6.8%)
  4. Sino-Tibetan (455 languages) (6.4%)
  5. Indo-European (448 languages) (6.3%)
  6. Australian [dubious] (381 languages) (5.4%)
  7. Afro-Asiatic (377 languages) (5.3%)
  8. Nilo-Saharan [dubious] (206 languages) (2.9%)
  9. Oto-Manguean (178 languages) (2.5%)
  10. Austroasiatic (167 languages) (2.3%)
  11. Tai–Kadai (91 languages) (1.3%)
  12. Dravidian (86 languages) (1.2%)
  13. Tupian (76 languages) (1.1%)

Glottolog 4.0 (2019) lists the following as the largest families, of 8494 languages:

  1. Atlantic–Congo (1,432 languages)
  2. Austronesian (1,275 languages)
  3. Indo-European (588 languages)
  4. Sino-Tibetan (494 languages)
  5. Afro-Asiatic (373 languages)
  6. Nuclear Trans–New Guinea (314 languages)
  7. Pama–Nyungan (248 languages)
  8. Oto-Manguean (180 languages)
  9. Austroasiatic (159 languages)
  10. Tai–Kadai (94 languages)
  11. Dravidian (81 languages)
  12. Arawakan (78 languages)
  13. Mande (75 languages)
  14. Tupian (71 languages)