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Summary by language size

A striking fact shown in Table 1 is that there is a huge disparity between the mean size of languages and the median size. It turns out that 347 (or approximately 5%) of the world's languages have at least one million speakers and account for 94% of the world's population. By contrast, the remaining 95% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world's people.

Table 2 summarizes the distribution of languages by size. The Count columns give the actual number of languages within the specified population range and the total number of first-language speakers of those languages. Where the language entry in Part I lists a range of values for the population, the midpoint of the range is used for this tabulation. The Percent columns give the share of the count for that population range as a percentage of the total number listed at the bottom of the Count column. Note that there are still a few hundred languages for which the Ethnologue does not have a population estimate; the calculation of percentages for speakers is therefore not able to take those languages into account. The Cumulative columns give the cumulative sum of the percentages going from top to bottom in the column.

Table 2. Distribution of languages by number of first-language speakers

Population range Living languages Number of speakers
  Count Percent Cumulative   Count Percent Cumulative
100,000,000 to 999,999,999   8 0.10.1%   2,301,423,372 40.20753 40.20753%
10,000,000 to 99,999,999   75 1.11.2%   2,246,597,929 39.24969 79.45723%
1,000,000 to 9,999,999   264 3.85.0%   825,681,046 14.42525 93.88247%
100,000 to 999,999   892 12.917.9%   283,651,418 4.95560 98.83807%
10,000 to 99,999   1,779 25.743.7%   58,442,338 1.02103 99.85910%
1,000 to 9,999   1,967 28.572.1%   7,594,224 0.13268 99.99177%
100 to 999   1,071 15.587.6%   457,022 0.00798 99.99976%
10 to 99   344 5.092.6%   13,163 0.00023 99.99999%
1 to 9   204 3.095.5%   698 0.00001 100.00000%
Unknown   308 4.5100.0%
6,912 100.0   5,723,861,210 100.00000


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