Of the many language families of Asia, Indo-European (purple, blue, and medium green) and Sino-Tibetan (chartreuse and pink) dominate numerically, while Altaic families (grey, bright green, and maroon) occupy large areas geographically. Regionally dominant families are Japonic in Japan, Austronesian in the Malay Archipelago (dark red), Kadai and Mon–Khmer in Southeast Asia (azure and peach), Dravidian in South India (khaki), Turkic in Central Asia (grey), and Semitic in the Mideast (orange).
There is a wide variety of languages spoken throughout Asia, comprising different language families and some unrelated isolates. Asian languages usually have a long tradition of writing, but not always.
The major families in terms of numbers are Indo-European in South Asia and Sino-Tibetan in East Asia. Several other families are regionally dominant.
Sino-Tibetan includes Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, and numerous languages of the Tibetan Plateau, southern China, Burma, and North east India.
The Indo-European family is primarily represented by the Indo-Iranian branch. It includes both Indic languages (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Sinhalese and other languages spoken primarily in South Asia) and Iranian (Persian, Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi and other languages spoken primarily in Iran, Central Asia 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.
The Mon–Khmer languages (Austroasiatic languages) are the oldest family in Asia. They include Vietnamese and Khmer (Cambodian).
The Tai-Kadai languages (or just Kadai) of southern China spread in historic times into Southeast Asia, where Thai (Siamese) and Lao are official languages.
The Austronesian languages include the languages of the Philippines and most of the languages of Indonesia (excluding inland New Guinea), such as Malay (Indonesian) and Tagalog (Filipino).
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 are represented by the Semitic group spoken in Southwest Asia. It includes Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and extinct languages such as Akkadian.
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.
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.
Small families of South Asia
Although dominated by major languages and families, there are number of minor families and isolates in South Asia. From west to east, these include
Creoles and pidgins
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.
||Official Status in a Country
||Official Status in a Region|
| Abkhaz || Aԥсшәа || 240,000 || Northwest Caucasian || Abkhazia || Georgia|
| Arabic || العَرَبِيَّة || 230,000,000 || Afro-Asiatic || Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Oman, UAE, Israel |
| Armenian || հայերեն || 5,902,970 || Indo-European || Armenia || Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)|
| Assamese || অসমীয়া || 15,000,000 || Indo-European || || India (in Assam)|
| Azerbaijani || Azərbaycanca || 37,324,060 || Turkic || Azerbaijan || Iran, Dagestan (Russia)|
| Bengali || বাংলা || 150,000,000 || Indo-European || Bangladesh || India (in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Jharkhand)|
| Burmese || မြန်မာစာ || 33,000,000|| Sino-Tibetan || Myanmar |
| Cantonese || 廣東話/广东话 || 7,877,900|| Sino-Tibetan || || Hong Kong(China), Macau(China)|
| Chinese || 普通話/普通话,國語/国语,華語/华语 || || Sino-Tibetan || China, Taiwan, Singapore |
| Dari ||دری || 19,600,000 || Indo-European || Afghanistan |
| Dhivehi || ދިވެހި || 400,000 || Indo-European || Maldives |
| Dzongkha || རྫོང་ཁ་ || 600,000 || Sino-Tibetan || Bhutan |
| English || English || || Indo-European || Philippines, Singapore, India, Pakistan || Hong Kong (China)|
| Filipino|| Wikang Filipino || 90,000,000 || Austronesian || Philippines |
| Georgian || ქართული || 4,200,000 || Kartvelian || Georgia |
| Gujarati || ગુજરાતી || 50,000,000 || Indo-European || || India (in Gujarat, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli)|
| Greek || Ελληνικά || 11,000,000 || Indo-European || Cyprus, Greece |
| Hebrew || עברית || 7,000,000 || Afro-Asiatic || Israel |
| Hindi || हिन्दी || 500,000,000 || Indo-European || India |
| Indonesian || Bahasa Indonesia || 240,000,000 || Austronesian || Indonesia || East Timor (as a working language)|
| Japanese || 日本語 || 120,000,000 || Japonic || Japan |
| Kannada || ಕನ್ನಡ || 51,000,000|| Dravidian || || India (in Karnataka)|
| Kazakh || Қазақша || 18,000,000 || Turkic || Kazakhstan |
| Khmer || ភាសាខ្មែរ || 14,000,000 || Austroasiatic || Cambodia |
| Korean || 한국어/조선말 || 80,000,000 || Koreanic || South Korea, North Korea || China (in Yanbian and Changbai)|
| Kurdish || Kurdî / کوردی || 20,000,000 || Indo-European || Iraq |
| Kyrgyz || кыргызча || 2,900,000 || Turkic || Kyrgyzstan |
| Lao|| ພາສາລາວ || 7,000,000 || Tai-Kadai || Laos |
| Malay/Malaysian || Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia, بهاس ملايو/ مليسيا || 30,000,000 || Austronesian || Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore |
| Marathi || मराठी || 73,000,000 || Indo-European || || India (in Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli)|
| Mongolian || Монгол хэлᠮᠣᠨᠭᠭᠣᠯ|
| 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 || Georgia, North Ossetia–Alania (Russia)|
| Pashto || پښتو || 45,000,000 || Indo-European || Afghanistan |
| Persian || فارسی || 50,000,000 || Indo-European || Iran |
| Punjabi || ਪੰਜਾਬੀ || 100,000,000 || Indo-European || || India (in Punjab, India, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh) Pakistan (in Punjab, Pakistan)|
| Urdu || اُردُو || 62,120,540 || Indo-European || Pakistan || India (in Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh)|
| Saraiki || سرائیکی/सराइकी || 18,179,610 || Indo-European || || Pakistan (in Bahawalpur ) India (in Andhra Pradesh )|
| Portuguese || Português || 1,200,000 || Indo-European || Timor Leste || Macau (China)|
| Russian || Pусский|| 260,000,000 || Indo-European || Abkhazia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, South Ossetia || Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (as an inter-ethnic language), Turkmenistan (as an inter-ethnic language) |
| Sinhala || සිංහල || 18,000,000 || Indo-European || Sri Lanka |
| 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, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Puducherry,)|
| Tajik || тоҷикӣ || 7,900,000 || Indo-European || Tajikistan |
| Tetum ||Lia-Tetun || 500,000 || Austronesian || Timor Leste |
| Thai || ภาษาไทย || 60,000,000 || Tai-Kadai || Thailand |
| Tulu || ತುಳು || 1,722,768 || Dravidian || || India (in Mangalore, Udupi, Kasargod, Mumbai)|
| Turkish || Türkçe || 70,000,000 || Turkic || Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus |
| Turkmen || Türkmençe || 7,000,000 || Turkic || Turkmenistan |
| Uzbek || Oʻzbekcha || 25,000,000 || Turkic || Uzbekistan |
| Vietnamese || Tiếng Việt || 80,000,000 || Austroasiatic || Vietnam |