समाज शास्‍त्र / Sociology

Major Languages Of The World- Definition, Features, Influences, Classification (World’s Language Family)

Major Languages Of The World- Definition, Features, Influences, Classification (World’s Language Family)

Definition- Language is a system of communication through the use of speech, a collection of sounds that are understood by a group of people to have the same meaning.

  • Language is a great force of socialization.
  • It is necessary for cultural accumulation and historical transmission.
  • Language, either in written or oral form is the most common type of communication.
  • As the primary means of transmitting culture from one generation to the next, language is a critical ‘cultural element’.
  • Language promotes the transmission of ideas and the functioning of political, economic, social and religious systems.


  • Language is an important component of cultural geography.
  • Through language one can gain knowledge and is able to express oneself.
  • Language is an area, state or country tries to unite and spread the message of unity and feeling of oneness.
  • Deviation in the language structure creates difference in language and feelings.
  • Language in a region or among the group of people tries to give a concrete form to expressions and is preserved for the coming generation. It also spreads off to far and distance.
  • Language and writings have been done to pressure knowledge in the form of books.
  • Impact of cultural environment, of physical environment over language is more pronounced.
  • In general, impacts of country’s geographical location, political and economic condition have an impact of general languages.
  • When country’s democracy is in progress importance of general languages become great.
  • With the passage of time language must change. If there is no change than the language becomes dead. g. Latin


  • Political and geographical influences.
  • Cultural, colonial and environmental influences we get to see.
  • Division of Bengal and colonial rule in India are the best examples. [Muslim invaders that came from the west does not adopt Urdu as their national language but adopt Bengali and they use National Anthem of India written by Rabindranath Tagore.
  • The Dominating language becomes the national language.
  • Language changes historically (to sustain always). For E.g. Latin language is an extinct language because it cannot historically develop.
  • For the identity of country change in language is necessary.


  • Language family: with the development of language dialects also develop with the passage of time.
  • With political boundaries we can’t limit boundaries of language.
  • A collection of individual languages related to each other by virtue of having a common ancestor is known as Language family.
  • Thousands of language of the world can be grouped into a number of language family.


  • According to Joseph Vendryes (1921)-With the development of languages, dialects too develop. Some languages take shape on the basis of dialects. At the circumstances languages can be differentiated from dialects. In one language family there are a number of languages. Addition of large number of dialects within a language is not impossible. Broadly the whole world can be divided into two major language families:
  1. Indo- European Language- It is used by half of the world’s population. It originated in South-West Asia.
  2. Sino-Tibetan Language- This language is centered around South-East Asia and China mainly. It is used by 1/4th population of the world.

Other major language areas are as follows:

  1. Ural Altaic- It is centered in Siberia, Mid-Europe and Mid Asia.
  2. Semito Hamitic- It is centered in North Africa and Mid-African countries.
  3. Amerindian- It is commonly foundation of mid-regions of South America and North America space in Canada.
  4. Germania- mainly in mid regions of USA.


  • According to Siegfried M. Muller:

 1. Indo- European Family

  1. Germanic Branch (English, German, Netherlands, Swedish, Africaas, Danish, Norwegian)
  2. Romanic Branch (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalen, Norwegian)
  3. Balto Slavic Branch (Russian, Eucrains, Polish, Check, Bulgarian, Slovac, Serbo-Crotadian)
  4. Indo- Iranian Branch (Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Persian, Udia, Bihari, Rajasthan, Pasththu, Sindhi, others)
  5. Greek Branch
  6. Other Branch

2. Sina-Tibetan Family

  1. Sinistic Branch (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Voo, Min, others)
  2. Tibeto Burman Branch (Thai, Burmese, Tibetan)

3. Semito Hamitic Family

  1. Sinistic Branch
  2. Hamitic Branch

4. Dravidian Family

  1. Telugu
  2. Malayalam
  3. Tamil
  4. Kanarese
  5. Other

5. Uralic Family

  1. Phinic Branch
  2. Ugric branch

6. South-East Asian Family

  1. Vietnamese
  2. Cambodian
  3. Other

7. Altaic Family

  1. Turkish
  2. Uzbek
  3. Azerbaijani
  4. Kazakh
  5. Tatar
  6. Others

8. Korean Family

8. Japanese Family

10. Malaya Polynesian Family

  1. Malay Indonesian
  2. Javanese
  3. Tagalok
  4. Sudanese
  5. Celeriano
  6. Madurese
  7. Malagasy
  8. Others

11. Niger Congo Family

  1. Benue- Congo Branch
  2. Other Branches

12. Amerindian Family

13. Cacausian Family

14. Nile Saharian Family

15. Other Families


  • According to Dicken and Petls (1970):
  1. Germany
  2. Romance
  3. Celtic
  4. Slavic
  5. Lithuvinai and Lvithic
  6. Greek and Albunian
  7. Iranian and Armenian
  8. Indo- Aryan
  9. Bascave
  10. Caucasian
  11. Dravid
  12. Papua and Negrito
  13. Bantur
  14. Sudan group Nigro
  15. Hottentot and Bushman
  16. Australian
  17. Sami
  18. Hami
  19. Finic- Urgic
  20. Samoyedi
  21. Turkish
  22. Mongol
  23. Tongus
  24. Sino Tibetan
  25. Monkhamer and Assamese
  26. Munda
  27. Malayo- Polynesian
  28. Japanese and Korean
  29. Chukchee and Elusian
  30. Red Indian



At present context there are 7 languages of the world which are basically used in international trade, politics and other commercial purposes.

The main among are:

  1. Mandarin
  2. Anglo (English)
  3. Japanese
  4. Arabic
  5. Bengali
  6. Portuguese
  7. Malaya
  8. French
  9. Italian
  10. Urdu


  • Generally the languages in Europe developed through development of local dialects.
  • By pronouncing the language impact of locally spoken dialect has their influence.
  • Language does not follow the political boundaries of the countries.
  • Language structure is not similar throughout Europe.
  • There are 3 main branches of languages:
  1. Germany
  2. Romance
  3. Slovac
  • In the eastern side Slovac is spoken. Among other important branches Indo Iranian is spoken in the South and Mid regions.
  • Other secondary language and their branches are: Albanian, Armenian, Celtic and Greek.
  • Apart from Indo-European family Ural Altaic branch dominates in Hungary, N. Spain, etc.

Classification of Europe:

1. Indo- European Family:

  1. Germanic
  2. Romanic
  3. Balto-Slavic
  4. Helenic
  5. Aryan
  6. Anatolian
  7. Italian, others

2. Ural- Altaic Family:

  1. Phinic- Ugric
  2. Turkish- Tatari
  3. Samoyadi
  4. Others

3. Semato Family

4. Himetic (Hami) Family

5. Cacaucious Family

6. Baseave Family


  • It is big continent with more than 100,000 languages and dialects.
  • The main reason is migration of different races.
  • Due to intermixing of languages, existence of ancient languages (classical forms) is almost negligible.
  • This continent is capable to move on with complex structure of languages.
  • Due to migration of different races, intermixing process various languages, vocabulary and pronunciation made a lot of change. As a result one finds diversification in language structure.
  • Spenser and Thomas divided Asia into 56 language Nation:

Language structure (Classification)-

1. Altaic Family

  1. Turkey Branch
  2. Mongoli branch

2. Indo- European Family

  1. Iranian Branch
  2. Indian- Aryan Branch
  3. Dardi Branch (Persian and other language)

3. Dravidian Family

4. Sino- Tibetan Family

  1. Tibetan- Bermese Branch
  2. Sion- Siamise Branch

5. Anglo Asian Family

6. South-Asian Family

  1. Indonesian Branch

7. Papnaian Family

8. Combined language Family including Japanese, Korean, etc.

9. Multi- language Family

  1. Turkish- Tibetan- Dandi
  2. Indo- European and Sino- Tibetan
  3. Malay- Sino- Indian

10. Others


  • Inspite of colonial rule most of the primitive population still speaks their primitive languages.
  • In most of the colonial areas two languages were basically used.
  • Most of the ancient languages were unaffected.
  • Generally people speak African and Indian language.
  • In S. Africa, one can find mixture of English and Dutch languages.
  • Every tribe has given birth to its own religion, culture.
  • As a result most of the languages have no written evidence and they faded away.
  • In N. Africa people speak Semito-Hamitic languages. In South Africa along with Indo-European English as well as African language are in use.
  • In Madagascar, Malaya- Polynesian languages are popular.


1. Indo- European family

2. Semito- Hamitic family

3. Malayo-Polynesian

4. Niger-Congo family

  1. Mandey
  2. West Atlantic
  3. Gur
  4. Kwa
  5. Adamawa Eastern
  6. Benu Congo

5. Nilo- Saharian family

  1. Chali- Nile
  2. Fur
  3. Koma
  4. Maba
  5. Saharan
  6. Songhai

6. Khoisan family

  1. Hottentot
  2. Bush


  • The original language of America is now no more (extina) due to influence of people from the world (Immigration).
  • Red India language family is spoken in most of Canada and Latin American areas.
  • In U.S.A at present people living have forgotten their original paternal language.
  • During the early migration phase of 17th century the migrants used English (official) but with the passage of time the immigrants have started speaking local languages.
  • (The local diversity of dialect in the U.S can be found in the Eastern part of the country)
  • In the west Asia one can’t draw a clear cut line as most of the people were settled in the easter line country.
  • Eckimo and Elusia language dominates specially in Northern part running in the direction.
  • Germanic language is common in most of the areas of U.S.A.
  • Romance branch is common in mid & South American regions.


1. Indo- European family

  1. Germanic branch
  2. English
  3. Danish
  4. Swedish
  5. Romance branch
  6. Spanish
  7. French
  8. Portuguese
  9. Italian

2. Amerindian family

  1. Eskimo
  2. Red Indians
  • If Mexico is the border line then to the North Indo- European language dominates while to the S. Mexico Spanish Portuguese.

Indo – European

  • The Indo- European family of languages is the most dominant and widespread in the world.
  • It is constituted by several sub-families including Indic (Indian), Iranian, Armenian, Germanic, Latin, Hellenic, Albanian, Balto-Slavic and Celtic languages.
  • These Indo- European languages have a common ancestry.
  • This family is derived from a single original dialect (proto- language) spoken by kurgans, whose homeland was in the steppes region to the north of Caspian Sea near the Volga River around 1,300 B.C.
  • Kurgans had a pastoral economy.
  • Many animals including cattle and horses were domesticated by them but they did not have highly developed agriculture.
  • They migrated and conquered the different parts of Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia and Africa and spread over a vast territory.
  • Due to geographical and cultural isolation, languages of the Indo- European family became differentiated into several sub-families. All the Indo- European languages share some common words whose genetic origin can be traced to a common linguistic root.
  • In the Indo-European languages, the words for same trees and animals have common roots.

Sino- Tibetan

  • Sino- Tibetan is the language family encompassing the languages of the peoples of the Republic of China (the world’s most populous nation) as well as many smaller countries in South-East Asia.
  • The most important language of China is Mandarin, which is spoken by about 3/4th of the total population of China.
  • It is the official language of the United Nations.
  • There are other four languages spoken in China, namely, Cantonese, Min, Wu, and Hakka.
  • The relatively small number of languages in China, in comparison to India, for E.g. is a source of national strength and unity.
  • In addition to the Chinese languages, the Sino- Tibetan language family includes a second branch, known as Tibeto- Burman, used mainly in South-East Asia.
  • The two main languages of the Tibeto-Burman language are Thai and Myanmari (Burmese).
  • Moreover, Japanese and Korean are the other important languages which have been substantially influenced by the Chinese language.

Ural Altai Linguistic family

The languages of this linguistic family are found in Eurasia from Ural to Mongolia through Altai Mountain.

Semito- Hamitic language

  • The Semito- Hamitic languages include Arabic and Hebrew, as well as a number of less used languages found in Northern Africa and South-Western Asia.
  • The international significance of this language family transcends the number of speakers because the languages were used to write the holiest books of two of the four major religions- the Judeo- Christian Bible and Islamic Holy Quran.
  • The most frequently used language in this family is Arabic and official language of twenty countries of South-West Asia and North Africa, from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Hebrew, as a native language, is spoken by only about 3 million people mainly in Israel.
  • Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Hebrew became extinct as a language in daily activity of the 4th century A.D. but it is being revived after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Germanic family

  • The Germanic language, including English, constitutes one branch of the Indo-European language family. It has three branches i.e., North Germanic, East Germanic and West Germanic.
  • North Germanic- it includes the Scandinavian language (Danish, Swedish, Iceland, Faroese).
  • The East Germanic language (Gothic) also existed in history, but they are now extinct, i.e., the languages are no longer spoken in daily activities by anyone in the world.
  • The main Eastern Germanic language was Gothic. It was used to be spoken in Crimea (Ukraine).
  • The language died because the descendants of Gothic tribe were converted to other languages through political dominance.
  • The West German branch of the Indo- European language includes German, Yiddish, Anglo- Saxon, Modern English, Old-Saxon, Dutch and Flenish languages.
  • Out of the West Germanic languages, English is the most widely used language.
  • The land now known as England was invaded by the Angles, Jules and Saxons.

The name England is derived from the Angles, and the English language is a fusion of languages spoken by the three tribes.

  • At present, English is the lingua franca, one of the important languages of international communication.

Latin or Romanic Family

  • The Latin linguistic group is also known as Romance languages.
  • The main languages of this group are French, Italian, Provencal, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian.
  • These languages were spread by the Roman Empire before Christ, so they are also called the Romance language.
  • The regions of Latin language are separated from each other by high mountains, which serve as a strong barrier for the communication between people living in two such regions.
  • The Latin language particularly Spanish and Portuguese has well spread in South America, Central America and Mexico because of the colonial activities of East European peoples using Latin languages.
  • The concentration of Latin languages in Europe is in its South Western part such as Spain (Spanish), Portugal (Portuguese), France (French), Italy (Italian) and Romania (Romanian).

Balto- Slavic Languages

  • The other Indo- European branch with large numbers of speakers is Balto-Slavic.
  • The Slavic languages are generally divided into east, west and south.
  • The most widely used Slavic languages are the eastern ones, primarily Russian which is spoken by about 240 million people, including 80% of the Russian population of Russia.
  • Russian is one of the five official languages of the United Nations.
  • The other two important Balto-Slavic languages are Ukrainian and Byelorussian (white Russian).
  • The other west Slavic languages include Polish, Czech and Slavic.
  • The South Slavic languages include Bulgarian, Serto- Croatian, Slovene and Macedonian. The differences among the various Slavic languages are relatively small with a considerable amount of mutual intelligibility existing among speakers of different languages

Indo- Iranian Languages

  • The Indo- Iranian family includes more than 100 individual languages, spoken by about 800 million people.
  • The branch can be divided into an Eastern group- Indic- including speakers primarily in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan; and a western group- Iranian- used by about 50 million people.
  • In Pakistan, the principal language is Urdu. In India, Hindi is the national language and is spoken mainly in Northern India. The people of Bangladesh, West Bengal and its adjacent areas speak Bengali.
  • In general, Indo-European languages are spoken in the Northern India, while languages of Dravidian family are used in the South. Languages of the Sino-Tibetan family are found in the North-East and South-East. Asian languages are found in Meghalaya, Chota Nagpur Plateau and central highlands of India.

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About the author

Kumud Singh

M.A., B.Ed.

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