Linguistics, the science of language, is a very important and interesting subject, dealing in history, development, speaking and writing, reading of a language.
There are more than 6,500 (maybe up to 7,000) languages in the world. Some are extinct, some are endangered, while few are spoken by limited people. Busuu is such a language in Cameroon that is limited to 8 people (found in 1984–86). After the discovery of this endangered language, some volunteers are trying to spread and save it. The result is unknown.
There are few languages that have no users, known as “non spoken language”, like Sanskrit, Latin. Many are extinct or dead ones and the living ones are known as modern languages, like Hindi. An estimate says, by 2050, many languages will merge with each other or go extinct, and this may be close to 90%.
Dialects are more than the above number of languages. For example, they are close to 19,500 in India itself. Dialects are a form of language spoken in one area of a country. They are mutually intelligible and even use colloquial words different from the prime or mother language. They do develop their own vocabulary, method of pronunciations, accents, grammar, slang and spelling.
However, there are few major languages (15–20), which are used in more than half the globe. We will see few important languages, their characteristics, history and related issues in brief.
The number of speakers of these languages may differ, depending upon the method of survey, official status, uses and standard of the users in speaking, writing, etc. So the following data may not be strictly accurate.
English is spoken by more than 1,132 million people. It is also known as “sky language”, as it is used by the aviators and ground controllers, also used by the sea-farers (sailors). This language is very adaptive and has subsumed many words from other languages coming into contact with them while interacting or doing business or when the Britishers colonised other countries for a long time.
It has many words from Hindi, like Guru, Yoga, Karma, Cheetah, etc. It has “borrowed” approximately 40% of words from French. Now it boasts of more than one million words.
Almost 1,117 million people speak this language. Related to Sino-Tibetan and Burmese, it is the official language of China, Taiwan, Singapore. This is also known as tone language, where the meaning of a word changes the way it is pronounced. Chinese has 50 thousand characters. However, if one learns approximately 2,500 of them, one can communicate with the other Chinese speaking people.
This language has no conjugations, tense or gender-specific words.
Spoken by 615 million, it is related to Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali and many dialects (or languages or colloquial ones), like Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Bajika, Pali (extinct language). This is also spoken in Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana. This language is highly influenced by Sanskrit, both Vedic and Classical. This word is named by the Persian word Hind (Land of Indus river).
Spoken by 534 million people, it is related to French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian. It is the official language in 22 countries, spanning four continents. This is the second most studied language in the world, and if this trend continues, more than 10% of Earthians will be able to communicate in Spanish within three generations.
Almost 280 million speak this language and it is said to be one of the most beautiful languages. It is related to Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. It is the official language of France, Quebec (Canada), Senegal, Madagascar.
With 274 million users, it is of the Afro-Asiatic family. It is related to Hebrew-Amharic, Aramaic. It has 11 words for “Love”. All symbolise the different stages of falling in love. It has influenced many languages; English, Spanish, Portuguese and other European languages.
Spoken by 265 million, it is the official language of Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. Indo-Aryan, related to Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali. It is said to be another beautiful language, at par with the French. It is the seventh most spoken language in the world.
Spoken by 258 million, spread the world over, more so in ex-USSR and neighbouring countries. It belongs to the family of East Slavic, Indo-European and is related to Ukrainian, Belarusian. This language has “donated” many words to other languages on Astronomy and Aviation.
You might have heard of Sputnik (Soviet artificial satellites) vaccination. It has only 2,00,000 words (English has 1 million words).
It is spoken by 234 million users. It belongs to the Indo-European family and is related to Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian. It is the official language of Brazil, Portugal and has official status in Angola, Mozambique, E Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe.
With 199 million users, it is the official language of Indonesia, Malaysia. It is related to Malay, Javanese, Subndernese.
More than 170 million people speak this language. It is from the Indo-Aryan family and is related to Hindi, Bengali and many other Indian languages. It is one of the most beautiful languages at par with French and Bengali.
Almost 132 million speakers use this language and it has produced many revolutionaries and revolutionary works. It is known for endless sentences.
It is not a language in itself, but the mother of many ones, as has been discussed above. It is a family of languages native to West and South Eurasia, most of Europe, North Indian-Subcontinents, Iranian plateau. It also encompasses Albanian, Armenian, Baltic-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indo-Iranian, Italic.
It encompasses approximately half the world. In the 16th Century, few European visitors in India found that they had many common words and similarities in Indo-Aryan, Iranian and European languages. Since then, our knowledge of languages has increased a lot.
Languages are above the class division of any society like we have means of production, politics. It is similar for all classes, be it for the rulers or the ruled. It has a very specific contribution in the formation of nations, like geographical boundaries, culture, economic activities of the society and all of them build a nation, like Italian, Tamil, Tibetan, Irish, Albanian nations.
The description above is very brief and an interested person may take it up for further study. The development of languages is along with the development of the productive forces and human civilisation.