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Linguistics and Strategic Studies: An Introductory Course
Instructor - Alfia Wallace
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Language Families

As there are many languages in the world, there are many language families. Here are some of the more influential families.

Click me for a larger mapIndo-European
Most languages of Europe and many of India belong to the Indo-European family. English, Spanish, Russian, Irish, Farsi, Greek and Hindi are all from different branches of the Indo-European family. The largest branches of the Indo-European family are Romance, Germanic, Slavic and Indo-Aryan.

Arabic, Hebrew and Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia) belong to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. The Afro-Asiatic family also includes the Berber languages of North Africa and many lesser-spoken languages of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Most of the languages of China, Taiwan, Tibet and Burma belong to the Sino-Tibetan family. These include Mandarin, the most-spoken language in the world, as well as Cantonese, Tibetan and Burmese.


The Niger-Congo language family is the largest language family in Africa. It comprises most of the languages of Sub-Saharan Africa including Swahili, Yoruba, Igbo, Zulu, Xhosa and Shona among others.

For information on all the language families of the world, check out Languages of the World and Ethnologue.

What is spoken where? Let's start.

Let's bone up on our geography. Go to National Geographic's Geospy. Type in your first name and last initial. Click on "Now choose your first assignment." Go to the Continents game to warm up and to get used to the program. Once you have completed it, print out your certitificate and then choose "Play a different Geospy game". Go to the Countries Game. Start with North America. If you need a refresher on where the Central American countries are located, check out the Interactive Map of Central America. Which countries do not have Spanish as their official language? Check here.

Once you have gotten at least 10 out of the 15 correct, you can print out your certificate and move on to South America. The South American Interactive map can be consulted for review. Which South American countries do not have Spanish as their official language?