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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 because of a shared culture and common literary language.[4] 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.[5]

There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time because of 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.[6]

Top languages by population

Ethnologue (2019, 22nd edition)

The following 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.[7]

Languages with at least 10 million first-language speakers[7]
Rank Language Speakers
(millions)
Percentage
of world pop.
(March 2019)[8]
Language family Branch
1 Mandarin Chinese 918 11.922% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
2 Spanish 480 5.994% Indo-European Romance
3 English 379 4.922% Indo-European Germanic
4 Portuguese 346 4.450% Indo-European Romance
5 Hindi (sanskritised Hindustani)[9] 341 4.429% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
6 Bengali 228 2.961% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
7 Russian 154 2.000% Indo-European Balto-Slavic
8 Japanese 128 1.662% Japonic Japanese
9 Western Punjabi[10] 92.7 1.204% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
10 Marathi 83.1 1.079% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
11 Telugu 82.0 1.065% Dravidian South-Central
12 Wu Chinese 81.4 1.057% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
13 Turkish 79.4 1.031% Turkic Oghuz
14 Korean 77.3 1.004% Koreanic language isolate
15 French 77.2 1.003% Indo-European Romance
16 German (only Standard German) 76.1 0.988% Indo-European Germanic
17 Vietnamese 76.0 0.987% Austroasiatic Vietic
18 Tamil 75.0 0.974% Dravidian South
19 Yue Chinese 73.1 0.949% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
20 Urdu (persianised Hindustani)[9] 68.6 0.891% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
21 Javanese 68.3 0.887% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
22 Italian 64.8 0.842% Indo-European Romance
23 Egyptian Arabic 64.6 0.839% Afroasiatic Semitic
24 Gujarati 56.4 0.732% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
25 Iranian Persian 52.8 0.686% Indo-European Iranian
26 Bhojpuri 52.2 0.678% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
27 Min Nan Chinese 50.1 0.651% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
28 Hakka Chinese 48.2 0.626% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
29 Jin Chinese 46.9 0.609% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
30 Hausa 43.9 0.570% Afroasiatic Chadic
31 Kannada 43.6 0.566% Dravidian South
32 Indonesian (Indonesian Malay) 43.4 0.564% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
33 Polish 39.7 0.516% Indo-European Balto-Slavic
34 Yoruba 37.8 0.491% Niger–Congo Volta–Niger
35 Xiang Chinese 37.3 0.484% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
36 Malayalam 37.1 0.482% Dravidian South
37 Odia 34.5 0.448% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
38 Maithili 33.9 0.440% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
39 Burmese 32.9 0.427% Sino-Tibetan Lolo-Burmese
40 Eastern Punjabi[10] 32.6 0.423% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
41 Sunda 32.4 0.421% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
42 Sudanese Arabic 31.9 0.414% Afroasiatic Semitic
43 Algerian Arabic 29.4 0.382% Afroasiatic Semitic
44 Moroccan Arabic 27.5 0.357% Afroasiatic Semitic
45 Ukrainian 27.3 0.355% Indo-European Balto-Slavic
46 Igbo 27.0 0.351% Niger–Congo Volta–Niger
47 Northern Uzbek 25.1 0.326% Turkic Karluk
48 Sindhi 24.6 0.319% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
49 North Levantine Arabic 24.6 0.319% Afroasiatic Semitic
50 Romanian 24.3 0.316% Indo-European Romance
51 Tagalog 23.6 0.306% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
52 Dutch 23.1 0.300% Indo-European Germanic
53 Saʽidi Arabic 22.4 0.291% Afroasiatic Semitic
54 Gan Chinese 22.1 0.287% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
55 Amharic 21.9 0.284% Afroasiatic Semitic
56 Northern Pashto 20.9 0.271% Indo-European Iranian
57 Magahi 20.7 0.269% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
58 Thai 20.7 0.269% Kra–Dai Tai
59 Saraiki 20.0 0.260% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
60 Khmer 16.6 0.216% Austroasiatic Khmer
61 Chhattisgarhi 16.3 0.212% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
62 Somali 16.2 0.210% Afroasiatic Cushitic
63 Malaysian (Malaysian Malay) 16.1 0.209% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
64 Cebuano 15.9 0.206% Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
65 Nepali 15.8 0.205% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
66 Mesopotamian Arabic 15.7 0.204% Afroasiatic Semitic
67 Assamese 15.3 0.199% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
68 Sinhalese 15.3 0.199% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
69 Northern Kurdish 14.6 0.190% Indo-European Iranian
70 Hejazi Arabic 14.5 0.188% Afroasiatic Semitic
71 Nigerian Fulfulde 14.5 0.188% Niger–Congo Senegambian
72 Bavarian 14.1 0.183% Indo-European Germanic
73 South Azerbaijani 13.8 0.179% Turkic Oghuz
74 Greek 13.1 0.170% Indo-European Hellenic
75 Chittagonian 13.0 0.169% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
76 Kazakh 12.9 0.168% Turkic Kipchak
77 Deccan 12.8 0.166% Indo-European Indo-Aryan
78 Hungarian 12.6 0.164% Uralic Ugric
79 Kinyarwanda 12.1 0.157% Niger–Congo Bantu
80 Zulu 12.1 0.157% Niger–Congo Bantu
81 South Levantine Arabic 11.6 0.151% Afroasiatic Semitic
82 Tunisian Arabic 11.6 0.151% Afroasiatic Semitic
83 Sanaani Spoken Arabic 11.4 0.148% Afroasiatic Semitic
84 Min Bei Chinese 11.0 0.143% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
85 Southern Pashto 10.9 0.142% Indo-European Iranian
86 Rundi 10.8 0.140% Niger–Congo Bantu
87 Czech 10.7 0.139% Indo-European Balto-Slavic
88 Taʽizzi-Adeni Arabic 10.5 0.136% Afroasiatic Semitic
89 Uyghur 10.4 0.135% Turkic Karluk
90 Min Dong Chinese 10.3 0.134% Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
91 Sylheti 10.3 0.134% Indo-European Indo-Aryan

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.[11]

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[a] 295 (310) 4.46%
5 Arabic 280 (295) 4.23%
6 Portuguese 205 (215) 3.08%
7 Bengali 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[b] 0.43%
42 Tagalog (Filipino) 28 0.42%
43 Yoruba 28 0.42%
44 Maithili 27[b] 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[b] 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[c] 0.26%
61 Nepali 17 0.25%
62 Sinhala 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[b] 0.21%
71 Magahi 14[b] 0.21%
72 Haryanvi 14[b] 0.21%
73 Hungarian 13 0.19%
74 Chhattisgarhi 12[b] 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[b] 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[d] 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. ^ 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.[12] 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.[12]
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Numbers may also be counted in Punjabi above
  4. ^ 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 (1988). Chinese. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-521-29653-3.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Crystal, David (1988). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-521-26438-9.
  7. ^ a b "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 12 March 2019. For items below #26, see individual Ethnologue entry for each language.
  8. ^ "World Population Clock: 7.7 Billion People (2019) - Worldometers". www.worldometers.info. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b Hindi and Urdu are often classified as standardized registers of a single Hindustani language.
  10. ^ a b Defined at the national border with different writing systems rather than by language
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  13. ^ Summary by language size

External links