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World language families


Language statistics & facts | Top 30 languages | 20 countries with the most languages
Language families: By speakers - By languages | Languages in the United States


Language families by languages

While the Niger-Congo and Austronesian families together account for fewer than 12% of the world's speakers, they represent more languages by far than any other group - about 40% of all languages. Both contain well over 1000 languages.

The third largest group contains 8% of the world's languages and is spoken by only 6/10ths of 1% (0.06%) of the world.

In fact, the 10 largest language groups in terms of numbers of languages they contain account for over 3/4 of the languages spoken in the world. That means that just 1/4 of the languages are spread among the remaining 84 language groups.

Top 10 Languages Families by Number of Languages
Data source: Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. (2005).

Language family # of languages % of all languages   Representative languages
& primary location
1. Niger-Congo 1495 21.36%   Dogon, Sango, Swahili, Wolof, Yoruba, Zulu. Primarily the indigenous languages of Subsaharan Africa.
2. Austronesian 1246 18.03%   Hawaiian, Javanese, Malay, Tagalog. Spoken on islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific with a few speakers on Asian continent.
3. Trans-New Guinea 561 8.12%   Enga, Melpa, Dani, Ekari. Spoken in New Guinea and nearby islands.
4. Indo-European 430 6.22%   Bengali, English, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish. Languages spoken on all inhabited continents.
5. Sino-Tibetan 399 5.77%   Bai, Burmese, Chinese, Tibetan. Languages spoken primarily in East Asia.
6. Afro-Asiatic 353 5.11%   Arabic, Hausa, Oromo, Somali. Primarily spoken in northern Africa and the Middle East.
7. Australian 224 3.24%   Kala Lagaw, Western Desert Language. Mainly aboriginal languages that are near extinct or severly endangered.
8. Nilo-Saharan 197 2.85%   Dinka, Masai, Nubian. African languages spoken mainly in the upper Chari and Nile River regions.
9. Oto-Manguean 172 2.49%   Mixtec, Zapotec. Native American languages spoken primarily in Mexico.
10. Austro-Asiatic 169 2.45%   Khmer, Mon, Vietnamese. Spoken in India and Southeast Asia.
  ------------    
Total percentage of world's languages: 75.91%    

Today, approximately 500 languages are spoken by only a few elderly members of a speech community and are in grave danger of extinction. According to Ethnologue, more than 75% of world's languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 speakers.


Language statistics & facts | Top 30 languages | 20 countries with the most languages
Language families: By speakers - By languages | Languages in the United States


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