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In historical linguistics, a macrofamily, also called a superfamily or phylum, is a proposed genetic relationship grouping together language families (also isolates) in a larger scale classification.[1][2] However, Campbell[3] regards this term as superfluous, preferring "language family" for those classifications for which there is consensus and "distant genetic relationship" for those for which there is no, or not yet, consensus, whether due to lack of documentation or scholarship of the constituent languages, or to an estimated time depth thought by many linguists to be too great for reconstruction.[citation needed]

More rarely, the term has also been applied to an exceptionally large language family, such as Afro-Asiatic.[4]

Examples of proposed macro-families[1][5] range from relatively recent such as Macro-Jê, Macro-Waikurúan, Macro-Mayan, Macro-Siouan, Penutian, Na-Dene or Congo-Saharan (Niger-Saharan) to older ones such as Austric, Dené–Caucasian, Eurasiatic, Nostratic or Ural-Altaic.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Campbell, Lyle and Mixco, Mauricio J. (2007), A Glossary of Historical Linguistics, University of Utah Press/Edinburgh University Press.
  2. ^ Matthews, P.H. (2007), Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics, Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Campbell, Lyle (2004), Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, Edinburgh University Press.
  4. ^ Diakonoff, Igor M. (1996), "Some reflections on the Afrasian linguistic macrofamily." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 55, 293–294.
  5. ^ Trask, R.L. (2000), The Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics, Edinburgh University Press.