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Language Families

[deactivated user]

    I came across an interesting image that will come handy for those looking for connections between languages and will eventually help some picking their next linguistic endeavour:


    January 10, 2018



    The fact that Sámi is a tiny little branch like Ossetian and Romani utterly triggers me. Same with Romani. /s


    It's only the two main families (Indo-European and Uralic) of languages spoken in Europe.

    There are many other families in the world. In Europe alone you also have Turkish languages (Turkish, Azeri, Kazakh, …), Basque (an isolate, not related to any other language) and Georgian (Karvelian languages with other minor languages spoken mainly in Georgia).

    Languages taught in Duolingo (from English) not in this image are Turkish, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Swahili and of course High Valyrian (I think we can classify Esperanto as an Indo-European language). Each are in a different language family.

    Excepted those eight languages and Hungarian, all the other languages taught in Duolingo (from English) are Indo-European (so 18 Indo-European languages if you count Esperanto as Indo-European).


    I did a little poking around and it seems like it is unclear whether Esperanto should be clasified as I-E, citing the grammar as being influenced by I-E but is clearly a new construction. Interestingly there is a move to bring back reconstructed proto-Indo-European as a universal language.


    Yes, I put it in Indo-European because the vocabulary is 99% (at least) of Indo-European origin (or more exactly, from languages in the Indo-European family).

    But yes, the grammar is a new construction only influenced by Indo-European languages (and maybe nearer to Finno-Ugric languages).

    [deactivated user]

      There are quite some more language trees images on the Internet but most are Western-centric as you would expect.

      I found this one to have the better compromise between looks and depth. I'm not a linguist so I cannot comment on its eventual flaws. :)

      [deactivated user]

        Are those constellations? j/k

        Pretty nice too.


        They are grouped by families and sub-families and the distance between two languages is the lexical distance (so similarities in the vocabulary only — grammar is not at all a parameter in this graph).

        [deactivated user]

          I was kidding.

          That's quite an interesting if intricate graph.


          Any idea how all those numbers are computed?


          How come they have to lump all the Gaelic (Scottish, Irish and Manx) together?

          Still an interesting pic though.


          I am just amazed that Bavarian takes its own place deriving from the Germanic branch. That is interesting. But I missed Low German which is/was mainly spoken in the north. I had a friend who could speak it and she used it when working in an old people's home as there were some elders who still spoke it.

          • 1287

          Low German is there - right next to the Anglo-Frisian branch. I'm quite surprised it seems to become its own branch even earlier than Bavarian.


          I imagine that might have to do with things like this.


          It is official now! I need new glasses... Thank you, I can see it now. ;-)


          How did your friend learn Low German? There are still elderly folk in the U.S. upper Midwest who had it as a first language, but that probably won't be the case much longer.


          She grew up near Hamburg and her folk spoke Low German at home. It was quite handy for her when she started working in an old people's home there. But I met her after she moved to Bavaria following her boyfriend. In the beginning she hardly understood Bavarian speakers but she learnt pretty fast. At least the one dialect which was spoken there. Never mind you often can't leave one village / town without encountering another dialect. ;*-)


          The image may not be comprehensive, but it is great for what it is, and it’s quite beautiful. You buy prints of it, too:


          (Note: I have nothing to do with the image or the sales.)

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