List of languages by total number of speakers

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A number of sources have compiled lists of languages by their number of speakers. However, all such lists should be used with caution.

  • First, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. For example, some languages including Chinese and Arabic are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Similarly, Hindi is sometimes considered to be a language, but together with Urdu it also is often considered a single language, Hindustani.
  • Second, there is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. For example, English has about 400 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.[1]

Ethnologue (2018, 21st edition)[edit]

The following 28 languages are listed as having 50 million or more total speakers in the 2018 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States.[2]

Ethnologue also lists other languages as having 50 million or more total speakers: for example, the Wikipedia page for the Tagalog language reports 70+ million speakers by as early as 2000 and 73+ million speakers by 2013: 28 million L1 (first language) speakers as of 2007 and 45 million L2 (second language) speakers as of 2013; these are largely based on Ethnologue reports and would, unless further updated, rank it as the language with the 26th most L1 speakers, the 13th most L2 speakers, and the 23rd most speakers in total.

Speaker totals are generally not reliable because they sum estimates from different dates and sources, usually uncited. Language information is not collected by most national censuses.

Rank Language Family Branch L1 speakers L1 Rank L2 speakers L2 Rank Total
1 English Indo-European Germanic 378.2 million 3 743.5 million 1 1.121 billion
2 Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 908.7 million 1 198.4 million 5 1.107 billion
3 Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu)[a] Indo-European Indo-Aryan 329.1 million 4 368.3 million 2 697.4 million
4 Spanish Indo-European Romance 442.3 million 2 70.6 million 9 512.9 million
5 Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 290 million (2017) 5 132 million 6 422 million[5]
6 French Indo-European Romance 76.7 million 16 208.1 million 3 284.9 million
7 Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian) Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 77 million (2007) 15 204 million 4 281 million[6]
8 Russian Indo-European Balto-Slavic 153.9 million 8 110.4 million 7 264.3 million
9 Bengali Indo-European Indo-Aryan 242.6 million 6 19.2 million in Bangladesh (2011) 14 261.8 million
10 Portuguese Indo-European Romance 222.7 million 7 13.8 million 15 236.5 million
11 German Indo-European Germanic 76.0 million 17 56.0 million 11 132.0 million
12 Japanese Japonic 128.2 million 10 131,000 23 128.3 million
13 Western Punjabi (Lahnda) Indo-European Indo-Aryan 119 million[7] 13 ? ? 119 million
14 Persian Indo-European Iranian 60 million (2009) 24 50 million[8] 10 110 million[8]
15 Swahili Niger–Congo Bantu 16.0 million 28 82.3 million 8 98.3 million
16 Javanese Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 84.3 million (2000) 11 ? ? 84.3 million
17 Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 80.7 million (2015) 12 63,000 24 80.7 million
18 Telugu Dravidian South-Central 74.7 million 18 5.0 million 17 79.7 million
19 Turkish Turkic Oghuz 78.5 million 13 380,000 22 78.9 million
20 Korean Koreanic 77.2 million 14 ? ? 77.2 million
21 Marathi Indo-European Indo-Aryan 71.7 million (2001) 20 3.0 million in India 18 74.7 million
22 Tamil Dravidian South 66.6 million 22 8.0 million 16 74.6 million
23 Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 73.3 million 19 402,000 20 73.7 million
24 Vietnamese Austroasiatic Vietic 67.9 million 21 ? ? 67.9 million
25 Italian Indo-European Romance 64.8 million 23 3.0 million 19 67.8 million
26 Hausa Afro-Asiatic Chadic 43.6 million 26 19.5 million 13 63.1 million
27 Thai Kra–Dai Zhuang–Tai 20.5 million 27 40.0 million 12 60.5 million
28 Southern Min (incl. Hokkien) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 49.7 million 25 387,000 21 50.1 million

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Refers to Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu. Modern Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible and are considered by linguists to be dialects of the same language; the two distinct registers are the outcome of nationalist tendencies.[3] The Census of India defines Hindi on a loose and broad basis. In addition to Standard Hindi, it incorporates a set of other Indo-Aryan languages written in Devanagari script including Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi, Dhundhari etc. under Hindi group which have more than 422 million native speakers as on 2001.[4] However, the census also acknowledges Standard Hindi, the above mentioned languages and others as separate mother tongues of Hindi language and provides individual figures for all these languages.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023.
  2. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  3. ^ Abdul Jamil Khan (2006). Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide. Algora. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-87586-437-2.
  4. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  5. ^ "Världens 100 största språk 2010" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in Nationalencyklopedin
  6. ^ Indonesia 258 million (World Bank, 2015); Malaysia 19.4 million Bumiputera (Dept of Statistics, Malaysia, 2016); Brunei 0.43 million (World Bank, 2015); Singapore 0.5 million (University of Hawaii 2012); Thailand 3 million (University of Hawaii, 2012)
  7. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  8. ^ a b Windfuhr, Gernot: The Iranian Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418.

External links[edit]