Languages of Asia
There is a wide variety of languages spoken throughout Asia, comprising different language families and some unrelated isolates. The major language families spoken on the continent include Altaic, Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Caucasian, Dravidian, Indo-European, Afroasiatic, Siberian, Sino-Tibetan and Tai-Kadai. They usually have a long tradition of writing, but not always.
The Indo-European languages are primarily represented by the Indo-Iranian branch. The family includes both Indic languages (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Gujarati, Sinhalese and other languages spoken primarily in South Asia) and Iranian (Persian, Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi and other languages spoken primarily in Iran, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of South Asia). In addition, other branches of Indo-European spoken in Asia include the Slavic branch, which includes Russian in Siberia; Greek around the Black Sea; and Armenian; as well as extinct languages such as Hittite of Anatolia and Tocharian of (Chinese) Turkestan.
A number of smaller, but important language families spread across central and northern Asia have long been linked in an as-yet unproven Altaic family. These are the Turkic languages, Mongolic languages, Tungusic languages (including Manchu), Korean, and Japonic languages. Speakers of Turkish (Anatolian Turks) are believed to have adopted the language, having instead originally spoken the Anatolian languages, an extinct group of languages belonging to the Indo-European family.
The Dravidian languages of southern India and parts of Sri Lanka include Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam, while smaller languages such as Gondi and Brahui are spoken in central India and Pakistan respectively.
The Afroasiatic languages (Hamito-Semitic) are presently represented by the Semitic branch spoken in Southwest Asia. It includes Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, in addition to extinct languages such as Akkadian. The Modern South Arabian languages contain a substratum influence from the Cushitic branch of Afroasiatic, which suggests that Cushitic speakers originally inhabited the Arabian Peninsula alongside Semitic speakers.
Besides the Altaic families already mentioned (of which Tungusic is today a minor family of Siberia), there are a number of small language families and isolates spoken across northern Asia. These include the Uralic languages of western Siberia (better known for Hungarian and Finnish in Europe), the Yeniseian languages (linked to Turkic and to the Athabaskan languages of North America), Yukaghir, Nivkh of Sakhalin, Ainu of northern Japan, Chukotko-Kamchatkan in easternmost Siberia, and—just barely—Eskimo–Aleut. Some linguists have noted that the Koreanic languages share more similarities with the Paleosiberian languages than with the Altaic languages. The extinct Ruan-ruan language of Mongolia is unclassified, and does not show genetic relationships with any other known language family.
Three small families are spoken in the Caucasus: Kartvelian languages, such as Georgian; Northeast Caucasian (Dagestanian languages), such as Chechen; and Northwest Caucasian, such as Circassian. The latter two may be related to each other. The extinct Hurro-Urartian languages may be related as well.
Small families of Southern Asia
- extinct languages of the Fertile Crescent such as Sumerian, Elamite, and Proto-Euphratean
- extinct languages of South Asia: the unclassified Harappan language
- small language families and isolates of the Indian subcontinent: Burushaski, Kusunda, and Nihali. The Vedda language of Sri Lanka is likely an isolate that has mixed with Sinhalese.
- the two Andamanese language families: Great Andamanese and Ongan; Sentinelese remains undocumented to date, and hence unclassified.
- isolates and languages with isolate substrata of Southeast Asia: Kenaboi, Enggano, and the Philippine Negrito languages Manide and Umiray Dumagat
- Language isolates and independent language families in Arunachal: Digaro, Hrusish (including the Miji languages), Midzu, Puroik, Siangic, and Kho-Bwa
- Hmong–Mien (Miao–Yao) scattered across southern China and Southeast Asia
- several "Papuan" families of the central and eastern Malay Archipelago: languages of Halmahera, East Timor, and the extinct Tambora of Sumbawa. Numerous additional families are spoken in Indonesian New Guinea, but this lies outside the scope of an article on Asian languages.
Creoles and pidgins
The eponymous pidgin ("business") language developed with European trade in China. Of the many creoles to have developed, the most spoken today are Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole of the Philippines, and various Malay-based creoles such as Manado Malay influenced by Portuguese. A very well-known Portuguese-based creole is the Kristang, which is spoken in Malacca, a city-state in Malaysia.
A number of sign languages are spoken throughout Asia. These include the Japanese Sign Language family, Chinese Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, as well as a number of small indigenous sign languages of countries such as Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. Many official sign languages are part of the French Sign Language family.
Asia and Europe are the only two continents where most countries use native languages as their official languages, though English is also widespread.
- Z. Rosser et al. (2000). "Y-Chromosomal Diversity in Europe is Clinal and Influenced Primarily by Geography, Rather than by Language" (PDF). American Journal of Human Genetics. 67 (6): 1526–1543. doi:10.1086/316890. PMC 1287948
. PMID 11078479.
- Blažek, Václav. "Afroasiatic Migrations: Linguistic Evidence" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2017.
- Blench, Roger. 2015. The Mijiic languages: distribution, dialects, wordlist and classification. m.s.