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Of the many language families of Asia, Indo-European (purple, blue, and medium green) and Sino-Tibetan (chartreuse and pink) dominate numerically, while Altaic families (grey, bright green, and maroon) occupy large areas geographically. Regionally dominant families are Japonic in Japan, Austronesian in the Malay Archipelago (dark red), Kadai and Mon–Khmer in Southeast Asia (azure and peach), Dravidian in South India (khaki), Turkic in Central Asia (grey), and Semitic in the Mideast (orange).

There is a wide variety of "languages spoken throughout "Asia, comprising different language families and some unrelated isolates. The major language families spoken on the continent include "Altaic, "Austroasiatic, "Austronesian, "Caucasian, "Dravidian, "Indo-European, "Semitic, "Siberian, "Sino-Tibetan and "Tai-Kadai. They usually have a long tradition of writing, but not always.


Language groups[edit]

Ethnolinguistic distribution in Central/Southwest Asia of the "Altaic, "Caucasian, "Afroasiatic (Hamito-Semitic) and "Indo-European families.

The major families in terms of numbers are "Indo-European and "Dravidian in South Asia and "Sino-Tibetan in East Asia. Several other families are regionally dominant.


Sino-Tibetan includes "Chinese, "Tibetan, "Burmese, "Karen and numerous languages of the Tibetan Plateau, southern China, Burma, and North east India.


The "Indo-European languages are primarily represented by the "Indo-Iranian branch. The family includes both "Indic languages ("Hindi, "Urdu, "Bengali, "Punjabi, "Kashmiri, "Marathi, "Gujarati, "Sinhalese and other languages spoken primarily in "South Asia) and "Iranian ("Persian, "Kurdish, "Pashto, "Balochi and other languages spoken primarily in Iran, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of South Asia). In addition, other branches of "Indo-European spoken in Asia include the "Slavic branch, which includes "Russian in "Siberia; "Greek around the "Black Sea; and "Armenian; as well as extinct languages such as "Hittite of Anatolia and "Tocharian of (Chinese) Turkestan.

Altaic families[edit]

A number of smaller, but important language families spread across central and northern Asia have long been linked in an as-yet unproven Altaic family. These are the "Turkic languages, "Mongolic languages, "Tungusic languages (including "Manchu), "Korean, and "Japonic languages. Speakers of "Turkish ("Anatolian Turks) are believed to have adopted the language, having instead originally spoken the "Anatolian languages, an extinct group of languages belonging to the Indo-European family.[1]


The Mon–Khmer languages ("Austroasiatic languages) are the oldest family in Asia. They include "Vietnamese and "Khmer (Cambodian).


The "Tai-Kadai languages (or just Kadai) of southern China spread in historic times into Southeast Asia, where "Thai (Siamese) and "Lao are official languages.


The "Austronesian languages include the "languages of the Philippines and most of the "languages of Indonesia (excluding inland New Guinea), such as "Malay (Indonesian) and "Tagalog (Filipino).


The Dravidian languages of southern India and parts of Sri Lanka include "Tamil, "Kannada, "Telugu, and "Malayalam, while smaller languages such as "Gondi and "Brahui are spoken in central India and Pakistan respectively.


The "Afroasiatic languages (Hamito-Semitic) are presently represented by the "Semitic branch spoken in "Southwest Asia. It includes "Arabic, "Hebrew and "Aramaic, in addition to extinct languages such as "Akkadian. The "Modern South Arabian languages contain a "substratum influence from the "Cushitic branch of Afroasiatic, which suggests that Cushitic speakers originally inhabited the Arabian Peninsula alongside Semitic speakers.[2]

Siberian families[edit]

Besides the Altaic families already mentioned (of which Tungusic is today a minor family of Siberia), there are a number of small language families and isolates spoken across northern Asia. These include the "Uralic languages of western Siberia (better known for Hungarian and Finnish in Europe), the "Yeniseian languages ("linked to Turkic and to the Athabaskan languages of North America), "Yukaghir, "Nivkh of Sakhalin, "Ainu of northern Japan, "Chukotko-Kamchatkan in easternmost Siberia, and—just barely—"Eskimo–Aleut. Some linguists have noted that the "Koreanic languages share more similarities with the "Paleosiberian languages than with the "Altaic languages. The extinct "Ruan-ruan language of Mongolia is unclassified, and does not show genetic relationships with any other known language family.

Caucasian families[edit]

Three small families are spoken in the "Caucasus: "Kartvelian languages, such as "Georgian; "Northeast Caucasian (Dagestanian languages), such as "Chechen; and "Northwest Caucasian, such as "Circassian. The latter two may be related to each other. The extinct "Hurro-Urartian languages may be related as well.

Small families of Southern Asia[edit]

Although dominated by major languages and families, there are number of minor families and isolates in "South Asia & "Southeast Asia. From west to east, these include:

Creoles and pidgins[edit]

The eponymous "pidgin ("business") language developed with European trade in China. Of the many creoles to have developed, the most spoken today are "Chavacano, a "Spanish-based creole of the Philippines, and various "Malay-based creoles such as "Manado Malay influenced by "Portuguese. A very well-known Portuguese-based creole is the "Kristang, which is spoken in "Malacca, a city-state in "Malaysia.

Sign languages[edit]

A number of sign languages are spoken throughout Asia. These include the "Japanese Sign Language family, "Chinese Sign Language, "Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, as well as a number of small indigenous sign languages of countries such as "Nepal, "Thailand, and "Vietnam. Many official sign languages are part of the "French Sign Language family.

Official languages[edit]

Asia and Europe are the only two continents where most countries use native languages as their "official languages, though English is also widespread.

Language Native name Speakers Language Family Official Status in a Country Official Status in a Region
"Abkhaz Aԥсшәа 240,000 "Northwest Caucasian  "Abkhazia  "Georgia
"Arabic العَرَبِيَّة 230,000,000 "Afro-Asiatic  "Qatar,  "Jordan,  "Saudi Arabia,  "Iraq,  "Yemen,  "Kuwait,  "Bahrain,  "Syria,  "Palestine(observer state),  "Lebanon,  "Oman,  "UAE,  "Israel
"Armenian հայերեն 5,902,970 "Indo-European  "Armenia,  "Nagorno-Karabakh
"Assamese অসমীয়া 15,000,000 "Indo-European  "India (in "Assam)
"Azerbaijani Azərbaycanca 37,324,060 "Turkic  "Azerbaijan  "Iran
"Bangla বাংলা 230,000,000 "Indo-European  "Bangladesh  "India (in "West Bengal, "Tripura, "Assam, "Andaman and Nicobar islands and "Jharkhand)
"Bodo Boro 1,984,569 "Sino-Tibetan  "India (in "Bodoland)
"Burmese မြန်မာစာ 33,000,000 "Sino-Tibetan  "Myanmar
"Cantonese 廣東話/广东话 7,877,900 "Sino-Tibetan  "China (in  "Hong Kong and  "Macau
"Chinese 普通話/普通话,國語/国语,華語/华语 "Sino-Tibetan  "China,  "Taiwan,  "Singapore
"Dari دری 19,600,000 "Indo-European  "Afghanistan
"Dhivehi ދިވެހި 400,000 "Indo-European  "Maldives
"Dzongkha རྫོང་ཁ་ 600,000 "Sino-Tibetan  "Bhutan
"English English 301,625,412 "Indo-European  "Philippines,  "Singapore,  "India,  "Pakistan  "China (in  "Hong Kong)
"Filipino Wikang Filipino 90,000,000 "Austronesian  "Philippines
"Formosan 171,855 "Austronesian  "Taiwan
"Georgian ქართული 4,200,000 "Kartvelian  "Georgia
"Gujarati ગુજરાતી 50,000,000 "Indo-European  "India (in "Gujarat, "Daman and Diu and "Dadra and Nagar Haveli)
"Hakka 臺灣客家語 2,370,000 "Sino-Tibetan  "Taiwan
"Hebrew עברית 7,000,000 "Afro-Asiatic  "Israel
"Hindi हिन्दी 550,000,000 "Indo-European  "India
"Indonesian Bahasa Indonesia 240,000,000 "Austronesian  "Indonesia  "East Timor (as a working language)
"Japanese 日本語 120,000,000 "Japonic  "Japan
"Kannada ಕನ್ನಡ 51,000,000 "Dravidian  "India (in "Karnataka)
"Karen ကညီကျိး 6,000,000 "Sino-Tibetan  "Myanmar (in "Kayin State)
"Kazakh Қазақша 18,000,000 "Turkic  "Kazakhstan  "Russia
"Khmer ភាសាខ្មែរ 14,000,000 "Austroasiatic  "Cambodia
"Korean 한국어/조선말 80,000,000 "Koreanic  "South Korea,  "North Korea  "China (in "Yanbian and "Changbai)
"Kurdish Kurdî/کوردی 20,000,000 "Indo-European  "Iraq  "Iran
"Kyrgyz кыргызча 2,900,000 "Turkic  "Kyrgyzstan
"Lao ພາສາລາວ 7,000,000 "Tai-Kadai  "Laos
"Malay Bahasa Melayu/بهاس ملايو 30,000,000 "Austronesian  "Malaysia,  "Brunei,  "Singapore
"Malayalam മലയാളം 33,000,000 "Dravidian  "India (in "Kerala, "Lakshadweep and "Mahe)
"Marathi मराठी 73,000,000 "Indo-European  "India (in "Maharashtra and "Dadra and Nagar Haveli)
"Mongolian Монгол хэлᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ
2,000,000 "Mongolic  "Mongolia  "China (in "Inner Mongolia)
"Nepali नेपाली 29,000,000 "Indo-European    "Nepal  "India (in "Sikkim and "West Bengal)
"Odia ଓଡ଼ିଆ 33,000,000 "Indo-European  "India (in "Odisha and "Jharkhand)
"Ossetian Ирон 540,000 (50,000 in South Ossetia) "Indo-European  "South Ossetia  "Russia (in  "North Ossetia–Alania )
"Pashto پښتو 45,000,000 "Indo-European  "Afghanistan  "Pakistan
"Persian فارسی 50,000,000 "Indo-European  "Iran
"Punjabi پنجابی / ਪੰਜਾਬੀ 100,000,000 "Indo-European  "India (in "Punjab, India, "Haryana, "Delhi and "Chandigarh)  "Pakistan (in "Punjab, Pakistan)
"Portuguese Português 1,200,000 "Indo-European  "Timor Leste  "China (in  "Macau)
"Russian Русский 260,000,000 "Indo-European  "Abkhazia,  "Kazakhstan,  "Kyrgyzstan,  "Russia,  "South Ossetia  "Uzbekistan,  "Tajikistan (as an inter-ethnic language),  "Turkmenistan (as an inter-ethnic language)
"Saraiki سرائیکی 18,179,610 "Indo-European  "Pakistan (in "Bahawalpur )  "India (in "Andhra Pradesh )
"Sinhala සිංහල 18,000,000 "Indo-European  "Sri Lanka
"Tamil தமிழ் 77,000,000 "Dravidian  "Sri Lanka,  "Singapore  "India (in "Tamil Nadu, "Andaman and Nicobar islands and "Puducherry)
"Telugu తెలుగు 79,000,000 "Dravidian  "India (in "Andhra Pradesh, "Telangana, "Andaman and Nicobar islands, "Puducherry)
"Tajik тоҷикӣ 7,900,000 "Indo-European  "Tajikistan
"Tetum Lia-Tetun 500,000 "Austronesian  "Timor Leste
"Thai ภาษาไทย 60,000,000 "Tai-Kadai  "Thailand
"Tulu ತುಳು 1,722,768 "Dravidian  "India (in "Mangalore, "Udupi, "Kasargod, "Mumbai)
"Turkish Türkçe 70,000,000 "Turkic  "Turkey,  "Cyprus,  "Northern Cyprus
"Turkmen Türkmençe 7,000,000 "Turkic  "Turkmenistan
"Urdu اُردُو 62,120,540 "Indo-European  "Pakistan  "India (in "Jammu and Kashmir, "Telangana, "Delhi, "Bihar and "Uttar Pradesh)
"Uzbek Oʻzbekcha 25,000,000 "Turkic  "Uzbekistan
"Vietnamese Tiếng Việt 80,000,000 "Austroasiatic  "Vietnam

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Z. Rosser et al. (2000). "Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Europe is Clinal and Influenced Primarily by Geography, Rather than by Language" (PDF). American Journal of Human Genetics. 67 (6): 1526–1543. "doi:10.1086/316890. "PMC 1287948Freely accessible. "PMID 11078479. 
  2. ^ Blažek, Václav. "Afroasiatic Migrations: Linguistic Evidence" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2017. 
  3. ^ Blench, Roger. 2015. The Mijiic languages: distribution, dialects, wordlist and classification. m.s.
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