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This Amazing Linguistic Tree Reveals How Most Languages Are Connected

Published 12 months ago

Did you know that most of the different languages we speak today can actually be placed in only a couple of groups by their origin? This is what illustrator Minna Sundberg has captured in an elegant infographic of a linguistic tree which reveals some fascinating links between different tongues.

Using the research data from Ethnologue, Minna has used a tree metaphor to illustrate how all Nordic languages can be grouped into Indo-European and Uralic “families”. The whole image is dotted with languages, with bigger leaves representing more people using it as their native tongue. But even this detailed image doesn’t cover the immense variety of languages out there: “Naturally, most tiny languages didn’t make it on the graph,” the artist explained to io9. “There’s literally hundreds of them in the Indo-European family alone and I could only fit so many on this page, so most sub-1 mil. speaker languages that don’t have the official status somewhere got the cut.”

More info: Minna Sundberg (h/t: mental floss, guardian)

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Here’s a high-resolution image.

The left side of the tree maps out the Indo-Iranian languages. It shows the connections between Hindi and Urdu as well as some regional Indian languages such as Rajasthani and Gujarati

The European arm of the tree splits off into Slavic, Romance and Germanic branches. Here you can see the relationship between different Slavic languages. You can also spot some of Britain’s oldest languages clustered together

The size of the leaves on the trees is intended to indicate – roughly – how many people speak each language. It shows the relative size of English as well as its Germanic roots

Despite being close geographically, the tree highlights the distinct linguistic origins of Finnish from other languages in Scandinavia. Finnish belongs to the Uralic language family and shares roots with some indigenous tongues in Scandinavia such as Sami

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language families, language origins, language tree, linguistic tree, Minna Sundberg
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