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Interesting Facts About Languages
How many languages are there in the world?
No one knows precisely how many languages there are in the world. Even a most experienced linguist can not give you an answer to this question. It is estimated that there exist almost 7,000 languages
. Only 230 are spoken in Europe, while a little more than 2,000 are spoken in Asia. The area of particularly dense linguistic variety is Papua New Guinea, where 832 languages are spoken by the population of only about 4 million people.
The most widely spoken languages, the TOP 10, are:
- Chinese (more than 1 billion speakers)
- English (about 400 million speakers)
- Hindi (more than 300 million)
- Spanish (more than 300 million)
- Arabic (more than 240 million)
- Bengali (more than 200 million)
- Portuguese (more than 180 million)
- Russian (more than 160 million)
- Indonesian/Malay (more than 160 million)
- Japanese (more than 125 million)
How many words are there in a language?
There is no definite answer to this question. It is impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it is difficult to decide what actually counts as a word. For example, are homonyms regarded as one word or two (“break” as a noun meaning “pause” and “break” as a verb meaning “to destroy something”)? If we count homonyms as different words, then we must also count word inflections separately (e.g. “go, goes gone, going…”). Or another example - is “part-time” one word or two words joined together? And what about borrowed words - do we consider them as words belonging to the language in question? Let us say, do we count the German word “kindergarten” when we try to calculate the number of words in English?
Speaking about English, if we exclude inflections and count only distinct words, we will arrive at the conclusion that there are at least a quarter of a million distinct words in it. German, for instance, has about 200,000 and French less than 100,000 words. The English language with its 250,000 words
is said to have the largest vocabulary. If it is true or not is of course a subject for study and dispute.
What is the longest word?
According to Wikipedia, the longest word in the world consists of 189,819 letters
. It takes about 3 hours to pronounce it. It is an English word, a chemical term - the name of titin. Just try to pronounce the longest word in the world
Of course it is disputable whether this word is real or not, for theoretically it is possible to make even longer combinations.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the longest English word is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” (45 letters).