As late as the 7th century A.
D., the Slavic languages were particularly identical, but differences developed as the Slavic tribes became separated. The most widely used Slavic languages are eastern ones, primarily Russian which is spoken by about 240 million people, including 80 per cent of the Russian population of the Russia. Russian is one of the five official languages of the United Nations. The other two important Balto-Slavic languages are Ukrainian and Byelorussian (White Russian). The other west Slavic languages include Polish, Czech and Slavic.
The south Slavic languages include Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovene and Macedonian. The differences among the various Slavic languages are relatively small with a considerable amount of mutual intelligibility existing among speakers of the different languages.
The Indo-Iranian family includes more than one hundred individual languages, spoken by about 800 million people. The branch can be divided into an eastern group India including speakers primarily in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan; and a western group—Iranian—used by about 50 million people. Most residents of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan speak an Indie language.
In Pakistan, the principal language is Urdu, while in India Hindi is the national language and it is spoken mainly in Northern India. The people of Bangladesh, West Bengal and its adjacent areas speak Bengali. The main cultural distinction of nearly 900 million people of India is language. India has several hundred languages and eighteen official languages (recognized in the constitution). In general, Indo-European languages are spoken in the northern India, while languages of Daravidian family are used in the south. Languages of the Sino-Tibetan family are found in the North-East and South-East Asian languages are found in Meghalaya, Chotanagpur Plateau and central highlands of India.
3. Iranian Languages:
The western part of Asia uses Indo-European languages as well; including Far is in Iran, Pashto in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Kurdish (used by the Kurds) in Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
These languages are written with Arabic letters. The language spoken in Sri Lanka is Sinhali which also belongs to the Indo-lranian family. The Sinhalese-speaking Sri Lankans are Buddhists, whereas the Tamil-speaking are Hindus or Muslims.
Sino-Tibetan is the language family encompassing the languages of the peoples of Republic of China (the world’s most populous nation) as well as many smaller countries in South-East Asia. The most important language of China is Mandarin, which is spoken by about three-fourths of the total population of China. It is the official language of the United Nations. There are four other languages spoken in China, namely, Cantonese, Min, Wu and Hakka.
The relatively small number of languages in China, in comparison to India, for example, is a source of national strength and unity. In addition to the Chinese languages, the Sino-Tibetan language family includes a second branch, known as Tibeto-Burman, used mainly in South-East Asia. The two main languages of the Tibeto-Burman language are Thai and Myanmar (Burmese). Moreover, Japanese and Korean are the other important languages which have been substantially influenced by the Chinese language.
5. Semito-Hametic Languages:
The Semito-Hametic languages include Arabic and Hebrew, as well as a number of less-used languages found in Northern Africa and South-Western Asia.
The international significance of this language family transcends the number of speakers because the languages were used to write the holiest books of two of the four major religions—the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Islamic Holy Quran. The most frequently used language in this family is Arabic, and official language of twenty countries of South-West Asia and North Africa, from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula. Hebrew, as a native language, is spoken by only about three million people, mainly in Israel. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Hebrew became extinct as a language in daily activity in the 4th century A.D.
but it is being revived after the creation of Israel in 1948.
6. African Languages:
No definitive count has been made of the number of different languages in Africa, nor is there agreement concerning the proper classification of the languages into the families. Nearly 1,000 distinct languages, as well as several thousand named dialects, have been accounted in Africa. It has, however, been estimated that only approximately forty of the languages are used by more than one million speakers.
The language picture is relatively clear in the northern part of Africa, where Arabic is widely used, although in a variety of dialects. In the south of the Sahara the pattern is complex and less easily classified. The dominant language family of the south of Sahara is the Negro-Congo which has six branches, namely, Mande, Gur, Kwa, Adamawa and Benue-Congo.
The Nilo-Saharan languages are used in north-central Africa, just north of the Niger-Congo area. The Khoisan language family is found in south-western Africa. In Nigeria alone, there are more than 200 languages, the most widely used language is Hausa. Yoruba and Ibo are the other important languages of Nigeria. In Tanzania and East African countries, Swahili is the official language. The Swahili language was originally developed by the Arab traders and has Arabic influence.
Swahili is one of the few languages with extensive literature.