How Many Languages Are There?

Tom Scott

972 t. näkymät41

    The answer is, of course, a bit more complicated than you might think. •
    Written with Molly Ruhl and Gretchen McCulloch. Gretchen's podcast has an episode all about this:
    Gretchen's book BECAUSE INTERNET, all about the evolution of internet language, is available:
    🇺🇸 US:
    🇨🇦 CA:
    🇬🇧 UK:
    (Those are affiliate links that give a commission to me or Gretchen, depending on country!)
    Graphics by William Marler:
    Audio mix by Graham Haerther:
    Eberhard, D.M., Simons, G.F., and Fennig, C.D. (eds.). 2020. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-third edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
    François, A. (2014). Trees, waves and linkages: Models of language diversification. In Evans, B. & Bowern, C. The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics. (pp. 161-189). London: Routledge Ltd - M.U.A.
    Heeringa, W., & Nerbonne, J. (2001). Dialect areas and dialect continua. Language Variation and Change, 13(3), 375-400. doi:10.1017/S0954394501133041
    Burridge, J. (2017). Spatial evolution of human dialects. Physical Review. X, 7(3), 031008.
    Libermann, M. (2003). This is not middle earth. LanguageLog.
    Labov, W. (1973). Sociolinguistic patterns (Conduct and communication, 4). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    Laakso, J. (2018). Language borders and cultural encounters: A linguistic view on interdisciplinarity in the research of intercultural contacts. In Palander, M., Riionheimo, H., & Koivisto, V. On the border of language and dialect. (pp. 38-55) Studia Fennica Linguistica
    Lupyan, Gary, & Dale, Rick. (2016). Why Are There Different Languages? The Role of Adaptation in Linguistic Diversity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(9), 649-660.
    Bybee, J. L. (2006). From Usage to Grammar: The Mind's Response to Repetition. Language (Baltimore), 82(4), 711-733.
    Bucholtz, M. & Hall, K. (2005) Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies. vol. 7 (4-2): 585-614.
    Bucholtz, M. (1999). “Why be normal?”: Language and identity practices in a community of nerd girls. Language in Society, 28(2), 203-223.
    Steels, L. (2011). Modeling the cultural evolution of language. Physics of Life Reviews, 8(4), 339-356.
    Honkola, T., Ruokolainen, K., Syrjänen, K., Leino, U. P., Tammi, I., Wahlberg, N., & Vesakoski, O. (2018). Evolution within a language: environmental differences contribute to divergence of dialect groups. BMC evolutionary biology, 18(1), 132.
    Austin, P.K. & Sallabank, J. (2011). Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge University Press.
    New York Times / Associated Press (2017). Icelanders Seek to Keep Their Language Alive and Out of ‘the Latin Bin’
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    Julkaistu 4 kuukautta sitten


    1. Tom Scott

      This is the last of the language videos that I filmed earlier this year! There may be more in 2021, but until then, thanks very much to the whole team that work on these: their details, and all the references, are in the description.

      1. Tristan The gamer

        well my language was nearly extinct and has many other related and are extinct what language am i. don't press read more until answered Answer: welsh related Cumbric possibly Pictish same language tree as Gaelic's, Breton, Manx

      2. Wil' Balright

        Yes. Definitely yes

      3. Luke O'Connor

        And did that make sense?

      4. Luke O'Connor

        @Jonas Arnesen that’s the FIblock research paradox where if you post it on line someone will have an ancer because (insert reason here) Okay it’s a stretch

      5. Jonas Arnesen

        @Luke O'Connor to be honest Europe isn't even as diverse as China. Europe has little over 200 languages and China has around 300. Europe may be the continent aside from Antarctica with by far the fewest languages.

    2. Quack

      3:30 Jokes on you, I’m not from England so I already grew up on translations and that worked fine

    3. ageofheros animation

      And you get South Africa, with its 12 languages.

    4. ctrl c ctrl v


    5. prince 2.0

      Best Language is maths 😁

    6. Sasha Willow Smith

      The translation issue is a problem having many languages causes to be fair Noone can be expected to know even every major language so everyone is cut off from even being able to chose to experience tonnes of culture and stories. But then even if you only speak english there is far too many stories, music etc being created to experience all of just for english speakers *Sigh* really makes you feel small

    7. Louis Francisco

      I don't know if they are good at what they know, but Lingthusiasm is good at saying wrong things about things they really know nothing about. I stopped listening after 5 minutes because there were too many mistakes for me to take them seriously.

    8. Viktória Vadon

      But imagine how cool it'd be if all families were bilingual (or more), speaking their native language(s) and English!

    9. GydigiGytha

      The Icelandic language is available on phones. My friends in Iceland never seemed to have trouble with it

    10. Riley Carpenter


    11. Thomas Busse

      711, 71, etc are Magic Numbers in the Occult and Secret Societies.

    12. you is stupid

      As a person who loves languages. This video broke my heart.

    13. somerandomdudeable

      "How many languages are there?" High tide or low tide?

    14. elisheva barenbaum

      A language is a dialect with an army and a navy was said to Max Weinreich, in reference to Yiddish, that has neither.

    15. Silvia Sánchez

      "Que no cunda el pánico" Very well played, sir

    16. Ernesto Carrillo

      English and the Yanks are taking over!

    17. Angry Ted

      Scots: English? People from another country English: Englush? It's a language used by people all over the world, even the northern British ("Scots")

    18. Mino Arno

      1:05 Vlaams, as a Flemish speaker myself I salute you ;P

    19. some person

      7117 are the four numbers after my name in my school login :D

    20. Aurelia

      You won't guilt me into feeling sorry for the extincition of obscure languages only spokemon by a few thousand people in africa F*ck off

    21. Nic Jansen

      3:29 Isn't this the exact same as one of the meanings of the word "draft"(or "draught") in English or "tocht" in Dutch? This reminds me somehow that "the day after tomorrow" is more common than "overmorrow" while "overmorgen" is an often used Dutch word and "de dag na morgen" sounds really strange

    22. Kolle

      I'm Icelandic and I understand what you mean I don't live in Iceland anymore and I'm near forgetting it even though its the only language I can speak with my granparents and cousins

    23. WhyArePea

      I purposely started spelling "Exactly" as *_“EGGZACKTLI"_* AND NOW 13 PEOPLE I KNOW USES "EGGZACKTLI" INSTEAD OF "Exactly"

      1. WhyArePea

        @Baran wokay 🗿👍

      2. Baran

        Start a cult. I'll join

    24. ewrilan

      NOOO! Don't do anything to polish and its words like: haluszki kluchy połom bite kluski czarne kluski śląskie kopytka knedliki lane kluski pierogi leniwe przecieraki pyzy szpecle zacierki (all mean noodles)

    25. Bruce Schneider

      Robert MacNeil's series "The Story of English" was brilliant. Also, as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, explaining English as it is changing provides a lot of good opportunities for discussion.

    26. László B

      2:40 but Icelandic is there on macbooks tho

    27. Phil Box

      I wonder if they included the some 1,700 ish distinct languages in Papua New Guinea. Each mountainous valley has a completely distinct language and the next valley over's inhabitants have zero clue about the other's language. Hence why Pidgin English is spoken as a Lingua Franca between Wontoks.

    28. Digaddog

      I feel like it would be fine with me if English disappeared. Of course, chances are it will never happen in my lifetime so I'll never know for sure, but as long as its possible to learn the language, which is much harder when its dead but still possible, especially with the sheer amount of English works and ai, I don't care to much.

    29. David Maes

      @4:01 "They were A computer" ... "They were computers" ?

    30. Firecat the potato


    31. max

      the inclusion of singlish 😱😍😌

    32. You can call me Al

      Guía del autoestopista galáctico "Que no cunda el pánico"

    33. Roger Szmodis

      Holding on to dead culture is our most destructive habit. If a language wants to go extinct and take its culture with it I say good riddance. If we just let go of it, billions of people wouldn’t be living their lives according to the advice of some mentally disturbed, inbred goat herder who died 3500 years ago passed down through a few hundred generation game of telephone.

    34. Verbindungsfehle

      3:37 Did you just assume my native language?

    35. John Patch

      So my language has millions of speakers, yet it isn't the official language in its namesake country (because it's trapped inside a bigger country), however it IS the official language of one of the smallest countries in Europe. Catalan is not the main official language in Catalonia, that would be Spanish. But in Andorra, the official language is Catalan. It won't dissappear soon, even if that's what fascist spanish groups drool over. But then inside catalonia there's a region with its own language, Aranese (a dialect of Occitan), called Val D'Aran (Valley of Aran), within Catalonia. Coincidentially Aran sits practically right next to Andorra. And my own region, Pallars, was once ruled by a king who tried to get independence from Catalonia just to save his ass. We even have a school and other places named after him. So the lesson is, States are just lines on a map, the real countries are defined by culture, and it gets complicated. And also, independence runs in our blood. Catalonia WILL be free. As will the Basque country. (And potentially the Aran Valley might do that themselves at some point too)

    36. Jimmy McGill

      Danish has kinda the same problem as Icelandic

    37. HalfLife9000


    38. Target _667

      as a dutch speaking Belgian also known as flemish i apreciate the tank with vlaams op

    39. bread

      BTW Download swift key keyboard It has Icelandic

    40. John Johnson

      I don’t think anyone is missing out on the Icelandic language

    41. Duskrider

      Tom please cover newfound and it's odd diolect

    42. Felixkjornsberg

      "imagine how it would feel if english was endangered?" vad snackar den här pysen om? Jag kan ju prata svenska när som helst

    43. ccc310

      If only languages weren't a pain in the *** to learn everyone would speak 50 of them.

      1. you is stupid

        Are you a native English speaker?

    44. Fouke

      make it 1 >:]

    45. Diego18

      yo there actually is icelandic now at least in android þþþæöæöþ

    46. Mitch Rogoff

      I welcome the rise of English as the sole remaining language

    47. solidus4prez

      We are on the cusp of sentience but I don't know which side we're on and that's exhilaratingly scary

    48. tamooz br

      2:40 gotta love that hebrew is LTR and not RTL here Just pointing that out

    49. Brandi Raine

      One of the coolest things is theres an entire dialect of English that is just as different as American English or British English, and that’s Online English. Words that are rarely used in localized versions, or are never used Like That, are used online. One of the best examples is Lewd. Most everyone who knows English knows what Lewd means, but it’s really only used online. Other examples are words like “shrimp”. I shrimp for (person). “I platonically love this person and do everything I can to support them” while having a stronger interpersonal connection between the 2 people than your typical fan-celebrity “love”.

    50. MaenINoldo

      Swiss German is a good example of "what constitutes a language?". It never was standardised, and there are no rules on how to write it (it is called mundart, the spoken way. As opposed to Schriftdeutsch, the written German (iem regular German)). Reading text messages from someone from a different region, one that uses vowels in a different way, can be interesting at times 😅 So about every village has its own version, and there are substantial differences between cantons. But it's all one language... Maybe? Along with Elsace German? And southern German regional dialects/languages?

    51. Chaitanya Anand

      At 2:40 the spelling for Hindi is wrong.

    52. Pedro Braga

      How did you use future before "going to"?

      1. Mr. Hat

        "I will"

    53. A cat on his hind legs.

      I wouldn’t mind losing English but ya know I feel like instead of losing languages so much I think it would be better to learn both your native language and a universally understood one for keeping history.

    54. IRLFine Gaming

      The Hebrew word for Hebrew on the phone animation at 2:37 has the letters in the reverse order (the video has it as תירבע instead of עברית)

    55. Frederik Gjern Rosenberg

      Honestly i would be completely ok with the danish language being wiped off the earth and replaced with english

    56. Icwatto

      in my s9 phone ðere are icelandic

    57. DeluxeTux5249

      Oh, you like languages? Name every language. Me: *PROTO-WORLD* (and all of its dialects)

    58. Xaim

      Me an italian downloading a game:

    59. Shawn Deer Williams

      The amount of langauges to satisfy duolingo

    60. Birb64

      I am someone with a personal dialect that is a bit on the latin side. Similis hōc.

    61. W Spann


    62. Tamara Morrison

      I just noticed the wort "עברית" is written from left to right on the little phone animation. Which looks really weird, wow

    63. roger van Bommel

      Really, that statement at the end would be a problem, though since I speak Dutch as my native is it not as bad

    64. Sparky 2_0


    65. GX

      Dont care. All is fine


      I hope one day there will be only one language so kids don't have to go through the pain of learning other languages.

    67. rL0dWasHere


    68. Alix

      My dad says one day, because of the internet, all languages except two, english and mandarin, will die and eventually the remaining two will merge

    69. Arno Nym

      The question is also: do Serbian and Croatian count as different languages? Politically they do, but in fact, they're the same (besides the typical dialect things). Same issue like displaying disputed borders on a map. You can only fail :)

    70. ׂ ׂ

      20XX- Draggshugar (international English) [noun - Draeg Shu ger] The wind that comes through the window

    71. Apothe Curio

      Adam Neely and Tom Scott are becoming the pioneers of anti clickbait.

    72. P6-5 RAMESH LOHAN

      Haha Singlish is not a language. The government of singapore is actually discouraging singlish(I think&

    73. Sod Almighty

      No, "imma" is not a word.

    74. Wooden Shovel

      me: I want to learn every language! also me: *oh*

    75. gábor papp

      Never going to give you up

    76. Eurasia Acaci .-

      In the Philippines, all native languages are called dialects if its not Filipino

    77. smakkacow

      putting the video in the top left after you went back down was genius

    78. Cameron Schultz

      Google Translate: "I'm about to end this man's whole career"

    79. Brooksquid

      Twin languages

    80. Aloysius Kurnia

      "And even fairly major ones can be in trouble" "Lemme guess, Gaeilge?" "Icelandic is spoken..." "NOT ICELANDIC TOO!"

      1. Miller Peshek

        I wouldn't really call Geailge major, but it absolutely needs support.

    81. Артём Бойко

      I'm just wondering if conlangs are counted there Esperanto is spoken by hundreds of thousands people, but it's absolutely possible they didn't include it

    82. DpsAlt

      *7118, they forgot Ferb-Latin

    83. Jeremy Johns

      seven-thousand one-hundred seventeen.

    84. Asher

      What's a computer? 1:14

    85. Rickmonas90

      Short answer: 7.117 4 minutes and 2 seconds answer:

    86. Pending Change

      i would be ok with loss of english

    87. The Literal Sky

      "How would you feel if it was english?" - Relieved

    88. Claridad Intelectual

      Love your rithm 😃 thank u very much 👌🙏🍻🤜🤛

    89. Wired Wrong

      Parents being called Rents on the internet is lazy and annoying.

    90. Akshat Monga

      0:44 So sad to know that Tom is not our friend.

    91. kishore ksm

      Fact :- among the 7117 languages TAMIL is one of the oldest and still commonly used language. The mother of tamil language is sanskrit. Another fact, I too speak tamil..

      1. kishore ksm

        @Joe Miller that means I neet to add one of.. And also the thing I wrote above, was written in, a book called "தமிழின் வரலாறு" Which means history of tamil.. That's why I told so..

      2. Joe Miller

        Tamil is not the oldest language, it's 500 years younger than Hebrew and Chinese, and it's 1200 years younger than Greek, which is still natively spoken by millions of people. Sanskrit and Tamil are from separate families, and neither is the "mother" of the other.

    92. Michael

      On many levels my English is better than my native Hebrew xP internet and stuff. I often have the sentence in my head in English as I speak and have to translate it on the go when speaking Hebrew. End's up sounding silly

    93. Danilego

      1:47 Aight, imma head out

    94. Mr. Monopoly


    95. GemScythe

      I want universal language tho, idc which lenguage

    96. peleg rak

      תירבע XD

    97. hateeternalmaver

      If you say Imma gonna you sound like Super Mario... ;D

    98. Ulrike Matzen

      Great. Just to the point.

    99. Scott Turcott

      Why is it not possible to translate instantly?

    100. Jason Rodgers

      I was gonna just leave and be like, whelp, there is the answer