Isolates & unclassified languages

Isolats & langues non classifiées









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    The difference between a language isolate and an unclassified language is the following. A language isolate is a language with a reasonable amount of documentation that has been evaluated by scholars for a sufficient period of time to know that the language is not closely related to any other known language or group.

    An unclassified language is typically that of a recently discovered ethnic group. In such case, little or nothing is known of the language of these people, or is known has not yet come to attention of someone who could classify it on this basis.


    A language isolate is a language with no clear relationship to or affinity with other languages. Unlike English, which is clearly related to other Germanic languages, or the various Chinese languages, isolates generally stand apart from their surrounding languages in terms of their phonology, grammar, and syntax. Examples include Basque, Ainu, Burushaski, and Japanese.

    Isolate languages are often the subject of intensive studies in order to attempt proof of genetic relationships between languages. Basque, for instance, has been the subject of comparisons to the South Caucasian languages and the Indo-European language family.

    Some languages are isolates because all the other languages in that language family have died. The Pirahã language of Brazil is one such language, the last language alive belonging to the Mura family. In contrast, there are languages whose relatives are spoken by communities a long distance away, because of past migrations. Such languages are not considered isolates.

    Below is a list of known language isolates, along with notes on possible relations to other languages or language families:

    Language Comments
    Ainu Endangered language.
    Basque No known relatives. Some linguists have attempted to show relationship with the Caucasian languages or Iberic.
    Burushaski Little information available.
    Gilyak or Nivx. A Palaeosiberian language spoken in the lower Amur basin and on Sakhalin; Ainu is also spoken on Sakhalin.
    Ket No known relatives. Some linguists have attempted to show a relationship with Burushaski.
    Korean Possibly related to Japanese language, though not yet proven. Connections to the Altaic languages have also been proposed.



    Reasons to be an isolate:

    1- the sole surviving language of a language family

    2- no demonstrable genealogical (or "genetic") relationship with other languages

    3- not related to any other at a family level according to Ross for Trans–New Guinea isolates.

    4- lack of data or no known speakers



  • Language isolates [Show]

    Unclassified languages are languages whose genetic affiliation has not been established, mostly due to lack of reliable data.
    The question of the genetic affiliation of languages belongs to the domain of historical linguistics. If this state of affairs continues even after intense study of the language and efforts to connect it to other languages, it is termed a language isolate.
    Languages can be considered unclassified for a variety of reasons, including: Absence of data, paucity of data, not closely related to its neighbors, and not commonly examined due to paucity of data,
    not closely related to any other language, and academic consensus on its more distant relations not yet established, also, languages whose very existence either presently or in the past is dubious fall into this category by default.

  • Unclassified languages [Show]

  • Extinct Isolates & Unclassified languages [Show]

  • Map (all languages) [Show]

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