Language and Linguistics

Language families and characteristics in detail

Linguistic or language family

Linguistic or language family

A linguistic family is a set of languages ​​that derive from a common ancestor or “father.” Languages ​​that share a significant number of features in phonology, morphology, and syntax belong to the same linguistic family. The subdivisions of a linguistic family are called “branches.” Language families and characteristics

English, along with most of the main languages ​​of Europe, belongs to the Indo-European family.

The number of language families in the world

“It is estimated that there are more than 250 linguistic families established in the world and more than 6800 different languages, many of which are threatened or in danger of disappearing” (Keith Brown and Sarah Ogilvie, Concise Encyclopedia of Languages ​​of the World, Elsevier Science, 2008).

The size of a linguistic family

“The number of languages ​​that make up a linguistic family varies greatly. The largest African family, the Niger-Congolese, is made up of approximately 1000 languages ​​and a similar number of dialects. Even so, there are many languages ​​that do not seem to be related to any other. These families made up of only one language are known as isolated languages. The American continent is one of the most linguistically diverse; the number of Native American linguistic families amounts to more than 70, including more than 30 of these languages ​​”(Zdeněk Salzmann, Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, Westview Press, 2007). Language families and characteristics

Geographical distribution

The geographical distribution of families is the reflection of the historical evolution of their speakers. Thus most of the large families of languages ​​seem to have expanded thanks to agricultural or technological “revolutions” of some other kind. The Neolithic Revolution caused the expansion of Afro-Asian languages in Africa and the Middle East, Sino-Tibetan languages in the Far East and, according to Renfrew’s theory, the expansion of Indo-European languages in Western Eurasia.

The improvement of navigation techniques allowed the speakers of Austronesian Languages ​​to expand from the Island of Taiwan throughout Oceania, even reaching Madagascar in front of the African continent. European imperialism brought to America Indo – European languages and many areas of Africa, Oceania, and to a lesser extent Asia. Apparently, the use of iron and other technologies would have allowed the Niger-Congo Languages to prevail in Africa by displacing the speakers of other now small families such as the Nile-Saharan Languages or the Joisanan Languages.

At present, the two major linguistic families, by a number of speakers, Indo-European languages ​​and Sino-Tibetan languages ​​together, add up to a number of speakers equivalent to 75% of humanity. While among the indigenous languages ​​of America, for example, many language families barely exceed the few thousand speakers. Language families and characteristics

There are many languages ​​in the world, organized in a series of families, that is, groups that share their own origin and elements. Among them are:

Language families and characteristics

Indo-European languages

  • One of the largest language families in the world, made up of more than 150, which are spoken by 3.2 billion people in the world (45% of the total population). It is estimated that all come from an Indo-European language that originated around 3000 BC. C. This family is divided into:
    • Anatolio. Dead language.
    • Greek-Armenian. Where do the Greek and Armenian come from?
    • Thracian-Dacian-Albanian women. Only the last survives.
    • Italo-Celts. From where the Latin arose and, therefore, the Romance languages.
    • Germanic. Where do the German, English, and Nordic languages ​​come from?
    • Balto-Eslavas. Where do the Baltic languages ​​like Lithuanian come from, and Slavic languages ​​like Russian, Czech or Polish.
    • Indoiranias. Where the languages ​​of the Middle East and Central Asia come from, such as Persian, Hindu-Urdu, Pakistani, Pashtu, Nepali, Kurdish or Romani, among others.
    • Tocharian. Dead and little-known languages.

Dravidian languages

 A set of 26 languages ​​from central and southern India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). It is divided into southern, southcentral, central, and northern. None of them are thought to be related to the rest of the languages. Language families and characteristics

Japonic languages

These would descend from a proto-Japanese language, such as eastern and western Japanese, or the Ryukyuan languages ​​(from the Ryukyu Islands in the south of the country).

Sino-Tibetan languages

There are more than 250 languages, spoken from North India (West), Taiwan (South East), China (North) to the Malay Peninsula (South). Its gigantic variety of languages ​​is spoken in China, Thailand, Laos, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

Niger-Congo languages

Niger-Congolese languages ​​encompass 1,400 different languages ​​and nearly 400 million speakers. They are classified into Niger-Congo A and Niger-Congo B, and it is one of the main families of African languages. Language families and characteristics

Mayan languages

Also called Mayans, they come from ancient Mesoamerica and are spoken by almost 5 million speakers between GuatemalaMexico, Belize, and Honduras. It’s divided in:

Huastecan languages

Huasteco and Chicomucelteco, the latter already dead.

Yucatecan language

The most widely spoken in Mexico.

Western Mayan language

Like the Cholano, Tzeltalano and Kanjobalano.

Eastern Mayan language

Like the quiché-mameano, the mameano, quichean and poqom.

How many languages ​​are there in the world?

It is estimated that there are between 3 thousand and 7 thousand languages ​​on the planet, but it is really impossible to determine the exact number since many are difficult to differentiate from each other.

Some estimates warn of the disappearance of around half of the languages ​​currently spoken, in favor of the majority languages, estimated for the year 2100.

Most spoken languages ​​in the world

The main languages ​​of the world in relation to their number of native speakers are:

  • Chinese. Around 1,200 million speakers.
  • Spanish. Around 400 million people.
  • Hindi.  380 million speakers among the 23 existing variants.
  • English.  360 million native speakers and 500 million second-language speakers.
  • Arab.  250 million speakers worldwide.

Language families and characteristics

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