Language - Linguistic Diversity

Linguistic Diversity

See also: List of languages and List of languages by number of speakers
Language Native speakers
(in mil.)
Mandarin 845
Spanish 329
English 328
Arabic languages 221
Hindi 182
Bengali 181
Portuguese 178
Russian 144
Japanese 122
German 90,3

A "living language" is simply one which is in wide use as a primary form of communication by a specific group of living people. The exact number of known living languages varies from 6,000 to 7,000, depending on the precision of one's definition of "language", and in particular on how one defines the distinction between languages and dialects. As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6909 living human languages. The Ethnologue establishes linguistic groups based on studies of mutual intelligibility, and therefore often include more categories than more conservative classifications. For example the Danish language that most scholars consider a single language with several dialects, is classified as three distinct languages by the Ethnologue.

The Ethnologue is also sometimes criticized for using cumulative data gathered over many decades, meaning that exact speaker numbers are frequently out of date, and some languages classified as living may have already become extinct. According to the Ethnologue 389 (or nearly 6%) languages have more than a million speakers. These languages together account for 94% of the world’s population, whereas 94% of the world's languages account for the remaining 6% of the global population. To the right is a table of the world's 10 most spoken languages with population estimates from the Ethnologue (2009 figures).

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