Languages in the World

World Languages: A language in this sense is a system of signs for encoding and decoding information. Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication.

The word “language” has at least two basic meanings: language as a general concept and “a language” (a specific linguistic system, e.g. “French”).

When speaking of languages as a general concept, several different definitions can be used that stress different aspects of the phenomenon.

These definitions also entail different approaches and understandings of languages, and they inform different and often incompatible schools of linguistic theory.

It is difficult to give an exact figure of the number of languages that exist in the world, because it is not always easy to define what a language is. The difference between a language and a dialect is not always clear-cut.

languages in the world

Sometimes, the distinctions are based purely on geographical, political, or religious reasons. It is usually estimated that the number of languages in the world varies between 3,000 and 8,000.

There is a list of the world’s languages, called “Ethnologue”. There are 6,500 living languages listed. Of these, 6,000 have registered population figures.

52% of the 6,000 languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people, and 28% are spoken by less than 1,000 people. 83% of them are limited to single countries.

Languages Uniqueness:

  • Human language is unique in comparison to other forms of communication, such as those used by animals, because it allows humans to produce an infinite set of utterances from a finite set of elements.
  • The symbols and grammatical rules of any particular language are largely arbitrary, so that the system can only be acquired through social interaction.
  • The known systems of communication used by animals, on the other hand, can only express a finite number of utterances that are mostly genetically transmitted.
  • Human languages are also unique in that its complex structure has evolved to serve a much wider range of functions than any other kinds of communication system.

The 30 Most Spoken Languages of the World:

Pos Language Family Speakers In Millions Where Spoken (Major)
1 Mandarin Sino-Tibetan 1151 China, Malaysia, Taiwan
2 English Indo-European 1000 USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand
3 Spanish Indo-European 500 Mexico, Central and South America, Spain
4 Hindi Indo-European 490 North and Central India
5 Russian Indo-European 277 Russia, Central Asia
6 Arabic Afro-Asiatic 255 Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
7 Portuguese Indo-European 240 Brazil, Portugal, Southern Africa
8 Bengali Indo-European 215 Bangladesh, Eastern India
9 French Indo-European 200 France, Canada, West Africa, Central Africa
10 Malay, Indonesian Malayo-Polynesian 175 Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
11 German Indo-European 166 Germany, Austria, Central Europe
12 Japanese Altaic 132 Japan
13 Farsi (Persian) Indo-European 110 Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia
14 Urdu Indo-European 104 Pakistan, India
15 Punjabi Indo-European 103 Pakistan, India
16 Wu Sino-Tibetan 90 China
17 Vietnamese Austroasiatic 86 Vietnam, China
18 Javanese Malayo-Polynesian 85 Indonesia
19 Tamil Dravidian 78 Southern India, Sri Lanka, Malyasia
20 Korean Altaic 78 Korean Peninsula
21 Turkish Altaic 75 Turkey, Central Asia
22 Telugu Dravidian 74 Southern India
23 Marathi Indo-European 72 Western India
24 Italian Indo-European 62 Italy, Central Europe
25 Thai Sino-Tibetan 60 Thailand, Laos
26 Burmese Sino-Tibetan 56 Myanmar
27 Cantonese Sino-Tibetan 55 Southern China
28 Kannada Dravidian 47 Southern India
29 Gujarati Indo-European 46 Western India, Kenya
30 Polish Indo-European 46 Poland, Central Europe

There are also a number of languages whose relationships have not been thoroughly investigated. Only a few of the languages that were spoken by the original inhabitants are still spoken.

The languages within a family usually share a common language, from which they developed. However, sometimes languages are considered to be related just because they happen to be geographically close to one another.

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