Language family

The languages ​​of the world can be divided into language families. A language family or genetic unit is a group of genetically related, ie, from a common ancestor language ( proto-language, proto-language, common language, basic language ) -derived languages. Some language families, this original languages ​​can be reconstructed by systematic comparison of individual languages ​​, to a certain degree. With the genetic relationships between languages ​​, the comparative-historical linguistics is concerned.

An overview of all language families worldwide, the article language families of the world.

Genetic unit and language family

The terms genetic unity and family of languages ​​are used by some researchers interchangeably. Others understand language families as the maximum genetic units. Here is an example: The Indo-European language family and is a genetic unit of languages ​​that can be a common ancestor language, Protoindogermanische returned. The Romance languages ​​of Indo-European form within a genetic unit, as they are all descended from Latin. Strictly speaking, constitute the Romance languages, no language family, since they belong to a broader unit of the Indo-European language family. Nevertheless, it is generally spoken of the Romance language family.

Definition of language families

Some researchers consider a genetic unit or language family only as established or "proven" when are demonstrated regular sound correspondences between its members ( for example the familiar sound shifts from Indo-European to Germanic languages). Other researchers ( eg, J. Greenberg) construct language families mainly through comprehensive lexical and morphological comparisons, to which as many languages ​​of a region or even continent be used (see Lexical mass comparison).

There are and have been repeated attempts, the individual established language families further into larger units, the so-called macro families together (eg Nostra table, Eurasia table, Dene - Caucasian ). These experiments were so convincing that they had been accepted by a majority of researchers so far in any case.

Internal structure

The scientific study of genetic units of speech, there are two fundamentally different tasks, which are sometimes not clear enough apart:

  • Task 1: What languages ​​belong to the family of languages ​​XY?
  • Task 2: What are the genetic relationships exist between the languages ​​of the XY family, ie what is the genetic family tree?

In many cases, the first task is relatively safe solvable, while the second is hardly definitively answered in known families. Today it is relatively clear which languages ​​belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family, but the internal structure of this large genetic unit is still controversial. Even the best-studied family of languages ​​- Indo-European - raises in this regard still to questions. The clarification of this question sometimes relied on mathematical and statistical methods (eg, the glottochronology ) are disputed by many researchers.

Typological classification and geographical

The genetic classification (ie classification of languages ​​according to their origins ) is clear from the typological classification according to structural features (eg, inflection, agglutination, ergativity, vowel harmony, tonal language, etc.) to differ. This can, but does not point to a common proto- language. A geographical division of languages ​​can lead to a finding of voice frets, where the similarities of the languages ​​involved are due to long-term cultural contact its speakers independent of the genetic origin of their languages.