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List of languages by number of native speakers

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Current distribution of human language families

This article ranks human languages by their number of native speakers.

However, all such rankings should be used with caution, because it is not possible to devise a coherent set of linguistic criteria for distinguishing languages in a dialect continuum.[1] For example, a language is often defined as a set of varieties that are mutually intelligible, but independent national standard languages may be considered to be separate languages even though they are largely mutually intelligible, as in the case of Danish and Norwegian.[2] Conversely, many commonly accepted languages, including German, Italian and even English, encompass varieties that are not mutually intelligible.[1] While Arabic is sometimes considered a single language centred on Modern Standard Arabic, other authors describe its mutually unintelligible varieties as separate languages.[3] Similarly, Chinese is sometimes viewed as a single language due to shared culture and a single written form. It is also common to describe various Chinese dialect groups, such as Mandarin, Wu and Yue, as languages, even though each of these groups contains many mutually unintelligible varieties.[4]

There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time due to population change and language shift. In some areas, there is no reliable census data, the data is not current, or the census may not record languages spoken, or record them ambiguously. Sometimes speaker populations are exaggerated for political reasons, or speakers of minority languages may be under-reported in favour of a national language.[5]

Top languages by population

Ethnologue (2019, 22nd edition)

The following 90 languages are listed as having at least 10 million first language speakers in the 2019 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States.[6]

Languages with at least 10 million first-language speakers[6]
Rank Rank Language Primary Country Total
Countries[a]
Speakers
(millions)
% of the World population

(March 2019)[7]

Macrolanguage Language family
Branch
1 Chinese (macrolanguage) China 39 1,311 17.026 Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
1 Mandarin China 13 918 11.922 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
2 2 Spanish Spain 31 460 5.974 Indo-European
Romance
3 3 English United Kingdom 137 379 4.922 Indo-European
Germanic
4 4 Hindi India 4 341 4.429 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
5 Arabic (macrolanguage) Saudi Arabia 59 319 4.143 Afroasiatic
Semitic
5 6 Bengali Bangladesh 4 228 2.961 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
6 7 Portuguese Portugal 15 221 2.870 Indo-European
Romance
7 8 Russian Russian Federation 19 154 2.000 Indo-European
Balto-Slavic
8 9 Japanese Japan 2 128 1.662 Japonic
Japanese
10 Lahnda (macrolanguage) Pakistan 6 119 1.545 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
9 Western Punjabi Pakistan 2 92.7 1.204 Lahnda Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
10 11 Marathi India 1 83.1 1.079 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
11 12 Telugu India 2 82.0 1.065 Dravidian
South-Central
12 Wu China 1 81.4 1.057 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
13 Malay (macrolanguage) Malaysia 20 80.3 1.043 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
13 14 Turkish Turkey 8 79.4 1.031 Turkic
Oghuz
14 15 Korean South Korea 6 77.3 1.004 Koreanic
language isolate
15 16 French France 54 77.2 1.003 Indo-European
Romance
16 17 German Germany 28 76.1 0.988 Indo-European
Germanic
17 18 Vietnamese Viet Nam 4 76.0 0.987 Austroasiatic
Vietic
18 19 Tamil India 7 75.0 0.974 Dravidian
South
19 Yue China 13 73.1 0.949 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
20 20 Urdu Pakistan 7 68.6 0.891 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
21 21 Javanese Indonesia 3 68.3 0.887 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
22 22 Italian Italy 14 64.8 0.842 Indo-European
Romance
23 Egyptian Spoken Arabic Egypt 1 64.6 0.839 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
23 Persian (macrolanguage) Iran 30 61.8 0.803 Indo-European
Iranian
24 24 Gujarati India 7 56.4 0.732 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
25 Iranian Persian Iran 7 52.8 0.686 Persian Indo-European
Iranian
26 25 Bhojpuri India 3 52.2 0.678 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
27 Min Nan China 10 50.1 0.651 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
28 Hakka China 13 48.2 0.626 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
29 Jinyu China 1 46.9 0.609 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
30 26 Hausa Nigeria 9 43.9 0.570 Afroasiatic
Chadic
31 27 Kannada India 1 43.6 0.566 Dravidian
South
32 Indonesian Indonesia 1 43.4 0.564 Malay Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
33 28 Polish Poland 10 39.7 0.516 Indo-European
Balto-Slavic
29 Pushto (macrolanguage) Pakistan 5 38.2 0.496 Indo-European
Iranian
34 30 Yoruba Nigeria 3 37.8 0.491 Niger–Congo
Volta–Niger
35 Xiang Chinese China 1 37.3 0.484 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
36 31 Malayalam India 2 37.1 0.482 Dravidian
South
32 Oriya (macrolanguage) India 1 37.1 0.482 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
37 Odia India 1 34.5 0.448 Oriya Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
38 33 Maithili India 2 33.9 0.440 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
39 34 Burmese Myanmar 1 32.9 0.427 Sino-Tibetan
Lolo-Burmese
40 35 Eastern Punjabi India 3 32.6 0.423 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
41 36 Sunda Indonesia 1 32.4 0.421 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
42 Sudanese Spoken Arabic Sudan 4 31.9 0.414 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
37 Fulah (macrolanguage) Senegal 19 29.8 0.387 Niger–Congo
Senegambian
38 Uzbek (macrolanguage) Uzbekistan 8 29.5 0.383 Turkic
Karluk
43 Algerian Spoken Arabic Algeria 2 29.4 0.382 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
44 Moroccan Spoken Arabic Morocco 3 27.5 0.357 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
45 39 Ukrainian Ukraine 9 27.3 0.355 Indo-European
Balto-Slavic
46 40 Igbo Nigeria 1 27.0 0.351 Niger–Congo
Volta–Niger
47 Northern Uzbek Uzbekistan 6 25.1 0.326 Uzbek Turkic
Karluk
48 41 Sindhi Pakistan 3 24.6 0.319 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
49 North Levantine Spoken Arabic Syria 5 24.6 0.319 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
50 42 Romanian Romania 6 24.3 0.316 Indo-European
Romance
51 43 Tagalog Philippines 3 23.6 0.306 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
52 44 Dutch Netherlands 7 23.1 0.300 Indo-European
Germanic
45 Azerbaijani (macrolanguage) Iran 8 23.0 0.299 Turkic
Oghuz
53 Saʽidi Spoken Arabic Egypt 1 22.4 0.291 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
46 Kurdish (macrolanguage) Iraq 9 22.1 0.287 Indo-European
Iranian
54 Gan China 1 22.1 0.287 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
55 47 Amharic Ethiopia 2 21.9 0.284 Afroasiatic
Semitic
56 Northern Pashto Pakistan 4 20.9 0.271 Pushto Indo-European
Iranian
57 48 Magahi India 2 20.7 0.269 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
58 49 Thai Thailand 2 20.7 0.269 Kra–Dai
Tai
50 Marwari (macrolanguage) India 3 20.6 0.268 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
59 Saraiki Pakistan 2 20.0 0.260 Lahnda Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
51 Malagasy (macrolanguage) Madagascar 2 18.1 0.235 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
52 Oromo (macrolanguage) Ethiopia 3 17.5 0.227 Afroasiatic
Cushitic
53 Serbo-Croatian (macrolanguage) Serbia 13 17.1 0.222 Indo-European
Balto-Slavic
54 Nepali (macrolanguage) Nepal 3 16.6 0.216 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
60 55 Khmer Cambodia 2 16.6 0.216 Austroasiatic
Khmer
61 56 Chhattisgarhi India 1 16.3 0.212 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
62 57 Somali Somalia 4 16.2 0.210 Afroasiatic
Cushitic
63 Malay Malaysia 3 16.1 0.209 Malay Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
64 58 Cebuano Philippines 1 15.9 0.206 Austronesian
Malayo-Polynesian
65 Nepali Nepal 3 15.8 0.205 Nepali Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
66 Mesopotamian Spoken Arabic Iraq 4 15.7 0.204 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
67 59 Assamese India 1 15.3 0.199 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
68 60 Sinhala Sri Lanka 2 15.3 0.199 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
61 Zhuang (macrolanguage) China 2 14.9 0.194 Kra–Dai
Tai
69 Northern Kurdish Turkey 9 14.6 0.190 Kurdish Indo-European
Iranian
70 Hijazi Spoken Arabic Saudi Arabia 3 14.5 0.188 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
71 Nigerian Fulfulde Nigeria 3 14.5 0.188 Fulah Niger–Congo
Senegambian
72 South Azerbaijani Iran 5 13.8 0.179 Azerbaijani Turkic
Oghuz
73 62 Greek Greece 9 13.1 0.170 Indo-European
Hellenic
74 63 Chittagonian Bangladesh 1 13.0 0.169 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
75 64 Kazakh Kazakhstan 6 12.9 0.168 Turkic
Kipchak
76 65 Deccan India 1 12.8 0.166 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
77 66 Hungarian Hungary 9 12.6 0.164 Uralic
Ugric
78 67 Kinyarwanda Rwanda 3 12.1 0.157 Niger–Congo
Bantu
79 68 Zulu South Africa 5 12.1 0.157 Niger–Congo
Bantu
80 South Levantine Spoken Arabic Jordan 4 11.6 0.151 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
81 Tunisian Spoken Arabic Tunisia 1 11.6 0.151 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
82 Sanaani Spoken Arabic Yemen 1 11.4 0.148 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
83 Min Bei Chinese China 2 11.0 0.143 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
84 Southern Pashto Afghanistan 4 10.9 0.142 Pushto Indo-European
Iranian
85 69 Rundi Burundi 2 10.8 0.140 Niger–Congo
Bantu
86 70 Czech Czechia 8 10.7 0.139 Indo-European
Balto-Slavic
87 Taʽizzi-Adeni Spoken Arabic Yemen 2 10.5 0.136 Arabic Afroasiatic
Semitic
88 71 Uyghur China 4 10.4 0.135 Turkic
Karluk
89 Min Dong Chinese China 6 10.3 0.134 Chinese Sino-Tibetan
Sinitic
90 72 Sylheti Bangladesh 2 10.3 0.134 Indo-European
Indo-Aryan
73 Baluchi (macrolanguage) Pakistan 7 10.0 0.130 Indo-European
Iranian

Nationalencyklopedin (2010)

The following table contains the top 100 languages by estimated number of native speakers in the 2007 edition of the Swedish encyclopedia Nationalencyklopedin. As census methods in different countries vary to a considerable extent, and given that some countries do not record language in their censuses, any list of languages by native speakers, or total speakers, is effectively based on estimates. Updated estimates from 2010 are also provided.[8]

The top eleven languages have additional figures from the 2010 edition of the Nationalencyklopedin. Numbers above 95 million are rounded off to the nearest 5 million.

Top languages by population per Nationalencyklopedin
Rank Language Native
speakers
in millions
2007 (2010)
Percentage
of world
population
(2007)
1 Mandarin (entire branch) 935 (955) 14.1%
2 Spanish 390 (405) 5.85%
3 English 365 (360) 5.52%
4 Hindi[b] 295 (310) 4.46%
5 Arabic 280 (295) 4.23%
6 Portuguese 205 (215) 3.08%
7 Bengali (Bangla) 200 (205) 3.05%
8 Russian 160 (155) 2.42%
9 Japanese 125 (125) 1.92%
10 Punjabi 95 (100) 1.44%
11 German 92 (95) 1.39%
12 Javanese 82 1.25%
13 Wu (inc. Shanghainese) 80 1.20%
14 Malay (inc. Indonesian and Malaysian) 77 1.16%
15 Telugu 76 1.15%
16 Vietnamese 76 1.14%
17 Korean 76 1.14%
18 French 75 1.12%
19 Marathi 73 1.10%
20 Tamil 70 1.06%
21 Urdu 66 0.99%
22 Turkish 63 0.95%
23 Italian 59 0.90%
24 Yue (inc. Cantonese) 59 0.89%
25 Thai 56 0.85%
26 Gujarati 49 0.74%
27 Jin 48 0.72%
28 Southern Min (inc. Hokkien and Teochew) 47 0.71%
29 Persian 45 0.68%
30 Polish 40 0.61%
31 Pashto 39 0.58%
32 Kannada 38 0.58%
33 Xiang 38 0.58%
34 Malayalam 38 0.57%
35 Sundanese 38 0.57%
36 Hausa 34 0.52%
37 Odia (Oriya) 33 0.50%
38 Burmese 33 0.50%
39 Hakka 31 0.46%
40 Ukrainian 30 0.46%
41 Bhojpuri 29[c] 0.43%
42 Tagalog (Filipino) 28 0.42%
43 Yoruba 28 0.42%
44 Maithili 27[c] 0.41%
45 Uzbek 26 0.39%
46 Sindhi 26 0.39%
47 Amharic 25 0.37%
48 Fula 24 0.37%
49 Romanian 24 0.37%
50 Oromo 24 0.36%
51 Igbo 24 0.36%
52 Azerbaijani 23 0.34%
53 Awadhi 22[c] 0.33%
54 Gan 22 0.33%
55 Cebuano (Visayan) 21 0.32%
56 Dutch 21 0.32%
57 Kurdish 21 0.31%
58 Serbo-Croatian 19 0.28%
59 Malagasy 18 0.28%
60 Saraiki 17[d] 0.26%
61 Nepali 17 0.25%
62 Sinhalese 16 0.25%
63 Chittagonian 16 0.24%
64 Zhuang 16 0.24%
65 Khmer 16 0.24%
66 Turkmen 16 0.24%
67 Assamese 15 0.23%
68 Madurese 15 0.23%
69 Somali 15 0.22%
70 Marwari 14[c] 0.21%
71 Magahi 14[c] 0.21%
72 Haryanvi 14[c] 0.21%
73 Hungarian 13 0.19%
74 Chhattisgarhi 12[c] 0.19%
75 Greek 12 0.18%
76 Chewa 12 0.17%
77 Deccan 11 0.17%
78 Akan 11 0.17%
79 Kazakh 11 0.17%
80 Northern Min[disputed ] 10.9 0.16%
81 Sylheti 10.7 0.16%
82 Zulu 10.4 0.16%
83 Czech 10.0 0.15%
84 Kinyarwanda 9.8 0.15%
85 Dhundhari 9.6[c] 0.15%
86 Haitian Creole 9.6 0.15%
87 Eastern Min (inc. Fuzhou dialect) 9.5 0.14%
88 Ilocano 9.1 0.14%
89 Quechua 8.9 0.13%
90 Kirundi 8.8 0.13%
91 Swedish 8.7 0.13%
92 Hmong 8.4 0.13%
93 Shona 8.3 0.13%
94 Uyghur 8.2 0.12%
95 Hiligaynon/Ilonggo (Visayan) 8.2 0.12%
96 Mossi 7.6 0.11%
97 Xhosa 7.6 0.11%
98 Belarusian 7.6[e] 0.11%
99 Balochi 7.6 0.11%
100 Konkani 7.4 0.11%
Total 5,610 85%

Charts and graphs

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ethnologue counts some dependent territories as countries in its tallies.
  2. ^ Refers to only Modern Standard Hindi here. The Census of India defines Hindi on a loose and broad basis. It does not include the entire Hindustani language, only the Hindi register of it. 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 of 2001.[9] However, the census also acknowledges Standard Hindi, the above mentioned languages and others as separate mother tongues of the Hindi language and provides individual figures for all these languages.[9]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h This is only a fraction of total speakers; others are counted under "Hindi" as they regard their language a Hindi dialect.
  4. ^ Numbers may also be counted in Punjabi above
  5. ^ Only half this many use Belarusian as their home language.

References

  1. ^ a b Paolillo, John C.; Das, Anupam (31 March 2006). "Evaluating language statistics: the Ethnologue and beyond" (PDF). UNESCO Institute of Statistics. pp. 3–5. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  2. ^ Chambers, J.K.; Trudgill, Peter (1998). Dialectology (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59646-6.
  3. ^ Kaye, Alan S.; Rosenhouse, Judith (1997). "Arabic Dialects and Maltese". In Hetzron, Robert (ed.). The Semitic Languages. Routledge. pp. 263–311. ISBN 978-0-415-05767-7.
  4. ^ Norman, Jerry (2003). "The Chinese dialects: phonology". In Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J. (eds.). The Sino-Tibetan languages. Routledge. pp. 72–83. ISBN 978-0-7007-1129-1.
  5. ^ Crystal, David (1988). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-521-26438-9.
  6. ^ a b "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 12 March 2019. For items below #26, see individual Ethnologue entry for each language.
  7. ^ "World Population Clock: 7.7 Billion People (2019) - Worldometers". www.worldometers.info. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin. Asterisks mark the 2010 estimates for the top dozen languages.
  9. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  10. ^ Summary by language size

External links

  • The Ethnologue's most recent list of languages by number of speakers
  • Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People (Archived 2009-10-31) – Encarta list, based on data from Ethnologue, but some figures (e.g. for Arabic) widely vary from it
  • Map of World Languages. Download of MP3 audio files in 1600 language combinations.
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