Classification of Languages - Introduction to Linguistics - The Scientific Study of Language

Classification of Languages

Indo-European family of languages

  • Italic / Latin
    • Romance
      • Catalan
      • French
      • Italian
      • Occitan / Provençal
      • Portuguese
      • Rhaeto-Romansch
      • Romanian
      • Spanish
  • Germanic
    • North Germanic
      • Danish
      • Faroese
      • Icelandic
      • Norwegian
      • Swedish
    • East Germanic
      • Gothic (extinct)
    • West Germanic
      • Afrikaans
      • Dutch
      • English
      • Flemish
      • Frisian
      • German
      • Yiddish
  • Slavic
    • Western
      • Czech
      • Polish
      • Slovak
      • Sorbian
    • Eastern
      • Belarusian
      • Russian
      • Ukrainian
    • Southern
      • Bulgarian
      • Croatian
      • Macedonian
      • Old Church Slavonic
      • Serbian
      • Slovene
  • Baltic
    • Latvian
    • Lithuanian
    • Old Prussian (extinct)
  • Celtic
    • Brythonic
      • Breton
      • Cornish (extinct)
      • Gaulish (extinct)
      • Welsh
    • Goidelic
      • Irish
      • Manx Gaelic (extinct)
      • Scots Gaelic
  • Hellenic / Greek
  • Albanian
  • Armenian
  • Anatolian (extinct)
  • Tocharian (extinct)
  • Indo-Iranian
    • Indo-Aryan (Indic)
      • Assamese
      • Bengali
      • Bihari
      • Gujarati
      • Hindi-Urdu
      • Marathi
      • Punjabi
      • Romani
      • Sanskrit
      • Sindhi
      • Singhalese
    • Iranian
      • Avestan
      • Balochi
      • Farsi / Persian
      • Kurdish
      • Pashtu / Afghan
      • Sogdian

Uralic (or Finno-Ugric) is the other major family of languages spoken on the European continent. Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian are examples.

Afro-Asiatic languages are spoken in Northern Africa and the Middle East. They include Berber, Egyptian, Omotic and Cushitic languages (Somali, Iraqw) as well as the modern Semitic  languages of Hebrew, Arabic and Amharic, in addition to languages spoken in biblical times, such as Aramaic, Akkadian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Phoenician.

The Altaic languages are classified as Japanese and Korean, though some linguists separate these languages into their own groups.

Sino-Tibetan languages include Mandarin, Hakka, Wu, Burmese, Tibetan, and all of the Chinese “dialects.”

Austro-tai languages include Indonesian, Javanese and Thai; while the Asiatic group includes Vietnamese.

The Dravidian languages of Tamil and Telugu are spoken in southeastern India and Sri Lanka.

The Caucasian language family consists of 40 different languages, and is divided into Cartvelian (south Caucasian), North-West Caucasian and North-East Caucasian language groups. Some languages are Georgian, Megrelian, Chechen, Ingush Avarian, Lezgian and Dargin. These languages are mostly spoken in Georgia, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan and parts of the Russian federation.

The Niger-Congo family includes most of the African languages. About 1,500 languages belong to this group, including the Bantu languages of Swahili, Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu, Kikuyu, and Shona. Other languages are Ewe, Mina, Yoruba, Igbo, Wolof, Kordofanian and Fulfulde.

Other African language groups are Nilo-Saharan, which includes 200 languages spoken in Central and Eastern Africa; and Khoisan, the click languages of southern Africa. The Khoisan group only contains about 30 languages, most of which are spoken in Namibia and Botswana.

The Austronesian family includes about 900 languages, mostly spoken in the South Pacific and Asia. Hawaiian, Maori, Tagalog, and Malay are all representatives of this language family.

Many Amerindian languages are, or were, spoken in North and South America by the indigenous populations before European colonization. Knowledge of these languages is somewhat limited, and sadly many of these languages are endangered and may die out over the next 50 to 100 years.

You may also be interested in:

Dr. Jennifer Wagner

PhD in Applied Linguistics, ESL/French teacher, author of two French books, and helping others to learn languages online at