This article ranks human languages by their number of native speakers.
However, all such rankings should be used with caution, because it is not possible to devise a coherent set of linguistic criteria for distinguishing languages in a dialect continuum. For example, a language is often defined as a set of varieties that are mutually intelligible, but independent national standard languages may be considered to be separate languages even though they are largely mutually intelligible, as in the case of Danish and Norwegian. Conversely, many commonly accepted languages, including German, Italian and even English, encompass varieties that are not mutually intelligible.[better source needed] While Arabic is sometimes considered a single language centred on Modern Standard Arabic, other authors describe its mutually unintelligible varieties as separate languages. Similarly, Chinese is sometimes viewed as a single language because of a shared culture and common literary language. It is also common to describe various Chinese dialect groups, such as Mandarin, Wu and Yue, as languages, even though each of these groups contains many mutually unintelligible varieties.
There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time because of population change and language shift. In some areas, there is no reliable census data, the data is not current, or the census may not record languages spoken, or record them ambiguously. Sometimes speaker populations are exaggerated for political reasons, or speakers of minority languages may be under-reported in favour of a national language.
Top languages by population
Ethnologue (2022, 25th edition)
The following languages are listed as having at least 50 million first language speakers in the 2022 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International. Entries identified by Ethnologue as macrolanguages (such as Arabic, Lahnda, Persian, Malay, Pashto, and Chinese, encompassing all their respective varieties) are not included in this section.
CIA (2018 estimates)
- Global language system
- Languages of Africa
- Languages used on the Internet
- Linguistic demography
- Linguistic diversity index
- List of ISO 639-3 codes
- List of languages by number of native speakers in India (uses a different definition of Hindi)
- List of languages by the number of countries in which they are recognized as an official language
- List of languages by total number of speakers
- List of sign languages by number of native signers
- Lists of languages
- Number of languages by country
- World language
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- Chambers, J.K.; Trudgill, Peter (1998). Dialectology (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59646-6.
- Kaye, Alan S.; Rosenhouse, Judith (1997). "Arabic Dialects and Maltese". In Hetzron, Robert (ed.). The Semitic Languages. Routledge. pp. 263–311. ISBN 978-0-415-05767-7.
- Norman, Jerry (1988). Chinese. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-521-29653-3.
- Norman, Jerry (2003). "The Chinese dialects: phonology". In Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J. (eds.). The Sino-Tibetan languages. Routledge. pp. 72–83. ISBN 978-0-7007-1129-1.
- Crystal, David (1988). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-521-26438-9.
- "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
- "Most spoken languages in the World". Retrieved 1 January 2022.