List of language families

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Principal language families of the world (and in some cases geographic groups of families). For greater detail, see Distribution of languages in the world.

The following is a list of language families. It also includes language isolates, unclassified languages and other types.

Major language families[edit]

By number of languages[edit]

Ethnologue 24 (2021) lists the following families that contain at least 1% of the 7,139 known languages in the world:

  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 4.6 (2022) lists the following as the largest families, of 8,565 languages:

  1. Atlantic–Congo (1,406 languages)
  2. Austronesian (1,271 languages)
  3. Indo-European (583 languages)
  4. Sino-Tibetan (501 languages)
  5. Afro-Asiatic (379 languages)
  6. Nuclear Trans–New Guinea (317 languages)
  7. Pama–Nyungan (250 languages)
  8. Oto-Manguean (181 languages)
  9. Austroasiatic (158 languages)
  10. Tai–Kadai (95 languages)
  11. Dravidian (82 languages)
  12. Arawakan (77 languages)
  13. Mande (75 languages)
  14. Tupian (71 languages)

Language counts can vary significantly depending on what is considered a dialect; for example Lyle Campbell counts only 27 Otomanguean languages, although he, Ethnologue and Glottolog also disagree as to which languages belong in the family.

Language families by region[edit]

Campbell identifies a total of 406 independent language families, including language isolates.[1] Extinct languages are marked by daggers (†).

Africa[edit]

Africa (42)
  1. Afro-Asiatic
  2. Bangi Me (isolate)
  3. Berta
  4. Central Sudanic
  5. Daju
  6. Dizoid
  7. Dogon
  8. Eastern Jebel
  9. Furan
  10. Gimojan (Gonga–Gimojan)
  11. Hadza (isolate)
  12. Heiban
  13. Ijoid
  14. Jalaa† (isolate)
  15. Kadu (Kadugli–Krongo)
  16. Khoe
  17. Kresh–Aja
  18. Kxʼa (Ju–ǂHoan)
  19. Koman
  20. Kuliak
  21. Kunama
  22. Laal (isolate)
  23. Maban
  24. Mande
  25. Mao
  26. Nara (isolate?)
  27. Narrow Talodi
  28. Niger–Congo
  29. Nilotic
  30. Nubian (+ Meroitic)
  31. Nyimang
  32. Rashad
  33. Saharan
  34. Sandawe (isolate?)
  35. Songhay
  36. South Omotic (Aroid?)
  37. Surmic
  38. Ta-Ne-Omotic
  39. Tama (Taman)
  40. Tegem (Lafofa) (isolate?, unclassified?, family?, Niger–Congo?)
  41. Temein
  42. Tuu

Americas[edit]

The Americas has a total of 175 language families, including language isolates, according to Campbell (2019).

North America (54)
  1. Adai† (isolate [unclassified?])
  2. Algic
  3. Alsea† (isolate)
  4. Atakapa† (isolate, small family?)
  5. Beothuk† (isolate)
  6. Caddoan
  7. Cayuse† (isolate)
  8. Chimakuan
  9. Chimariko† (isolate)
  10. Chinookan
  11. Chitimacha† (isolate)
  12. Chumashan
  13. Coahuilteco† (isolate)
  14. Cochimí–Yuman
  15. Comecrudan
  16. Coosan
  17. Cotoname† (isolate)
  18. Eskimo–Aleut
  19. Esselen† (isolate)
  20. Haida (isolate, small family?)
  21. Iroquoian
  22. Kalapuyan
  23. Karankawa† (isolate)
  24. Karuk (Karok) (isolate)
  25. Keresan
  26. Kiowa–Tanoan
  27. Kootenai (Kutenai) (isolate)
  28. Maiduan
  29. Muskogean
  30. Na–Dene (strict sense, Athapaskan–Eyak—Tlingit)
  31. Natchez† (isolate)
  32. Palaihnihan
  33. Plateau (Plateau Penutian)
  34. Pomoan
  35. Salinan
  36. Salishan
  37. Shastan
  38. Siouan–Catawban
  39. Siuslaw† (isolate)
  40. Takelma† (isolate)
  41. Timucuan
  42. Tonkawa† (isolate)
  43. Tsimshianic
  44. Tunica† (isolate)
  45. Utian (Miwok–Costanoan)
  46. Uto–Aztecan
  47. Wakashan
  48. Washo (isolate)
  49. Wintuan
  50. Yana† (isolate)
  51. Yokutsan
  52. Yuchi (isolate)
  53. Yukian
  54. Zuni (isolate)
Mexico and Mesoamerica (14)
  1. Cuitlatec† (isolate)
  2. Guaicurian
  3. Huave (isolate)
  4. Jicaquean (Tol)
  5. Lencan
  6. Mayan
  7. Misumalpan
  8. Mixe–Zoquean
  9. Otomanguean
  10. Seri (isolate)
  11. Tarascan (Purépecha) (isolate)
  12. Tequistlatecan
  13. Totonacan
  14. Xinkan
South America (107)
  1. Aikanã (isolate)
  2. Andaquí† (isolate)
  3. Andoque (isolate)
  4. Arara do Rio Branco† (Arara do Beiradão, Mato Grosso Arara) (isolate)
  5. Arawakan
  6. Arawan
  7. Atacameño (Cunza, Kunza)† (isolate)
  8. Awaké (Arutani)† (isolate)
  9. Aymaran
  10. Barbacoan
  11. Betoi–Jirara† (isolate)
  12. Boran
  13. Bororoan
  14. Cahuapanan
  15. Camsá (isolate)
  16. Cañar–Puruhá (Ecuador) (uncertain family of 2 languages)
  17. Candoshi (Canndoshi–Sharpa) (isolate)
  18. Canichana† (isolate)
  19. Cariban
  20. Cayuvava† (Cayubaba) (isolate)
  21. Chapacuran
  22. Charruan
  23. Chibchan
  24. Chipaya–Uru
  25. Chiquitano (isolate)
  26. Chocoan
  27. Cholonan
  28. Chonan
  29. Chono† (isolate)
  30. Cofán (A'ingaé) (isolate)
  31. Culli (Culle)† (isolate)
  32. Esmeralda (Atacame)† (isolate)
  33. Fulnio (Yaté) (isolate)
  34. Guachí† (isolate)
  35. Guaicuruan
  36. Guajiboan
  37. Guamo† (isolate)
  38. Guató† (isolate)
  39. Harákmbut–Katukinan
  40. Huarpean
  41. Irantxe (Münkü) (isolate)
  42. Itonama (isolate)
  43. Jabutían
  44. Jêan (Jê family)
  45. Jeikó† (isolate) [Macro–Jêan?]
  46. Jirajaran
  47. Jivaroan
  48. Jotí (Yuwana) (isolate)
  49. Kakua–Nukak
  50. Kamakanan
  51. Kapixaná (Kanoé) (isolate)
  52. Karajá
  53. Karirían
  54. Kaweskaran
  55. Krenákan (Botocudan)
  56. Kwaza (Koayá) (isolate)
  57. Leco† (isolate)
  58. Lule–Vilelan
  59. Máko† (Maku) (isolate)
  60. Mapudungun
  61. Mascoyan (Enlhet–Enenlhet)
  62. Matacoan
  63. Matanawí† (isolate)
  64. Maxakalían
  65. Mochica (Yunga)† (isolate)
  66. Mosetén–Chimané (isolate)
  67. Movima (isolate)
  68. Munichi† (isolate)
  69. Muran (Pirahã) (isolate, small family?)
  70. Nadehup ("Makúan")
  71. Nambiquaran
  72. Ofayé (Opayé) (isolate)
  73. Omurano† (isolate)
  74. Otomacoan
  75. Paez (isolate?)
  76. Pano–Takanan
  77. Payaguᆠ(isolate)
  78. Puinave (isolate)
  79. Puquina† (isolate)
  80. Purí–Coroado† (isolate)
  81. Quechuan
  82. Rikbaktsá (Canoeiro) (isolate)
  83. Sáliban
  84. Sapé (Kaliana)† (isolate)
  85. Sechura–Catacaoan
  86. Taruma† (Ta ruamá) (isolate)
  87. Taushiro (isolate)
  88. Tequiraca† (isolate)
  89. Tikuna–Yurí
  90. Timotean
  91. Tiniguan
  92. Trumai (isolate)
  93. Tukanoan
  94. Tupían
  95. Urarina (isolate)
  96. Waorani (isolate)
  97. Warao (isolate)
  98. Witotoan
  99. Xukurúan
  100. Yagan (Yámana)† (isolate)
  101. Yaguan
  102. Yanomaman
  103. Yaruro (Pumé) (isolate)
  104. Yuracaré (isolate)
  105. Yurumangui† (isolate)
  106. Zamucoan
  107. Zaparoan

Nikulin (2020) considers the Macro-Jê family to consist of Bororoan, Chiquitano, Jabutían, Jêan, Jeikó, Kamakanan, Karajá, Krenákan, Maxakalían, Ofayé, Purí–Coroado, and Rikbaktsá. If Nikulin's Macro-Jê is accepted as valid, this would bring the total number of independent language families and isolates in South America down to 96.[2]

Asia[edit]

Asia (34)
  1. Ainu (isolate)
  2. Austroasiatic
  3. Austronesian
  4. Basque (isolate)
  5. Burushaski (isolate)
  6. Chukotko-Kamchatkan
  7. Dravidian
  8. Elamite† (isolate)
  9. Great Andamanese
  10. Hattic† (isolate)
  11. Hruso (Hruso–Aka)
  12. Hurrian–(Hurro-Urartian)
  13. Indo-European
  14. Japonic
  15. Kartvelian
  16. Kassite† (isolate)
  17. Koreanic
  18. Kusunda (isolate)
  19. Miao–Yao (Hmong–Mien)
  20. Mongolian
  21. Nakh–Dagestanian (Northeast Caucasian)
  22. Nihali (isolate)
  23. Nivkh (isolate, possibly a small family)
  24. Northwest Caucasian
  25. Onge–Jarawa
  26. Sino–Tibetan
  27. Sumerian† (isolate)
  28. Tai–Kadai
  29. Tungusic
  30. Turkic
  31. Tyrsenian (Etruscan–Lemnian)†
  32. Uralic
  33. Yeniseian
  34. Yukaghir

Pacific[edit]

All of the following language families and isolates are frequently geographically classified as Papuan languages. This brings the total number of Papuan families and isolates to 125 according to Campbell (2019). Palmer et al. (2018), however, recognizes 80 Papuan language families and isolates.[3]

Papuan (125)
  1. Abinomn (isolate)
  2. Abun (isolate)
  3. Afra (Usku) (isolate)
  4. Amto–Musan
  5. Anêm (isolate)
  6. Angan
  7. Anim
  8. Ap Ma (Botin, Kambot, Kambrambo) (isolate)
  9. Arafundi
  10. Asaba (isolate)
  11. Awin–Pa
  12. Baibai–Fas
  13. Baining
  14. Baiyamo (isolate)
  15. Banaro (isolate)
  16. Bayono–Awbono
  17. Bilua (isolate)
  18. Bogaya (isolate)
  19. Border
  20. Bosavi
  21. Bulaka River
  22. Burmeso (isolate)
  23. Busa (Odiai) (isolate)
  24. Dagan
  25. Damal (Uhunduni, Amung) (isolate)
  26. Dem (isolate)
  27. Dibiyaso (isolate)
  28. Doso–Turumsa
  29. Duna (isolate)
  30. East Bird's Head
  31. East Kutubu
  32. East Strickland
  33. Eastern Trans-Fly
  34. Eleman
  35. Elseng (Morwap) (isolate)
  36. Fasu (isolate)
  37. Geelvink Bay
  38. Goilalan
  39. Guriaso (isolate)
  40. Hatam–Mansim
  41. Inanwatan
  42. Kaki Ae (isolate)
  43. Kamula (isolate)
  44. Kapauri (isolate) (Kapori)
  45. Karami
  46. Kaure–Narau (possibly an isolate)
  47. Kayagar
  48. Kehu (isolate)
  49. Kibiri-Porome (isolate)
  50. Kimki (isolate)
  51. Kiwaian
  52. Koiarian
  53. Kol (isolate)
  54. Kolopom
  55. Konda–Yahadian
  56. Kosare (isolate)
  57. Kuot (isolate)
  58. Kwalean
  59. Kwerbic
  60. Kwomtari
  61. Lakes Plain
  62. Lavukaleve (isolate)
  63. Left May (Arai)
  64. Lepki–Murkim
  65. Lower Sepik–Ramu
  66. Mailuan
  67. Mairasi
  68. Manubaran
  69. Marori (Moraori)
  70. Masep (isolate)
  71. Mawes (isolate)
  72. Maybrat (isolate)
  73. Mombum (family, 2 languages)
  74. Monumbo (family, 2 languages)
  75. Mor[disambiguation needed] (isolate)
  76. Morehead–Wasur
  77. Mpur (isolate)
  78. Namla–Tofanma
  79. Nimboran
  80. North Bougainville
  81. North Halmahera
  82. Ndu
  83. Pahoturi
  84. Pauwasi
  85. Pawaia
  86. Pele-Ata
  87. Piawi
  88. Powle-Ma ("Molof") (isolate)
  89. Purari ("Namau") (isolate)
  90. Pyu (isolate)
  91. Sause (isolate)
  92. Savosavo (isolate)
  93. Senagi
  94. Sentani
  95. Sepik
  96. Sko (Skou)
  97. Somahai
  98. South Bird's Head
  99. South Bougainville
  100. Suki–Gogodala
  101. Sulka (isolate)
  102. Tabo (Waia) (isolate)
  103. Taiap (isolate)
  104. Tambora† (isolate)
  105. Tanahmerah (isolate)
  106. Taulil–Butam
  107. Teberan
  108. Timor–Alor–Pantar
  109. Tor–Orya
  110. Torricelli
  111. Touo (isolate)
  112. Trans New Guinea
  113. Turama–Kikori
  114. Ulmapo ("Mongol–Langam")
  115. Walio
  116. West Bird's Head
  117. West Bomberai
  118. Wiru (isolate)
  119. Yale (Yalë, Nagatman) (isolate)
  120. Yareban
  121. Yawa
  122. Yele (Yélî Dnye) (isolate)
  123. Yerakai (isolate)
  124. Yetfa-Biksi (isolate)
  125. Yuat

Australia[edit]

Campbell (2019) recognizes 30 independent Australian language families and isolates.

Australia (30)
  1. Bachamal† (isolate, possibly Northern Daly family)
  2. Bunaban
  3. Eastern Daly
  4. Gaagudju† (isolate)
  5. Garrwan
  6. Giimbiyu
  7. Gunwinyguan
  8. Iwaidjan
  9. Jarrakan
  10. Kungarakany† (isolate)
  11. Limilngan
  12. Mangarrayi† (isolate)
  13. Maningrida
  14. Maran
  15. Marrku–Wurrugu
  16. Mirndi (Mindi)
  17. Northeastern Tasmanian
  18. Northern Daly
  19. Nyulnyulan
  20. Oyster Bay
  21. Pama–Nyungan
  22. Southeastern Tasmanian
  23. Southern Daly
  24. Tangkic
  25. Tiwi (isolate)
  26. Umbugarla/Ngurmbur† (isolate or small family?)
  27. Wagiman (Wageman)† (isolate)
  28. Wardaman† (isolate or small family)
  29. Western Daly
  30. Worrorran

According to Claire Bowern's Australian Languages (2011), Australian languages divide into approximately 30 primary sub-groups and 5 isolates.[4] Meanwhile, Glottolog 4.1 (2019) recognizes 23 independent families and 9 isolates in Australia, comprising a total of 32 independent language groups.[5]

Language families (non-sign)[edit]

In the following, each bullet item is a known or suspected language family. Phyla with historically wide geographical distributions but comparatively few current-day speakers include Eskimo–Aleut, Na-Dené, Algic, Quechuan and Nilo-Saharan.

The geographic headings over them are meant solely as a tool for grouping families into collections, more comprehensible than an unstructured list of a few hundred 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.

The number of individual languages in a family and the number of their speakers are only rough estimates: see dialect or language and linguistic demography for further explanation.

The language families of Africa
Map of the Austronesian languages
Map of major Dravidian languages
Distribution of the Indo-European language family branches across Eurasia
Distribution of the Altaic languages across Eurasia
Area of the Papuan languages
Map of the Australian languages
Distribution of language families and isolates north of Mexico at first contact
The major South American language families
Family name Languages Current speakers[6] Location Proposed parent family
Afroasiatic languages 366 499,294,669 Africa, Eurasia
Niger–Congo languages (proposed) 1,524 519,814,033 Africa
Atlantic–Congo languages 1,453 500,000,000 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Mande languages 50 27,003,000 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Kru languages 38 3,800,000 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Dogon languages 19 630,820 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Ijoid languages 10 3,221,650 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Nilo-Saharan languages (proposed) 199 53,359,610 Africa
Songhay languages 11 3,228,000 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Saharan languages 10 10,940,500 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Fur languages 2 786,900 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Maban languages 9 1,115,260 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Central Sudanic languages 65 9,145,280 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Khoe-Kwadi languages 12 337,337 Africa Khoisan (obsolete)
Kx'a languages 4 104,000 Africa Khoisan (obsolete)
Tuu languages 2 2,500 Africa Khoisan (obsolete)
Kadu languages 6 120,600 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Talodi languages 8 112,250 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Heiban languages 10 276,690 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Rashad languages 2 126,000 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Katla-Tima languages 3 25,000 Africa Niger–Congo (disputed)
Eastern Sudanic languages (proposed) 94 35,692,310 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Taman languages 4 128,800 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Daju languages 7 261,000 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Nubian languages 13 842,050 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Nyima languages 2 162,000 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Eastern Jebel languages 4 104,600 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Temein languages 2 14,400 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Nilotic languages 55 33,306,780 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Surmic languages 11 544,680 Africa Eastern Sudanic (disputed)
Kresh-Aja languages 3 48,200 Africa Central Sudanic (disputed)
Kuliak languages 3 14,070 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Bʼaga languages 5 253,680 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Blue Nile Mao languages 4 24,300 Africa Afroasiatic (disputed)
Dizoid languages 3 88,840 Africa Afroasiatic (disputed)
Koman languages 5 94,000 Africa Nilo-Saharan (disputed)
Ta-Ne-Omotic languages 19 7,359,020 Africa Afroasiatic (disputed)
Aroid languages 5 438,100 Africa Afroasiatic (disputed)
Indo-European languages 448 3,237,999,904 Eurasia
Tyrsenian languages (proposed) (3) extinct Eurasia
Uralic languages 37 20,716,457 Eurasia
Turkic languages 35 179,945,933 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Hurro-Urartian languages 2 extinct Eurasia
Abkhazo-Adyghean languages 4 1,655,000 Eurasia Caucasian (disputed)
Nakh-Daghestanian languages 29[7] 4,155,258 Eurasia Caucasian, Alarodian (disputed)
Kartvelian languages 5 4,850,000 Eurasia
Dravidian languages 84 252,807,610 Eurasia
Great Andamanese languages 10 3 Eurasia
Ongan languages 2 296 Eurasia
Yeniseian languages 2 211 Eurasia Dené–Yeniseian (possible)
Yukaghir languages 2 740 Eurasia
Sino-Tibetan languages 453 1,385,995,195 Eurasia
Hmong–Mien languages 38 9,332,070 Eurasia Miao–Dai (?)
Kra–Dai languages 94 81,549,828 Eurasia Austro-Tai (disputed)
Austroasiatic languages 169 116,323,040 Eurasia
Austronesian languages 1,223 325,862,510 Africa, Eurasia, Oceania Austro-Tai (disputed)
Tungusic languages 11 55,800 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Mongolic languages 13 7,269,480 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Koreanic languages 2 77,269,890 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Nivkh languages 2 200 Eurasia Nivkh–Kamchukotic (?)
Japonic languages 12 129,240,180 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Ainu languages 3 2 Eurasia Altaic (disputed)
Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages 5 6,875 Eurasia Nivkh–Kamchukotic (?)
Trans–New Guinea 317 3,540,024 New Guinea
Torricelli languages 55 113,705 New Guinea
Sepik languages 36 162,704 New Guinea
Ramu – Lower Sepik languages 30 65,830 New Guinea
Timor–Alor–Pantar languages 23 380,120 New Guinea
Lakes Plain languages 20 8,455 New Guinea
Yam languages 19 7,677 New Guinea
Anim languages 17 32,898 New Guinea
Border languages 15 17,080 New Guinea
North Halmahera languages 15 279,035 New Guinea West Papuan (disputed)
Angan languages 13 103,739 New Guinea
Ndu languages 13 100,770 New Guinea
Orya–Tor languages 13 8,345 New Guinea
Geelvink Bay languages 10 8,005 New Guinea
Sko languages 10 5,665 New Guinea
Dagan languages 9 18,555 New Guinea
South Bougainville languages 9 68,700 New Guinea
Kwerbic languages 8 7,000 New Guinea
Koiarian languages 8 25,690 New Guinea
Mailuan languages 8 11,700 New Guinea
Bosavi languages 7 14,105 New Guinea
Baining languages 6 13,800 New Guinea
East Strickland languages 6 3,780 New Guinea
Goilalan languages 6 47,330 New Guinea
Kiwaian languages 6 38,030 New Guinea
Left May languages 6 2,005 New Guinea Left May – Kwomtari (disputed)
South Bird's Head languages 6 8,200 New Guinea
Eleman languages 5 45,240 New Guinea
Keram languages 5 11,970 New Guinea
Nimboran languages 5 8,500 New Guinea
Pauwasi languages 5 3,880 New Guinea
West Bird's Head languages 5 20,090 New Guinea West Papuan (disputed)
Yareban languages 5 3,100 New Guinea
Yuat languages 5 7,700 New Guinea
Arafundi languages 5 1,960 New Guinea
Eastern Trans-Fly languages 4 6,760 New Guinea
North Bougainville languages 4 10,020 New Guinea
Demta–Sentani languages 4 36,680 New Guinea
Gogodala–Suki languages 4 30,160 New Guinea
Turama–Kikorian languages 4 6,210 New Guinea
Walio languages 4 856 New Guinea
East Bird's Head languages 3 34,800 New Guinea West Papuan (disputed)
Kamula-Elevala languages 3 28,700 New Guinea
Kayagaric languages 3 14,500 New Guinea
Kolopom languages 3 5,300 New Guinea
Kwalean languages 3 2,240 New Guinea
Mairasi languages 3 4,385 New Guinea
West Bomberai languages 3 6,840 New Guinea
Amto–Musan languages 2 720 New Guinea
Baibai-Fas languages 2 2,840 New Guinea Left May – Kwomtari, Kwomtari–Fas (disputed)
Bayono-Awbono languages 2 400 New Guinea
Bogia-Monumbo languages 2 860 New Guinea
Bulaka River languages 3 520 New Guinea
Doso-Turumsa languages 2 2,395 New Guinea
East Kutubuan languages 2 7,300 New Guinea
Hatam-Mansim languages 2 16,000 New Guinea West Papuan (disputed)
Inanwatan–Duriankere languages 2 1,130 New Guinea
Kaure-Kosare languages 2 700 New Guinea
Konda-Yahadian languages 2 1,000 New Guinea
Kwomtari languages 3 1,510 New Guinea Left May – Kwomtari, Kwomtari–Fas (disputed)
Lepki-Murkim-Kembra 3 840 New Guinea
Manubaran languages 2 3,350 New Guinea
Mombum-Koneraw languages 2 1,450 New Guinea
Namla-Tofanma languages 2 280 New Guinea
Pahoturi languages 2 4,050 New Guinea
Piawi languages 2 2,600 New Guinea
Senagi languages 2 2,960 New Guinea
Somahai languages 2 2,200 New Guinea
Taulil-Butam languages 2 2,000 New Guinea
Teberan languages 2 15,800 New Guinea
Yawa-Saweru 2 10,300 New Guinea West Papuan (disputed)
Pama–Nyungan languages 250 23,539 Australia
Gunwinyguan languages 5 1314 Australia
Western Daly languages 3 21 Australia
Nyulnyulan languages 3 94 Australia
Worrorran languages 3 108 Australia
Mirndi languages 3 261 Australia
Iwaidjan languages 4 491 Australia Arnhem Land (disputed)
Mangarrayi-Maran languages 4 10 Australia
Maningrida languages 4 1,434 Australia Arnhem Land (disputed)
Tangkic languages 4 73 Australia
Giimbiyu languages 3 extinct Australia Arnhem Land (disputed)
Jarrakan languages 3 130 Australia
Yangmanic languages 3 50 Australia
Bunuban languages 2 100 Australia
Eastern Daly languages 2 extinct Australia
Garrwan languages 2 130 Australia
Limilngan-Wulna 2 23 Australia
Marrku-Wurrugu languages 2 extinct Australia
Northeastern Tasmanian languages 2 extinct Australia
Northern Daly languages 2 8 Australia
Southeastern Tasmanian languages 2 extinct Australia
Southern Daly languages 2 1980 Australia
Western Tasmanian languages 2 extinct Australia
Inuit–Yupik–Unangan languages 10 108,705 North America, Eurasia
Na-Dene languages 44 208,552 North America Dené–Yeniseian (possible)
Haida languages 2 13 North America
Penutian languages (proposed) 16 3,513 North America
Tsimshianic languages 4 2,910 North America Penutian (disputed)
Wakashan languages 6 710 North America
Salishan languages 25 1,969 North America
Chimakuan languages 2 3 North America
Chinookan languages 4 extinct North America Penutian (disputed)
Kalapuyan languages 3 extinct North America Penutian (disputed)
Coosan languages 2 extinct North America Penutian (disputed)
Sahaptian languages 5 225 North America Plateau Penutian (disputed)
Hokan languages (proposed) 21 7,171 North America
Shastan languages 4 extinct North America Hokan (disputed)
Yuki–Wappo languages 2 extinct North America
Pomoan languages 7 47 North America Hokan (disputed)
Wintuan languages 2 extinct North America Penutian (disputed)
Palaihnihan languages 2 10 North America Hokan (disputed)
Maiduan languages 4 3 North America Penutian (disputed)
Utian languages 13 18 North America Yok-Utian, Penutian (disputed)
Chumashan languages 6 extinct North America
Yokutsan languages 4 50 North America Yok-Utian, Penutian (disputed)
Yuto-Nahuatl languages 58 1,910,442 North America Aztec–Tanoan (possible)
Yuman–Cochimí languages 12 3,710 North America Hokan (disputed)
Siouan–Catawban languages 14 33,399 North America
Algic languages 41 214,768 North America
Keres languages 2 10,670 North America
Tanoan–Kiowa languages 6 6,000 North America Aztec–Tanoan (possible)
Caddoan languages 5 46 North America
Totonacan languages 12 282,250 North America Totozoquean (possible)
Tarascan languages 2 225,100 North America
Oto-Manguean languages 176 1,678,214 North America
Huavean languages 4 14,670 North America
Mixe–Zoque languages 17 153,612 North America Totozoquean (possible)
Tequistlatecan languages 3 5,494 North America Hokan (disputed)
Muskogean languages 6 15,640 North America Gulf (possible)
Mayan languages 31 6,522,182 North America
Xincan languages (5) extinct North America Macro-Chibchan (?)
Jicaquean languages 2 500 North America Hokan (disputed)
Lencan languages 2 extinct North America Macro-Chibchan, Hokan (disputed)
Misumalpan languages 5 709,000 North America Macro-Chibchan, Hokan (disputed)
Iroquoian languages 9 14,543 North America
Arawakan languages 54 699,709 North America, South America
Chibchan languages 20 306,267 North America, South America Macro-Chibchan (?)
Choco languages 7 114,600 North America, South America
Carib languages 29 67,376 North America, South America Je–Tupi–Carib (possible)
Barbacoan languages 3 24,800 South America Macro-Paesan (disputed)
Jivaroan languages 4 89,630 South America
Quechuan languages 45 7,768,820 South America
Aymaran languages 3 2,808,740 South America
Uru–Chipaya languages 2 1,200 South America
Huarpean languages 3 extinct South America
Araucanian languages 2 262,000 South America
Chonan languages (6) extinct South America Moseten–Chonan, Macro-Panoan (possible)
Alacalufan languages 1 12 South America
Guajiboan languages 5 39,290 South America
Macro-Puinavean languages (proposed) 1 3,000 South America
Kakua-Nukak languages 2 610 South America Macro-Puinavean (disputed)
Otomákoan languages 2 extinct South America Macro-Otomákoan (disputed)
Piaroa–Saliban languages 3 18,630 South America
Nadahup languages 4 2,894 South America Macro-Puinavean (disputed)
Yanomaman languages 4 31,670 South America
Tucanoan languages 23 30,308 South America
Boran languages 2 1,500 South America Bora–Witoto (disputed)
Witotoan languages 7 17,478 South America Bora–Witoto (disputed)
Peba–Yaguan languages 1 5,700 South America Saparo–Yawan (disputed)
Zaparoan languages 3 90 South America Saparo–Yawan (disputed)
Hibito–Cholon languages 2 extinct South America
Cahuapanan languages 2 10,370 South America
Ticuna–Yuri languages 2 48,580 South America
Pano-Tacanan languages 45 51,539 South America Macro-Panoan (disputed)
Arawan languages 8 5,870 South America
Katukinan languages 2 10 South America Harákmbut–Katukinan, Macro-Puinavean (disputed)
Harákmbut languages 2 2,220 South America Harákmbut–Katukinan, Macro-Otomákoan (disputed)
Tupian languages 66 5,026,502 South America Je–Tupi–Carib (possible)
Chapacuran languages 4 2,019 South America Wamo–Chapakura (disputed)
Nambikwaran languages 6 1,068 South America
Bororoan languages 3 1,392 South America Macro-Jê (disputed)
Chiquitano languages 2 4,670 South America
Zamucoan languages 2 5,900 South America
Mascoian languages 6 20,728 South America Mataco–Guaicuru (?)
Matacoan languages 7 60,280 South America Mataco–Guaicuru (?)
Guaicuruan languages 4 49,350 South America Mataco–Guaicuru (?)
Macro-Jê languages 30 51,093 South America Je–Tupi–Carib (possible)
Charruan languages (3) extinct South America Mataco–Guaicuru (?)
Kamakã languages 4 extinct South America Macro-Jê (disputed)
Purian languages 2 extinct South America Macro-Jê (disputed)

Language isolates[edit]

Language isolates are languages which are not part of any known family, and they can be alternatively described as being their own families' sole representants.

Africa[edit]

Eurasia[edit]

Oceania[edit]

North America[edit]

  • Adai (US: Louisiana) [extinct]
  • Alsea-Yaquina (US: Oregon) [extinct]
  • Atakapa (US: Louisiana, Texas) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  • Beothuk (Canada: Newfoundland) [extinct]
  • Cayuse (US: Oregon) [extinct]
  • Chimariko (US: California) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Hokan languages)
  • Chitimacha (US: Louisiana) [extinct] (possibly part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  • Coahuilteco (US: Texas; Mexico: Coahuila ) [extinct]
  • Comecrudan (Mexico: Rio Grande) [extinct]
  • Cotoname (US: Texas; Mexico: Tamaulipas) [extinct]
  • Cuitlatec (Mexico: Guerrero) [extinct]
  • Esselen (US: California) [extinct]
  • Guaicurian (Mexico: Baja California) [extinct]
  • Karankawa (US: Texas) [extinct]
  • Karok (US: California)
  • Klamath-Modoc (US: Oregon, California) [extinct]
  • Kutenai (Canada: British Columbia; US: Idaho, Montana)
  • Maratino (Mexico: Tamaulipas) [extinct]
  • Molale (US: Oregon, Washington) [extinct]
  • Natchez (US: Mississippi, Louisiana) (linked to Muskogean in the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  • Salinan (US: California) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Hokan languages)
  • Seri (Mexico: Sonora) (part of the hypothetical Hokan languages)
  • Siuslaw (US: Oregon) [extinct]
  • Takelma (US: Oregon) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Penutian languages)
  • Timucua (US: Florida, Georgia) [extinct]
  • Tonkawa (US: Texas) [extinct]
  • Tunica (US: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas) (part of the hypothetical Gulf languages)
  • Washo (US: California, Nevada) (part of the hypothetical Hokan languages)
  • Yana (US: California) [extinct] (part of the hypothetical Hokan languages)
  • Yuchi (US: Georgia, Oklahoma)
  • Zuni (also known as Shiwi) (US: New Mexico)

South America[edit]

Unclassified languages[edit]

Languages are considered unclassified either because, for one reason or another, little effort has been made to compare them with other languages, or more commonly because they are too poorly documented to permit reliable classification: most such languages are extinct and, most likely, will never be known well enough to classify.

Africa[edit]

Eurasia[edit]

Oceania[edit]

North America[edit]

South America[edit]

Unattested languages[edit]

Unattested languages may be names of purported languages for which no direct evidence exists, languages for which all evidence has been lost, or hypothetical proto-languages proposed in linguistic reconstruction.

Africa[edit]

Eurasia[edit]

Oceania[edit]

North America[edit]

  • Jumano (Mexico) (extinct)
  • Lumbee (United States) (extinct)
  • Guale (United States) (extinct)
  • Yamasee (United States) (extinct)

South America[edit]

Extinct families and unclassified languages[edit]

This section lists extinct languages and families which have no known living relatives; while a minority of these is well known but is still classified as genetically independent (like the ancient Sumerian language), the lack of attestation makes many of these hard to put into larger groups.

Name Languages Year of death Location Well-attested? Proposed parent family
Hurro-Urartian languages 2 7th century BC? Asia Yes Alarodian languages
Tasmanian languages (several families) 5-16 1905 Australia No
Eastern Daly languages 2 2006 Australia Some
Tyrsenian languages 3 3rd century Europe Some
Baenan 1 1940s South America (Bahia) No
Culle 1 20th century South America (North Peru) No
Kakán 1 18th century? South America (Northwest Argentina-North Chile) Some
Kunza 1 1950s? South America (Atacama) Some
Gamela 1 ? South America (Maranhão) No
Gorgotoqui 1 17th century South America (East Bolivia) No
Huamoé 1 ? South America (Pernambuco) No
Malibu languages 9 ? South America (Colombia) No
Munichi 1 1990s South America (Loreto) Some Arawakan
Natú 1 19th century? South America (Pernambuco)
Pankararú 1 20th century South America (East Brazil) No
Panzaleo 1 17th century South America (Quito) No
Sechura 1 19th century? South America (Piura) No
Tarairiú 1 ? South America (East Brazil) No
Tuxá 1 19th century? South America (East Brazil) No
Xocó 1-3 ? South America (East Brazil) No
Xukuru 1 ? South America (East Brazil) No Xukuruan
Yurumanguí 1 19th century? South America (Colombia) No
Adai 1 19th century North America (Louisiana) No
Alagüilac 1 18th century? North America (Guatemala) No
Aranama 1 19th century North America (Texas) No
Atakapa 1 20th century North America (Louisiana) Some
Beothuk 1 1829 North America (Newfoundland) No
Calusa 1 18th century? North America (Florida) No
Cayuse 1 1930s North America (Oregon)
Chumashan 6 1960s North America (California)
Cotoname 1 19th century? North America (Texas-Mexico border)
Maratino 1 ? North America (Mexico) No Uto-Aztecan
Naolan 1 1950s North America (Mexico) No
Quinigua 1 ? North America (Northeast Mexico) No
Solano 1 18th century North America (Texas-Mexico border) No
Chonan 6 2019 South America (Argentina) Moseten–Chonan
Yaghan 1 2022 South America (Chile) (Isolate)

Other language classifications[edit]

The classification of languages into families, assumes that all of them develop from a single parent proto-language and evolve over time into different daughter language(s). While the vast majority of tongues fit this description fairly well, there are exceptions. A mixed language often refers to a particular combination of existing ones, which may stem from different families: a pidgin is a simple language used for communication between groups; this may involve simplification and/or mixing of multiple languages. When a pidgin develops into a more stable language which children learn from birth, it is usually called a "creole". Whether for ease of use or created for use in fiction, languages can also be constructed from the ground up, rather than develop from existing ones; these are known as constructed languages.

Sign languages[edit]

The family relationships of sign languages are not well established due to a lagging in linguistic research, and many are isolates (cf. Wittmann 1991).[9]

Family Name Location Number of Languages
French Sign Europe, the Americas, Francophone Africa, parts of Asia Over 50
British Sign United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa 4 - 10
Arab Sign Much of the Arab World 6 - 10
Japanese Sign Japan, Korea, Taiwan 3
German Sign Germany, Poland, Israel 3
Swedish Sign Sweden, Finland, Portugal 3
Chinese Sign China (including Hong Kong and Macau) 2

Beyond these language families, there exist many isolates, including:

Proposed language families[edit]

The following is a list of proposed language families, which connect established families into larger genetic groups; support for these proposals varies; the Dené–Yeniseian languages for example, are a recent proposal which has been generally well received, whereas reconstructions of the Proto-World language are often viewed as fringe science; proposals which are themselves based on other proposals have the likelihood of their parts noted in parentheses.

Proposed name Description Mainstream consensus[original research?]
Proto-World reconstructed common ancestor of all living languages Widely rejected.
Amerind all languages in the Americas which do not belong to the Eskimo–Aleut or Na–Dene families Widely rejected.
Almosan Algic, Kutenai and Mosan (rejected) Widely rejected.
Mosan Salishan, Wakashan, and Chimakuan languages of Pacific Northwest North America. Sprachbund.
Aztec–Tanoan Uto-Aztecan and Tanoan. Possible.
Coahuiltecan Native languages of modern Texas. Sprachbund.
Gulf Muskogean with four extinct isolates on US gulf. Possible.
Hokan A dozen languages on west coast of North America Some likely, others rejected.
Macro-Siouan Siouan, Iroquoian, Caddoan, and Yuchi. Controversial.
Je–Tupi–Carib Macro-Jê (likely), Tupian and Cariban of South America. Possible.
Macro-Jê 11 language families of South America Some likely, others controversial.
Macro-Mayan Mayan with Totonacan, Mixe–Zoque, and Huave. Widely rejected.
Totozoquean Totonacan and Mixe–Zoque in Mesoamerica. Possible.
Macro-Panoan Pano–Takanan (likely) and Moseten–Chonan (likely) Possible.
Mataco–Guaicuru Matacoan, Guaicuruan, Mascoian, and Charruan of South America ?
Penutian Some languages in western North America Controversial.
Quechumaran Quechuan and Aymaran Controversial.
Yuki–Wappo Yuki and Wappo, both extinct. Likely.
Borean All families except in sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea, Australia, and the Andaman Islands. Widely rejected.
Alarodian Northeast Caucasian with extinct Hurro-Urartian Controversial.
Sino-Austronesian Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, and Kra–Dai Controversial.
Austric Austroasiatic, Austronesian and sometimes others. Some controversial, others rejected.
Austro-Tai Austronesian and Kra–Dai Possible.
Miao–Dai Hmong–Mien and Kra–Dai ?
Austronesian–Ongan Ongan and Austronesian Controversial.
Dene–Caucasian Na-Dené, North Caucasian (controversial), Sino-Tibetan, Yeniseian, and others. Widely rejected.
Karasuk Yeniseian and Burushaski Controversial.
Dene–Yeniseian Na-Dené and Yeniseian Possible.
Nostratic Afroasiatic, Kartvelian, Dravidian and Eurasiatic (widely rejected) Widely rejected.
Eurasiatic Indo-European, Uralic and Altaic Widely rejected.
Indo-Semitic Indo-European languages and Semitic languages or Afroasiatic languages Widely rejected.
Indo-Uralic Indo-European and Uralic or Uralic–Yukaghir Controversial.
Ural–Altaic Uralic and Altaic (widely rejected) Obsolete; considered a linguistic convergence zone.
Altaic Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Koreanic and Japonic (and possibly Ainu) Widely rejected; generally considered a Sprachbund.
Uralo-Siberian Uralic, Yukaghir, Eskimo–Aleut and possibly Chukotko-Kamchatkan Controversial.
Uralic–Yukaghir Uralic and Yukaghir Controversial.
Nivkh–Kamchukotic Nivkh and Chukotko-Kamchatkan ?
Elamo-Dravidian Elamite and Dravidian Widely rejected.
Dravido-Korean Dravidian and Koreanic Obsolete.
Pontic Northwest Caucasian and Indo-European Controversial.
Ibero-Caucasian Northwest Caucasian, Northeast Caucasian, and Kartvelian Controversial.
North Caucasian Northwest Caucasian and Northeast Caucasian Controversial.
Indo-Pacific Several Pacific families. Widely rejected.
Macro-Pama–Nyungan Several Australian language families. Controversial.
Kongo–Saharan Niger–Congo and Nilo-Saharan Controversial.
Nilo-Saharan Many families of central Africa. Controversial.
Khoisan African click-consonant languages that do not belong to any other macrophyla. Widely rejected.
Na-Dene (with Haida) Sapir's proposal. Controversial.
Macro-Chibchan Lencan, Misumalpan and Chibchan merge into one language family. (probably also Xincan) ?

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Campbell, Lyle (2019-01-08). "How Many Language Families are there in the World?". Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca "Julio de Urquijo". UPV/EHU Press. 52 (1/2): 133. doi:10.1387/asju.20195. ISSN 2444-2992. S2CID 166394477.
  2. ^ Nikulin, Andrey (2020). Proto-Macro-Jê: um estudo reconstrutivo (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). Brasília: Universidade de Brasília.
  3. ^ Palmer, Bill (2018). "Language families of the New Guinea Area". In Palmer, Bill (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. The World of Linguistics. Vol. 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 1–20. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  4. ^ Bowern, C. 2011. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Australian Languages Archived 1 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2019). "Glottolog". 4.1. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  6. ^ "What are the largest language families?". Ethnologue. May 25, 2019.
  7. ^ "North Caucasian". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  8. ^ Torchinsky, Rina. "Cristina Calderón, Chile's last known Yaghan speaker, dies at 93". NPR. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  9. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement" (PDF). Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée (in French). 10 (1): 215–288.

External links[edit]