List of languages by total number of speakers

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A number of sources have compiled lists of languages by their number of speakers. However, all such lists should be used with caution.

  • First, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. For example, some languages including Chinese and Arabic are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Similarly, Hindi is sometimes considered a single language or a family including Mewari, Chhattisgarhi, Bhojpuri etc., but together with Urdu it also is often considered a single language Hindustani.
  • Second, there is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. For example, English has about 400 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.[1]

Ethnologue (2015, 18th edition)

The following languages are listed as having 50 million or more native speakers in the 2015 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International based in the US.[2] Speaker totals are generally not reliable, as they add together estimates from different dates and (usually uncited) sources; language information is not collected on most national censuses.

Rank Language Family L1 speakers L1 Rank L2 speakers Total
1 Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 899 million 1 178 million 1051 million
2 English Indo-European, Germanic 500 million 3 510 million 1010 million
3 Hindustani (Hindi / Urdu)[Note 1] Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 438 million 4 214 million 652 million
4 Spanish Indo-European, Romance 500 million 2 70 million 570 million
5 Arabic Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 290 million (2017) 5 132 million 422 million[5]
6 Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian) Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 77 million (no date) 15 204 million 281 million[6]
7 Russian Indo-European, Slavic 160 million (2010) 8 115 million (2010) 275 million
8 French Indo-European, Romance 80 million (2015) 14 192 million (2015) 272 million[7]
9 Portuguese Indo-European, Romance 230 million (2010) 6 32 million (2010) 262 million
10 Bengali Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 226 million (2011) 7 19 million in Bangladesh (2011) 245 million
11 German Indo-European, Germanic 95 million (2014) 11 10—15 million 105—110 million
12 Hausa Afro-Asiatic, Chadic 85 million[8] 12 65 million 150 million[8]
13 Punjabi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 146 million[9] 9  ? 147 million
14 Japanese Japonic 130 million 10 1 million (2010)[10] 130 million
15 Persian Indo-European, Iraan-Aryan 60 million (2009) 25 61 million[11] 121 million[11]
16 Swahili Niger–Congo language, Coastal Tanzanian, Bantu 16 million  ? 82 million 98 million
17 Telugu Dravidian 80 million (2011) 13 12 million in India (2011) 92 million
18 Italian Indo-European, Romance 65 million (2015) 23 20 million (2015) 85 million
19 Turkish Altaic, Turkic 65 million (2006) 20 20 million 85 million
20 Javanese Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 84 million (2000) 12  ? 84 million
21 Tamil Dravidian 74 million (2001) 18 5 million in India 79 million
22 Korean Koreanic 77 million (2008–2010) 16  ? 77 million
23 Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 77 million (1984) 17 77 million
24 Marathi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 72 million (2001) 19 3 million in India (no date) 75 million
25 Vietnamese Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong 68 million 22  ? 68 million
26 Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 60 million (2017) 24  ? 60 million

Hausa has over 70 million L1 total and about 50 million L2 in Nigeria, over 120 million in Nigeria with about 20 million in Niger. Coastal Swahili has 15 million L1 in Tanzania (2012) and "probably over 80% of rural" Tanzania as L2, not counting Kenya or the 10 million L2 speakers of Congo Swahili (1999), so it also approaches our limit.

See also

Notes

  1. Refers to Modern Standard Hindi and Urdu. Modern Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible and are considered by linguists to be dialects of the same language; the two distinct registers are the outcome of nationalist tendencies.[3] The Census of India defines Hindi on a loose and broad basis. In addition to Standard Hindi, it incorporates a set of other Indo-Aryan languages written in Devanagari script including Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi, Dhundhari etc. under Hindi group which have more than 422 million native speakers as on 2001.[4] However, the census also acknowledges Standard Hindi, the above mentioned languages and others as separate mother tongues of Hindi language and provides individual figures for all these languages.[4]

References

  1. Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-04-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Abdul Jamil Khan (2006). Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide. Algora. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-87586-437-2.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  5. "Världens 100 största språk 2010" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in Nationalencyklopedin
  6. Indonesia 258 million (World Bank, 2015); Malaysia 19.4 million Bumiputera (Dept of Statistics, Malaysia, 2016); Brunei 0.43 million (World Bank, 2015); Singapore 0.5 million (University of Hawaii 2012); Thailand 3 million (University of Hawaii, 2012)
  7. affairs, The French Ministry of Foreign. "The status of French in the world". France Diplomatie :: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Retrieved 2016-06-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Hausa speakers in Nigeria now 120m– Communique - Vanguard News". vanguardngr.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Lahnda/Western Punjabi 116.6 million Pakistan (c. 2014). Eastern Punjabi: 28.2 million India (2001), other countries: 1.1 million. Ethnologue 19.
  10. "Japanese". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-03-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 Windfuhr, Gernot: The Aryan Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418.

External links