One way to organize languages by similarity is through their historical language families. The major families, by number of modern speakers, are:
Indo-European languages (Europe, Asia, America, Oceania) Sino-Tibetan languages (East Asia) Niger-Congo languages (Sub-Saharan Africa) Afro-Asiatic languages (North Africa to Horn of Africa, Southwest Asia) Austronesian languages (Oceania, Madagascar, maritime Southeast Asia) Dravidian languages (South Asia) Altaic languages (Central Asia, Northern Asia, Anatolia, Siberia) Austroasiatic languages (mainland Southeast Asia) Kra–Dai languages (Southeast Asia) Japonic languages (Japan)
There are occasional discussions about how to support / represent / interact with local projects in minority languages, as the projects grow to include almost 300 languages, many with few native speakers. One option is to define a set of core languages that are strongly supported in multilingual projects such as Meta, Commons, and the Foundation wiki. A compatible option is to define a set of important regional languages, which would ideally be covered by projects such as the Embassy, translation of major announcements, and interproject Stewards. Every language not in this set would have a parent in the set, where it would by default look for messages or help if a native speaker or translator could not be found.
Core language proposals
Pri Languages ---|----------------- 1 | en, fr 2 | es 3 | ja, ru, zh 4 | de, pt 5 | ar, bn, hi, in, it, nl, pl
The UN uses a different set of core languages:
ar, en, es, fr, ru, zh
Other changes suggested to the above include elevating hi, zh and de in priority for the body of speakers and the breadth of wikipedia and reference/library work, respectively.
Major language proposals
A list of all languages with a project of over 1,000 articles, and their proposed branches from a core language.
|#||Language||Language (local)||Wiki||Language tree||Comments|
|2||English||English||en||En --> (De, Fr, Es)|
|2||German||Deutsch||de||De --> En --> (Fr, Es)|
|3||French||français||fr||Fr --> (Ca, Es, En)|
|6||Italian||italiano||it||It --> (Es, En)|
|7||Dutch||Nederlands||nl||Nl --> (En, De, Fr, Es)|
|8||Spanish||español||es||Es --> Ca --> En|
|9||Portuguese||português||pt||Pt --> (En, Es)|
|10||Russian||русский||ru||Ru --> Uk --> En|
|15||Catalan||català||ca||Ca --> Es|
|16||Ukrainian||українська||uk||Uk --> Ru|
|21||Volapük||Volapük||vo||only 9 admins|
|24||Slovak||slovenčina||sk||only 9 admins|