Language Families

Language is an important of every culture, society, and civilization. Without it, we may not have the world we have now. There are thousands of living languages today, and it is hard to imagine what would happen without. Each language belongs to a certain family of languages. Read on to know some of the major families in terms of the number of languages under them.


This family constitutes about 375 languages and over 300 million speakers throughout East Africa, North Africa, the Sahel, and Southwest Asia. This includes around 200 million Arabic speakers. The Afro-Asiatic family is also known as Afrasian, Hamito-Semitic, Lisramic, and Erythraean.



According to the Summer Institute of Linguistics, this family comprises around 440 languages and dialects. It includes most of the major languages spoken in Europe and some in Central Asia, South Asia, and Southwest Asia. Modern languages under this family include Bengali, Hindi, English, German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and a number of smaller minority or national languages.


This family constitutes about 1270 languages that are widely dispersed throughout the islands of the Pacific and Southeast Asia, as well as in some parts of continental Asia. Malagasy (spoken on Madagascar), Hawaiian, and Rapanui are the geographic outliers of this family. Austronesian has a number of primary branches, most are found exclusively on Formosa (the Formosan languages are unrelated to Chinese). Languages under this family that are spoken outside Formosa are under the Malayo-Polynesian branch, also known as Extra-Formosan.


This major language family is composed of 1514 languages. It is Africa’s largest language when it comes to number of speakers, number of distinct languages, and geographical area. Almost all of the major indigenous languages spoken in Subsaharan Africa belong to the Niger-Congo languages. A characteristic of many languages that belong to this family is the usage of the noun class system.



The Sino-Tibetan family comprises 403 languages including the Tibeto-Burman and the Chinese languages. Some 250 languages in East Asia belong to this family. The Sino-Tibetan languages are next only to the Indo-European family if you consider the number of people that speak them.

Leave a Comment