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 a collective language including Mewari, Chhattisgarhi, Bhojpuri etc., 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 (2015 18th edition)[edit]

The following languages are listed as having 50 million or more native speakers in the 2015 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International based in the US.[2] Speaker totals are generally not reliable, as they add together estimates from different dates and (usually uncited) sources; language information is not collected on most national censuses.

Rank Language Family L1 speakers L1 Rank L2 speakers Total
1 Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese) Sino-Tibetan, Sinitic 899 million 1 178 million 1051 million
2 English Indo-European, Germanic 500 million 2 510 million 1010 million
3 Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu)[Note 1] Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 438 million 3 214 million 652 million
4 Spanish Indo-European, Romance 500 million 2 70 million 570 million
5 Arabic Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 290 million (2017) 4 132 million 422 million[5]
6 Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian) Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 77 million (no date) 14 204 million 281 million[6]
7 Russian Indo-European, Slavic 160 million (2010) 7 115 million (2010) 275 million
8 French Indo-European, Romance 80 million (2015) 13 192 million (2015) 272 million[7]
9 Portuguese Indo-European, Romance 230 million (2010) 5 32 million (2010) 262 million
10 Bengali Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 226 million (2011) 6 19 million in Bangladesh (2011) 245 million
11 German Indo-European, Germanic 95 million (2014) 10 10–15 million 105–110 million
12 Hausa Afro-Asiatic, Chadic 85 million[8] 11 65 million 150 million[8]
13 Punjabi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 146 million[9] 8  ? 147 million
14 Japanese Japonic 130 million 9 1 million (2010)[10] 130 million
15 Persian Indo-European, Iranian 60 million (2009) 19 61 million[11] 121 million[11]
16 Swahili Niger–Congo language, Coastal Tanzanian, Bantu 16 million 20 82 million 98 million
17 Telugu Dravidian 80 million (2011) 13 12 million in India (2011) 92 million
18 Italian Indo-European, Romance 65 million (2015) 18 20 million (2015) 85 million
19 Turkish Altaic, Turkic 65 million (2006) 18 20 million 85 million
20 Javanese Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 84 million (2000) 12  ? 84 million
21 Tamil Dravidian 74 million (2001) 15 5 million in India 79 million
22 Korean Koreanic 77 million (2008–2010) 14  ? 77 million
23 Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 77 million (1984) 14 77 million
24 Marathi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 72 million (2001) 16 3 million in India (no date) 75 million
25 Vietnamese Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong 68 million 11  ? 68 million
26 Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 60 million (2017) 19  ? 60 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. ^ affairs, The French Ministry of Foreign. "The status of French in the world". France Diplomatie :: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  8. ^ a b "Hausa speakers in Nigeria now 120m– Communique - Vanguard News". vanguardngr.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  9. ^ Lahnda/Western Punjabi 116.6 million Pakistan (c. 2014). Eastern Punjabi: 28.2 million India (2001), other countries: 1.1 million. Ethnologue 19.
  10. ^ "Japanese". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  11. ^ a b Windfuhr, Gernot: The Aryan Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418.

External links[edit]