Linguists often use the tree metaphor to show the historical relationships between languages and how they relate to one another. In a language history course, these trees would most of the time look very simple and informative, but they lack imagination. Minna Sundberg, creator of the webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent, thinks that there is no reason why linguistics should be so visually uninspiring and unimaginative. So, she remapped the languages into one beautiful and magnificent tree that is quite a sight to feast your eyes on.
This tree beautifully captures the connections between groups of languages, and it shows that all languages descend from a common ancestral proto-language. The size of the leaves on top of each branch approximates how many people speak each language, with English being one of the largest groups, alongside Spanish and Hindi. We leave you with the infographic for now. Let’s meet below for some comments.
(Tap on the picture to see it in full resolution.)
Finnish and other Scandinavian languages are geographically neighbors but that doesn’t make them family. As the tree shows, they are derived from different roots.
The European region splits into Slavic, Romance, and Germanic branches. Celtic languages, as well as Latin, are shown as delicate twig-like branches.
As beautiful and illustrative as the infographic seems, it still overlooks other very significant languages. One language that does not feature in this tree is Arabic and other Asian and African languages of which the number of native speakers could easily amount to a billion speakers. But then again, that tree would be too big to fit on a web page. Just imagine how humongous a tree would look if it included all the 7000+ beautiful languages that we have in the world today.