International Symposium on the Grammar and Pragmatics of Complex Sentences (Subordination and Coordination)
in Languages Spoken in Europe and North and Central Asia,

Tomsk State Pedagogical University, Tomsk Region, Russia, on June 27-30, 2006


On Languages Spoken in Europe and north and central Asia

There are several large language families in Europe and northern and central Asia. Languages belonging to the Indo-European phylum are distributed over Europe and much of north and central Asia. Northern and central Europe is the main area where the Germanic languages are spoken, and the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea is the home area of the Baltic languages. The modern Celtic languages are distributed along the westernmost edge of Europe: in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. Romance languages, including several minority languages, are native to southern Europe. Romanian, which is the easternmost Romance language, is surrounded by Slavonic languages which are distributed over central and eastern Europe. Greek and Albanian are native to southeastern Europe. The Caucasus is the home area of the Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian, and Nakh-Daghestanian languages and also of some Iranian and Turkic languages, as well as Indo-European Armenian. More Iranian languages are found to the east of the Caucasus, and Indo-Aryan languages to the southwest. Turkic languages are distributed over a large area in eastern Europe, western and central Asia. Sakha, which is the easternmost Turkic language, is spoken over a large area in northern and central Siberia. The Uralic languages are spread over a large area, from Scandinavia in the west to West Siberia in the east. Tungusic languages are spoken over a large area in eastern and central Siberia, and the Mongolic languages in eastern and central Asia. Kalmyk is the only Mongolic language spoken in Europe. There are several aboriginal languages spoken in north-eastern Siberia, including the Chukotka-Kamchatkan languages are spoken. The area is bordered by Alaska, the home area of the Eskimo-Aleut languages. Aleut speakers are also found in the north-easternmost corner of Siberia. Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are native languages to the southeast. The realm of the Semitic languages is located to the south of Europe. There are several small language families as well as some isolates which are found amongst the main language families of Europe and northern and central Asia. In Europe, the Basque language which is native to southwestern Europe forms an islet in the middle of Indo-European area. Ket, which is the only surviving representative of the small Yeniseian language family, is spoken in Central Siberia. Nivkh is an isolate spoken in eastern Siberia, and Burushaski is another and is spoken in northern Pakistan.

Most of the language families consist of a large number of members, and the outline given above forms only a very rough framework for describing the distribution of the languages and language families of Europe and northern and central Asia. In the Caucasus and the western part of central Asia, the number of native languages spoken in the area is remarkably high. Also particularly in parts of southern and central Europe, and the big cities and industrial centres of eastern Europe and Siberia, there are speakers of numerous languages and language families. This situation is frequently the consequence of migration, which has taken place for a variety of reasons. The interaction between different languages and cultures has changed the picture of the distribution of languages, and throughout the whole area, multicultural and multilingual societies have been born during the course of history.

Several European languages are among the most wide-spread in the world. English has ca. 441 mil. first-language speakers, and ca. 508 if second-language speakers are included. The list below contains corresponding numbers of the other "big" languages spoken in Europe and northern and central Asia: Spanish ca. 322,2-358 mil./417 mil., Russian ca. 167 mil./277 mil., Portuguese ca. 176 mil./191 mil., French, ca. 77 mil./ca. 128 mil., German, ca. 100 mil./128 mil., Italian ca. 62 mill., Turkish ca. 61 mil., Ukrainian ca. 47 mil., Polish ca. 44 mil., Farsi (Eastern and Western) ca. 31,3 mil., Azerbaijani (Northern and Southern) ca. 31,4 mil., Serbo-Croat ca. 21 mil., Dutch ca. 20 mil, Uzbek ca. 19,9 mil., Pashto ca. 19 mil., Greek ca. 12 mil., Kurdish with various dialects ca. 14 mil, Czech ca. 12 mil., Hungarian ca. 11,3 mil., and Belorussian ca. 10,5 mil. (on the numbers of speakers, cf. Ethnologue ( Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken in the south-eastern corner of Central Asia, has the largest number of speakers in the world at ca. 874 mil. Arabic with its several dialects has ca. 191 mil. speakers and belongs among the ten most wide-spread languages in the world. The number of native languages spoken in Europe and north and central Asia is more than 200, and most of these languages have less than one million speakers, and many of them are seriously endangered.

P.S., 2005.