Languages of Europe

Most languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. Out of a total population of 744 million (as of 2018), some 94% are native speakers of an Indo-European language;within Indo-European, the three largest phyla are Slavic, Romance and Germanic, with more than 200 million speakers each, between them accounting for close to 90% of Europeans. Smaller phyla of Indo-European found in Europe include Hellenic (Greek, c. 10 million), Baltic (c. 7 million), Albanian (c. 5 million), Indo-Aryan (Romani, c. 1.5 million) and Celtic (including Welsh, c. 1 million).

Of the approximately 45 million Europeans speaking non-Indo-European languages, most speak languages within either the Uralic and Turkic families. Still smaller groups (such as Basque and various languages of the Caucasus) account for less than 1% of the European population between them. Immigration has added sizeable communities of speakers of African and Asian languages, amounting to about 4% of the population,[1] with Arabic being the most widely spoken of them.

Five languages have more than 50 million native speakers in Europe: Russian, German, French, Italian and English. While Russian has the largest number of native speakers (more than 100 million in Europe), English has the largest number of speakers in total, including some 200 million speakers of English as a second language. (See English language in Europe.)

Indo-European languages

The Indo-European language family is descended from Proto-Indo-European, which is believed to have been spoken thousands of years ago. Early speakers of Indo-European daughter languages most likely expanded into Europe with the incipient Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago (Bell-Beaker culture).

Slavic

Political map of Europe with countries where the national language is Slavic. Pale green represents West Slavic languages, wood green represents East Slavic languages, and dark green represents South Slavic languages.

Slavic languages are spoken in large areas of Central Europe, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. An estimated 250 million Europeans are native speakers of Slavic languages, the largest groups being Russian (c. 110 million in European Russia and adjacent parts of Eastern Europe, Russian forming the largest linguistic community in Europe), Polish (c. 55 million), Ukrainian (c. 40 million), Serbo-Croatian (c. 21 million), Czech (c. 11 million), Bulgarian (c. 9 million), Slovak (c. 5 million) Belarusian and Slovene (c. 3 million each) and Macedonian (c. 2 million).

Phylogenetically, Slavic is divided into three subgroups:

Romance

Romance languages, 20th century

Roughly 215 million Europeans (primarily in Southern and Western Europe) are native speakers of Romance languages, the largest groups including French (c. 69 million), Italian (c. 65 million), Spanish (Castilian) (c. 40 million), Romanian (c. 23 million), Portuguese (c. 10 million), Sicilian (c. 5 million, also subsumed under Italian), Venetian language (c. 4 milion), Catalan (c. 4 million), Galician (c. 2 million), Sardinian (c. 1 million), Occitan (c. 500,000), besides numerous smaller communities.

The Romance languages are descended from varieties of Vulgar Latin spoken in the various parts of the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. Latin was itself part of the (otherwise extinct) Italic branch of Indo-European. Romance is divided phylogenetically into Italo-Western, Eastern Romance (including Romanian) and Sardinian. The Romance-speaking area in Europe is often referred to as Latin Europe.[2]

We can further break down Italo-Western into the Italo-Dalmatian languages (sometimes grouped with Eastern Romance), including the Tuscan-derived Italian and numerous local Romance lects in Italy as well as Dalmatian, and the Western Romance languages. The Western Romance languages in turn separate into the Gallo-Romance languages, including French and its varieties (Langues d'oïl), the Rhaeto-Romance languages and the Gallo-Italic languages; the Occitano-Romance languages (East Iberian), grouped with either Gallo-Romance or West Iberian, including Occitan, Catalan and Aragonese; and finally the West Iberian languages (Spanish-Portuguese), including the Astur-Leonese languages, Galician-Portuguese and Castilian.

Germanic

The present-day distribution of the Germanic languages in Europe:
North Germanic languages
  Danish
West Germanic languages
  Scots
  Dutch
  German
Dots indicate areas where multilingualism is common.

The Germanic languages make up the predominant language family in northwestern Europe. An estimated 210 million Europeans are native speakers of Germanic languages, the largest groups being German (c. 95 million), English (c. 70 million) and Dutch (c. 24 million), Swedish (c. 10 million), Danish (c. 6 million) and Norwegian (c. 5 million).

There are two extant major sub-divisions: West Germanic and North Germanic. A third group, East Germanic, is now extinct; the only known surviving East Germanic texts are written in the Gothic language. West Germanic is divided into Anglo-Frisian (including English), Low German and Low Franconian (including Dutch) and High German (including Standard German).

German and Low Franconian

German is spoken throughout Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the East Cantons of Belgium, much of Switzerland (including the northeast areas bordering on Germany and Austria) and northern Italy (South Tyrol).

There are several groups of German dialects:

Low German (including Low Saxon) is spoken in various regions throughout Northern Germany and the North and East of the Netherlands. It is an official language in Germany. It may be separated into Low Saxon (West Low German) and East Low German.

Dutch is spoken throughout the Netherlands, northern Belgium, as well as the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France, and around Düsseldorf in Germany. In Belgian and French contexts, Dutch is sometimes referred to as Flemish. Dutch dialects are varied and cut across national borders.

Anglo-Frisian

The Anglo-Frisian language family is now mostly represented by English (Anglic), descended from the Old English language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons:

The Frisian languages are spoken by about 500,000 Frisians, who live on the southern coast of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. These languages include West Frisian, Saterlandic, and North Frisian.

North Germanic (Scandinavian)

The North Germanic languages are spoken in Scandinavian countries and include Danish (Denmark), Norwegian (Norway), Swedish (Sweden and parts of Finland), or Elfdalian (in a small part of central Sweden), Faroese (Faroe Islands), and Icelandic (Iceland).

English has a long history of contact with Scandinavian languages, given the immigration of Scandinavians early in the history of Britain, and has similar structure with Scandinavian languages.[3]

Other

Distribution of the Baltic languages in the Baltic (simplified).
Other Languages