Friday, February 26, 2010

Classification of Languages

The languages of the world can be classified into different families. The most famous language family is undoubtedly the Indo-European. It is also the one which has been most extensively studied. However, the languages of the world include many other families.

The Indo-European language family can be subdivided into many smaller families. Other familes of the Indo-European include the Romance, Germanic, Balto-Slavic and Greek. The Greek family consists of only one language, Greek. The Germanic language family is a larger one which includes English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faeroese.

The Indo-European language family has not only European languages but also languages spoken in India, Iran and other countries of Asia. These are the Indo-Iranian languages. Persian, also known as Farsi, is an Indo-Iranian language which is further divided into the Iranian language family. Languages such as Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali are further divided into the Indo-Aryan language family. Thus the Indo-Aryan and Iranian languages are branches of the Indo-Iranian language family.

Though they are European languages, Finnish and Hungarian do not belong to the Indo-European language family. They are classified as Uralic languages and are subdivided into the Finno-Ugric language family.

The Austroasiatic languages, spoken in southeastern Asia, are one of the world's largest language families. Languages which belong to this group include Thai, Lao and Vietnamese. The Sino-Tibetan languages also have many speakers. As the name suggests, Chinese and Tibetan belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family.

Other large language families are the Afroasiatic, Dravidian and Turkic. One branch of the Afroasiatic languages is the Semitic which includes languages such as Hebrew, Arabic and Amharic. The Dravidian language family has languages which are primarily spoken in southern India. These languages include Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. The Turkic languages are spoken over a wide area. The most widely-spoken Turkic language is Turkish but other languages include Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Tatar, Chuvash and Tuvan.

The Basque language, though it is located in Europe, is not classified as an Indo-European language. In fact, the language is a mystery for linguists. As a result, it is considered a language isolate. In the case of Japanese and Korea, the classification is unclear. Some linguists believe Japanese and Korea are related while others do not. Others include the two as languages of the Altaic language family or only Korean as Altaic and Japanese as a language isolate. Thus language classification is often problematic.

The languages of the world can be classified into various language families. In some cases, the classification is either unclear or the language is a language isolate as in the case of Basque. Nevertheless, many of the world's languages belong to large language families such as the Indo-European, Afroasiatic and Austro-Asiatic.

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