Which language has the most speakers?

List by total number of speakers (also sortable by first-language or second-language speakers only) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers List by first-language speakers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers Which language has the most speakers? What language is #1? Simple question, but the answer is not quite so simple. So for one thing, it’s, well, how do you define what a language is? Where

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CLICS: The Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications

CLICS³ Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications https://clics.clld.org/ Here’s another fun little linguistics toy to play with, and it’s called CLICS, or CLICS³, CLICS cubed, which is a lot easier to say than the full form of its name, which is the Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications. Just saying that really sounds like some real good technobabble there.

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Global distribution of Indo-European languages

Official languages https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Countries_where_an_Indo-European_language_is_the_official_or_national_language.png Primary and secondary languages https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indo-European-speaking_world.png (Correction: I described English as a secondary official language of Iraq, but of course it is the Kurdish language, a language of the Iranian branch of Indo-European.) Distribution of Indo-European speakers https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indo-European_languages_distribution.png Indo-European branches in Eurasia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indo-European_Language_Family_Branches_in_Eurasia.png Indo-European languages in the Americas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Americaslanguages_(orthographic_projection)-2.png The language rainbow of

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English words from unusual sources

English words by country or language of origin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_English_words_by_country_or_language_of_origin We looked at some of the major sources of English words, the languages that are behind most of the vocabulary of English: the Old English base, the large number of French words, borrowings from Latin, and of the other languages, Ancient Greek being the #1. But

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Where do English words come from?

Origins of English words pie chart https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg English words from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Anglo-Saxon_origin Old English/Germanic vs Old French/Latin words https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_with_dual_French_and_Anglo-Saxon_variations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Germanic_and_Latinate_equivalents_in_English Other sources https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_English_words_by_country_or_language_of_origin Indo-European language family tree https://www.sssscomic.com/comic.php?page=196 Where do English words come from? They’ve been picked up over the many years of the history of English, and there’s no one clear way

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How language families are identified: The comparative method

Indo-European language family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_vocabulary Semitic/Afroasiatic language family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semitic_languages https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afroasiatic_languages So we’ve looked at this map of the world’s major language families, and I just said “Look at how all these far-flung languages come from a common ancestor.” But it does lead to the question of how anybody knows this. Certainly, it would not be obvious

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The drifting etymology of ‘noon’

Noon https://www.etymonline.com/word/noon Nine https://www.etymonline.com/word/nine Monastic hours https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonical_hours Indo-European language family tree https://www.sssscomic.com/comic.php?page=196 Sun at noon https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_at_noon.jpg The meanings of words can drift over time. As the generations pass, the speakers who were used to an earlier meaning are gone, and the younger speakers would have no memory of what words originally meant. And one word

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Linguistic areas of the world (Sprachbunds)

Linguistic Maps Tumblr https://linguisticmaps.tumblr.com/ Sprachbunds map https://linguisticmaps.tumblr.com/post/164106462658/sprachbunds-areal-zones-linguistic-areas-of World language families map https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Primary_Human_Languages_Improved_Version.png An overview of the language map of the world would not be complete without looking at linguistic areas. There’s really two major ways to group languages, and the first is, we looked at before, language families. Languages that are presumed to be, in

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The surprising etymology of ‘book’

Book https://www.etymonline.com/word/book Beech https://www.etymonline.com/word/beech Beech tree https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8d/Beech_Tree.png/640px-Beech_Tree.png Here’s a bit of a surprising etymology. Now, sometimes it makes sense. You can see where the word comes from. Some shift in meaning, but it’s all understandable. Maybe you could even guess. But sometimes, words take a really unexpected twist. And here’s a case where we can

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Ghost words: When dictionaries make mistakes

Ghost words https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_word ‘abacot’ https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:A_dictionary_of_heraldry.djvu/159 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bycocket ‘dord’ https://www.etymonline.com/word/dord#etymonline_v_25793 When we say the word “the dictionary”, it has so much authority. We think this is the absolute standard for what is and is not a word. And if somebody says something dubious, you might say “That’s not in the dictionary.” Or you say “Go look it

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