Talk:Language family

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Proto Languages[edit]

The use of the term 'proto language' in the first paragraph of the article is inconsistent with how I and many linguists use the term. The term should be used to refer to a language without direct attestation, not the ancestor language of a family. One ancestor language of Romance is spoken/vulgar Latin, but vulgar Latin is not a proto language, since we have historical documents of this language. This needs to be changed. (talk) 18:04, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

Hmm. You don't ever seem to get a known language described as a 'protolanguage'; on the other hand, such cases are rare. The ELL isn't much help, though they do have a few things such as "These languages can be shown to descend from a common ancestor, a common protolanguage. There are no records of the ancestral language, but it can be reconstructed ..." There the point doesn't seem to be that the language is hypothetical, only that it's ancestral. On the other hand, proto-Romance isn't exactly the same thing as vulgar Latin, any more than proto-Mongolic is the same as Middle Mongol. I'm not sure what to do with this. Maybe it's just that records aren't good enough to conclude that the attested language is actually the proto-language. kwami (talk) 22:37, 25 January 2008 (UTC)
The OED, though maybe a bit dated, says that 'proto-' "designat[es] the earliest attested or hypothetically-reconstructed form of a language or family of languages". kwami (talk) 23:28, 25 January 2008 (UTC)
Proto-language has become a vague and analogous term. It started as the direct ancestor of a language in the Tree model but currently I'm seeing applied to dialects within languages, converging features of different language (Sprachbund) etc. So the article will take a bit more work. As for all these other issues, well, the term is just not that precise. It can mean either attested or non-attested. Also, there's the issue of it being attested by a language, but not exactly the same dialect, etc. The first thing though it to check out what is currently said and put references on it. I see a big bibliography here and no line items. I don't know if any of the biblio itema have any relevance to what is said. For the Latin - well, you're being to precise. Proto-Romance is in fact vulgar Latin - but it had various dialects. Vulgar Latin is for the most part unattested. As it is not in fact a different language from Latin generally it is accurate to say (I think) Latin is the proto-language of Romance. It is as I said a matter of too limited a definitino of Proto-language. The best way to do it really is to trace some historical opinions with quotes and references. That is I admit going to take some look-up work. I'm not promising to do it but that is what needs to be done.Dave (talk) 14:10, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

Weasel words[edit]

The first paragraph contains the following weaselish assertion: "it is often a delicate matter to relate languages to archaeological cultures, on the one hand, and to genetic lineages." I think that either this assertion should be deleted, or someone should add an explanation why it is a "delicate matter" to relate language to archeology and genetics. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:23, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Extreme Racists[edit]

And a new candidate for dumbest sentence on Wikipedia:

  • "However, all modern scientists, except for extreme racists, believe that all humans belong to the same biological species - homo sapiens - and do interbreed with ease." (talk) 18:21, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

You're absolutely right. I deleted the "except for extreme racists" part. I'd still suggest that this sentence be reformulated, it sounds really awkward in my ears eyes. — N-true (talk) 20:15, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
"All modern scientists"? Is there anyone who doesn't think that people are one species? What's the point of having this at all? kwami (talk) 21:12, 28 October 2009 (UTC)
How can you reformulate the incomprehensible? We don't have to keep the the wall-scrawling of juveniles. This is a serious effort (ho, ho, ho), or at least you can see some serious stuff in here.Dave (talk) 14:14, 9 December 2009 (UTC)


The colours are too similar too each other for Indo-Aryan, Tibetan-Burman and Chinese. And, as said at File talk:Languengl.gif, Puerto Rico should be coloured like the Romance languages and Surinam and Guyana should be coloured like the germnaic languages. Munci (talk) 21:05, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Not a separate color for creole? kwami (talk) 21:14, 28 October 2009 (UTC)
Sorry for not having this all this time. I do not think there should be a separate colour for Creole because creole is not a language family. Instead, putting them together with the lexifier language is probably best. Munci (talk) 02:32, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

No interest in biological genetics in linguistics[edit]

I removed a few biological statements. One is this one, which someone else had commented out: "the biological equiv. is lateral gene transfer." Now, the biological metaphor was applied literally hundreds of years ago to languages by the first linguists of the enlightenment, who still believed they were going to find the original language of the Garden of Eden (see under the updated Tree model). There is nothing very professional or scientific about it; it is only a general metaphor that stuck because of its general utility. None of today's genetic theory existed at that time. So, there are two completely distinct usages with two completely distinct sets of criteria, biological (or biochemical) and linguistics. You cannot validly update and cross-fertilize between the two. Linguists never heard of a lateral gene transfer and couldn't care less what it is and how it might be applied to language descent. This is not a lesson in genetics. All such attempts to apply modern detailed genetic terminology to the language metaphor are completely editorial innovations. They would have to fall under original research. You are too enthusiastic for the metaphor, editor. It can't really go any further than its initial general use without total confusion of the two topics and their criteria. There simply are no language genes. So, this article has to be cleared of genetic topics. Whoever commented out the lateral gene transfer did so rightly as original research.Dave (talk) 11:56, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

"may be used for clarity when also discussing the relationships between speakers of the languages evidenced by their genes." Historical linguistics says absolutely nothing about the speakers as evidenced by their genes. The daughter languages may be spoken by populations who did not descend genetically from the speakers of the parent language.Dave (talk) 12:05, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Experimentation on the article[edit]

I'm working on this in conjuction with Tree model. Our arrangement here is to insure the consistency of groups of articles and most people work on groups. That is why you usually see parts of articles not finished yet. It's an ongoing task. This article was unsat when I picked it up, which is why I picked it up. I don't usually work on good articles. Why should I? They're good! I can't possibly get to everything wrong with this article in a single session. So, I ask you to be patient. I know problematic articles attract dabbling and experimentation as well as whimsical changes intended to draw attention to the fact that the article is wrong, even ridiculous. Don't do that. This is a serious encyclopedia and some one of us few hundred thousand serious editors WILL get to it. You can flag it here in the discussion, or put a tmeplate on if you know how to do that. Wkipedia discourages experimentation in articles. You create an additional page on your user area - look up sandbox in help. If it works there then you can try it out here. For example, we don't need two reflist templates. If you don't know what it does, don't put it in. OK? For the content, be patient. Noah's ark was not built in a day.Dave (talk) 13:54, 17 December 2009 (UTC)


Is there any chart that shows where each language comes from? --秋ねこ-AutumnCat-秋ねこ (talk) 12:56, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Note on Japonic[edit]

Perhaps a note should be added nex to Japonic, seeing as it's inclusion in the Altaic family is controversial and not universally accepted. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:22, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

It also seems arbitrary to accept Japanese and not Korean. Is this common? (talk) 17:45, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Australian languages?[edit]

Why is such a large portion of Australia marked as speaking indigenous Australian languages, including Northern Queensland? I seriously doubt the indigenous languages are anywhere near that prevalent. saɪm duʃan Talk|Contribs 10:14, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

The map looks pretty accurate to me. Indigenous languages are actually very prevalent. The majority of people in Northern Australia are aboriginal and most of these people, especially in the Northern Territory, speak their own language(s) rather than English. So the map is pretty accurate. The thing to remember is that the area which is marked as indigenous Australian languages only contains a very small proportion of the population because hardly anyone lives there - there are probably only a few hundred thousand people in that whole area, and almost all of them are Aboriginal people who live on their own land and speak their own languages. On the other hand, the red areas marked for Germanic are where 22 million English speakers live, mostly around the South East Coast from Adelaide, through Melbourne and Syndey and up to Brisbane. So the map is actually pretty accurate. Cheers, -- (talk) 12:36, 23 March 2012 (UTC)


The phrase "related by descent" is repetitious. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:39, 9 March 2011 (UTC) The worst has been taken out now. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:00, 10 March 2011 (UTC)


The map on this page suggests that Sino-Tibetan has two primary branches 'Sinitic' and 'Tibeto-Burman'. This is not at all a commonly held view and all of the wiki articles treating these issues are quite circumspect on this issue. The map should be changed. Tibetologist (talk) 16:44, 10 April 2011 (UTC)


Something odd is going on with the map. I can view it directly, but when I try restoring it, I only get a red link. If it's been deleted, I don't understand why it's still visible after refreshing.

In any case, this is IMO a better map, since it restricts itself to independent families. — kwami (talk) 22:45, 15 April 2011 (UTC)


This sentence confused me to the point of not knowing where my confusion arose from:

Daughter languages are said to have a genetic or genealogical relationship; the former term is more current in modern times, but the latter is equally as traditional.

I don't know what's being said here, but I'm not sure if that's my fault or the writer's. Jakaloke (talk) 21:01, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

Phylum, superfamily[edit]

The article said, "The terms superfamily, phylum,[citation needed] and stock are applied to proposed groupings of language families whose status as phylogenetic units is generally considered to be unsubstantiated by accepted historical linguistic methods." This is true, in my experience, of superfamily, but phylum and stock are often used for top-level nodes without any implication that of uncertainty. Since there's no reference for this, I'm removing the latter two words.Linguistatlunch (talk) 22:32, 10 September 2011 (UTC)


don't remove much hard whole afternoon. ASG i'll come back and check..don't remove..please...i like it..its good...come on..

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:35, 17 March 2012 (UTC) 

Sorry, it had nothing to do with the article, and was WP:original research. — kwami (talk) 10:56, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

Bad formatting[edit]

See Jidanni (talk) 18:35, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

what is Dialect Continuum???[edit]

dialect by definition means they are temporary and will change to even different dialect by time. so where is the references for such thing as dialects continuum, a few hundred years old dialect is not continuum, nor the speakers of the early time of the dialect stomach what the dialect ended up after few hundred years, so there is no dialect continuum. The english dialect of current day England is different of their dialect 50 years ago, same for english dialct now and in 1940 s, they are not continued, dialects change rapidly. the section should be removedSerzone (talk) 15:15, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

I think you are confused by both the word "continuum" and by what is meant by "dialect continuum". A continuum in general has nothing to do with "continuing" or "staying the same". Rather it means something that changes continuously or gradually rather than discretely, suddenly or abruptly. A rainbow is also a continuum, because there are no sudden changes between the colours: they gradually and continuously change from one to the next. You are correct that English changes over time, but there is a continuum between those two times. English doesn't change suddenly, it changes gradually. A dialect continuum is similar, but it describes gradual changes between two places rather than between two times. So if you start at one place within the continuum, and move towards another, you will notice that the further you go, the more different the dialects in every place are from the dialect of your starting point. But there are no sudden borders between the dialect, they flow from one to the other like the colours in a rainbow. CodeCat (talk) 17:29, 22 July 2013 (UTC)


The extent of Aboriginal languages in Australia is grossly, grossly overestimated on the lead map. The vast majority of the land marked Aboriginal-speaking is uninhabited (1), and were two people to meet there they'd certainly default to English, even if they were Aboriginals, as there are over two hundred non-mutually intelligible Aboriginal languages in Australia. The remaining territory, even the areas predominantly inhabited by Aboriginals, is either English or Australian Kriol (a Germanic creole) speaking. The only remaining vibrant community of Aboriginal language speakers is around the Warlpiri and Gurindji areas (12). Could someone kindly correct the map accordingly? As it is, the absolute bulk of it, as far as Australia is concerned, is completely absurd. (talk) 06:07, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Something like this is far more appropriate. I can't upload it myself as I don't have an account though. (talk) 06:24, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Lead section revision[edit]

"Membership in a branch or group within a language family is established by shared innovations, that is, common features of those languages that are not found in the common ancestor of the entire family." Does it mean to say, "that are found in the common ancestor of the entire family? Just checking, because it doesn't make sense. Gordon410 (talk) 13:28, 29 July 2016 (UTC)

The subjectivity of family language classification[edit]

Linguistics is based on opinion. Linguists attempt to classify languages into one family each. Do the classifications tell us everything about ancestry? Absolutely not. They tend to shortcut history, misleading all who listen. Linguistics is arbitrary. It is really based on opinion. This opinion is rather narrow, but they try to classify family languages in ways that will give the student an idea of how family languages are classified, spoon fed. Do the classifications tell us everything about ancestry? Absolutely not. It tends to shortcut and take a simplistic approach even misleading.

For example, English is both Germanic and Latin, but is classified in the Germanic family because of the dominant Germanic trait. It completely ignores the Latin family. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gordon410 (talkcontribs) 00:15, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Map Almost unreadable[edit]

The map is very hard to read since many of the colours are close together in shade. This is much clearer — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:05, 10 February 2017 (UTC)

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