There is a wide variety of languages spoken throughout Asia, comprising different language families and some unrelated isolates. The major language families spoken on the continent include Altaic, Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Caucasian, Dravidian, Indo-European, Semitic, Siberian, Sino-Tibetan and Tai-Kadai. They usually have a long tradition of writing, but not always.
The Indo-European languages are primarily represented by the Indo-Iranian branch. The family includes both Indic languages (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Gujarati, Sinhalese and other languages spoken primarily in South Asia) and Iranian (Persian, Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi and other languages spoken primarily in Iran, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of South Asia). In addition, other branches of Indo-European spoken in Asia include the Slavic branch, which includes Russian in Siberia; Greek around the Black Sea; and Armenian; as well as extinct languages such as Hittite of Anatolia and Tocharian of (Chinese) Turkestan.
A number of smaller, but important language families spread across central and northern Asia have long been linked in an as-yet unproven Altaic family. These are the Turkic languages, Mongolic languages, Tungusic languages (including Manchu), Korean, and Japonic languages. Speakers of Turkish (Anatolian Turks) are believed to have adopted the language, having instead originally spoken the Anatolian languages, an extinct group of languages belonging to the Indo-European family.
The Dravidian languages of southern India and parts of Sri Lanka include Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam, while smaller languages such as Gondi and Brahui are spoken in central India and Pakistan respectively.
The Afroasiatic languages (Hamito-Semitic) are presently represented by the Semitic branch spoken in Southwest Asia. It includes Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, in addition to extinct languages such as Akkadian. The Modern South Arabian languages contain a substratum influence from the Cushitic branch of Afroasiatic, which suggests that Cushitic speakers originally inhabited the Arabian Peninsula alongside Semitic speakers.
Besides the Altaic families already mentioned (of which Tungusic is today a minor family of Siberia), there are a number of small language families and isolates spoken across northern Asia. These include the Uralic languages of western Siberia (better known for Hungarian and Finnish in Europe), the Yeniseian languages (linked to Turkic and to the Athabaskan languages of North America), Yukaghir, Nivkh of Sakhalin, Ainu of northern Japan, Chukotko-Kamchatkan in easternmost Siberia, and—just barely—Eskimo–Aleut. Some linguists have noted that the Koreanic languages share more similarities with the Paleosiberian languages than with the Altaic languages. The extinct Ruan-ruan language of Mongolia is unclassified, and does not show genetic relationships with any other known language family.
Three small families are spoken in the Caucasus: Kartvelian languages, such as Georgian; Northeast Caucasian (Dagestanian languages), such as Chechen; and Northwest Caucasian, such as Circassian. The latter two may be related to each other. The extinct Hurro-Urartian languages may be related as well.
The eponymous pidgin ("business") language developed with European trade in China. Of the many creoles to have developed, the most spoken today are Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole of the Philippines, and various Malay-based creoles such as Manado Malay influenced by Portuguese. A very well-known Portuguese-based creole is the Kristang, which is spoken in Malacca, a city-state in Malaysia.
A number of sign languages are spoken throughout Asia. These include the Japanese Sign Language family, Chinese Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, as well as a number of small indigenous sign languages of countries such as Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. Many official sign languages are part of the French Sign Language family.
Asia and Europe are the only two continents where most countries use native languages as their official languages, though English is also widespread.
|Language||Native name||Speakers||Language Family||Official Status in a Country||Official Status in a Region|
|Arabic||العَرَبِيَّة||230,000,000||Afro-Asiatic||Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Oman, UAE, Israel|
|Assamese||অসমীয়া||15,000,000||Indo-European||India (in Assam)|
|Bangla||বাংলা||230,000,000||Indo-European||Bangladesh||India (in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Jharkhand)|
|Bodo||Boro||1,984,569||Sino-Tibetan||India (in Bodoland)|
|Cantonese||廣東話/广东话||7,877,900||Sino-Tibetan||Hong Kong, Macau|
|Chinese||普通話/普通话,國語/国语,華語/华语||Sino-Tibetan||China, Taiwan, Singapore|
|English||English||301,625,412||Indo-European||Philippines, Singapore, India, Pakistan||Hong Kong (China)|
|Gujarati||ગુજરાતી||50,000,000||Indo-European||India (in Gujarat, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli)|
|Indonesian||Bahasa Indonesia||240,000,000||Austronesian||Indonesia||East Timor (as a working language)|
|Kannada||ಕನ್ನಡ||51,000,000||Dravidian||India (in Karnataka)|
|Karen||ကညီကျိး||6,000,000||Sino-Tibetan||Myanmar (in Kayin State)|
|Korean||한국어/조선말||80,000,000||Koreanic||South Korea, North Korea||China (in Yanbian and Changbai)|
|Malay||Bahasa Melayu/بهاس ملايو||30,000,000||Austronesian||Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore|
|Malayalam||മലയാളം||33,000,000||Dravidian||India (in Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mahe)|
|Marathi||मराठी||73,000,000||Indo-European||India (in Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli)|
|2,000,000||Mongolic||Mongolia||China (in Inner Mongolia)|
|Nepali||नेपाली||29,000,000||Indo-European||Nepal||India (in Sikkim and West Bengal)|
|Odia||ଓଡ଼ିଆ||33,000,000||Indo-European||India (in Odisha and Jharkhand)|
|Ossetian||Ирон||540,000 (50,000 in South Ossetia)||Indo-European||South Ossetia||North Ossetia–Alania (Russia)|
|Punjabi||پنجابی / ਪੰਜਾਬੀ||100,000,000||Indo-European||India (in Punjab, India, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh) Pakistan (in Punjab, Pakistan)|
|Portuguese||Português||1,200,000||Indo-European||Timor Leste||Macau (China)|
|Russian||Русский||260,000,000||Indo-European||Abkhazia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, South Ossetia||Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (as an inter-ethnic language), Turkmenistan (as an inter-ethnic language)|
|Saraiki||سرائیکی||18,179,610||Indo-European||Pakistan (in Bahawalpur ) India (in Andhra Pradesh )|
|Tamil||தமிழ்||77,000,000||Dravidian||Sri Lanka, Singapore||India (in Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Puducherry)|
|Telugu||తెలుగు||79,000,000||Dravidian||India (in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Puducherry)|
|Tulu||ತುಳು||1,722,768||Dravidian||India (in Mangalore, Udupi, Kasargod, Mumbai)|
|Turkish||Türkçe||70,000,000||Turkic||Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus|
|Urdu||اُردُو||62,120,540||Indo-European||Pakistan||India (in Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh)|
|Zopau||Zomi||5,000,000||Sino-Tibetan||Myanmar (in Chin State, Sagaing Region)|