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List of languages by number of native speakers

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]

Contents

Top languages by population

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.[6]

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 (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[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 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[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.[7] 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.[7]
  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. 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. 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 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.
  7. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  8. ^ Summary by language size

External links