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Statistical Summaries

Part I, "Languages of the World," provides language-by-language information. This section steps back from the detail to offer a summary view of the world language situation. Specifically, it offers numerical tabulations of languages and number of speakers by world area, by language size, by language family, and by country.

Go to Summary by: World area | Language size | Language family | Country 

Summary by language size

A striking fact shown in table 1 is that there is a huge disparity between the mean size of languages and the median size. It turns out that 347 (or approximately 5%) of the world's languages have at least one million speakers and account for 94% of the world's population. By contrast, the remaining 95% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world's people.

Table 2 summarizes the distribution of languages by size. The Count columns give the actual number of languages within the specified population range and the total number of first-language speakers of those languages. Where the language entry in Part I lists a range of values for the population, the midpoint of the range is used for this tabulation. The Percent columns give the share of the count for that population range as a percentage of the total number listed at the bottom of the Count column. Note that there are still a few hundred languages for which the Ethnologue does not have a population estimate; the calculation of percentages for speakers is therefore not able to take those languages into account. The Cumulative columns give the cumulative sum of the percentages going from top to bottom in the column.

Table 2. Distribution of languages by number of first-language speakers

Population rangeLiving languagesNumber of speakers
  CountPercentCumulative   CountPercentCumulative
100,000,000 to 999,999,999   80.10.1%   2,301,423,37240.2075340.20753%
10,000,000 to 99,999,999   751.11.2%   2,246,597,92939.2496979.45723%
1,000,000 to 9,999,999   2643.85.0%   825,681,04614.4252593.88247%
100,000 to 999,999   89212.917.9%   283,651,4184.9556098.83807%
10,000 to 99,999   1,77925.743.7%   58,442,3381.0210399.85910%
1,000 to 9,999   1,96728.572.1%   7,594,2240.1326899.99177%
100 to 999   1,07115.587.6%   457,0220.0079899.99976%
10 to 99   3445.092.6%   13,1630.0002399.99999%
1 to 9   2043.095.5%   6980.00001100.00000%
Unknown   3084.5100.0%
6,912 100.0   5,723,861,210 100.00000