Draft:Languages and language families

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Languages are the methods of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.


Def. a "set of languages which have evolved from a common ancestor"[1] is called a language family.

Major geographical language families[edit]

In the following, each "bulleted" item is a known 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 the dozen or two of 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.

Families of Africa and Southwest Asia[edit]

Afro-Asiatic languages[edit]

Distribution of the Afro-Asiatic languages is indicated; pale yellow signifies areas without any languages in that family Credit: Listorien.{{free media}}

Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian and traditionally as Hamito-Semitic (Chamito-Semitic)[2] or Semito-Hamitic,[3] is a large language family of about 300 languages and dialects.[4]

Niger-Congo languages[edit]

Map shows the distribution of major Niger–Congo languages, where Pink-red is the Bantu subfamily. Credit: Sting.{{free media}}

The Niger–Congo languages constitute one of the world's major language families and Africa's largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers and number of distinct languages.[5] It is generally considered to be the world's largest language family in terms of distinct languages,[6][7] ahead of Austronesian, although this is complicated by the ambiguity about what constitutes a distinct language; the number of named Niger–Congo languages listed by Ethnologue is 1,540.[8]

Nilo-Saharan languages[edit]

Khoisan languages[edit]

Families of Europe, and North Asia, West Asia, and South Asia[edit]

Families of East Asia and Southeast Asia and the Pacific[edit]

Families of the Americas[edit]

Proposed Language Super-Families[edit]

Creoles, Pidgins, and Trade languages[edit]

Isolate languages[edit]

Def. "[a] natural language with no proven relationship with another living language"[9] is called a language isolate.

Isolate languages share no apparent traits with any known language family.

  • Basque (The language of the Basques, people of unknown origin inhabiting the western Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay in France and Spain.)
  • Burushaski
  • Ainu
  • Vascan

Sign languages[edit]

Other Natural Languages of Special Interest[edit]

Artificial Languages[edit]

Besides the above languages that have arisen spontaneously out of the capability for vocal communication, there are also languages that share many of their important properties.

See also[edit]


  1. language family. San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 6 June 2013. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/language_family. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  2. Katzner, Kenneth (2002). The Languages of the World. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 1134532881. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  3. Robert Hetzron, "Afroasiatic Languages" in Bernard Comrie, The World's Major Languages, 2009, ISBN 113426156X, p. 545
  4. Browse by Language Family. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  5. Irene Thompson, “Niger-Congo Language Family”, ”aboutworldlanguages”, March 2015
  6. Heine, Bernd; Nurse, Derek (3 August 2000). African Languages: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780521666299.
  7. Ammon, Ulrich (2006). Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society. Walter de Gruyter. p. 2036. ISBN 9783110184181.
  8. Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  9. language isolate. San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 31 August 2012. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/language_isolate. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 

External links[edit]

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