Giant stone letters from the Armenian Alphabet in a field.

Surprising and Fascinating Linguistics Facts From Around the World

From the intricate scripts of ancient civilizations to the vibrant dialects of modern communities, language is a cornerstone of human communication, culture, and identity. It shapes our thoughts, perceptions, and interactions with the world. 

Much more than simple words, language overflows with fascinating and sometimes strange linguistic facts like the ones we’ve put together for you.

How Many Languages Are There?

Group holding language signs.
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How many languages can you think of? Ten,15, 25? On average, people can identify 10 languages, and most people around the world speak at least two or three languages.

But did you know there are 7100 languages in the world? How many can you think of?

This Country Speaks the Most Languages

Map of Papua New Guinea.
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Papua New Guinea's linguistic diversity reflects its rich culture, with communities often speaking distinct languages within small geographical areas. 

Of the world’s 7100 languages 840 are spoken in Papua New Guinea. 700 languages are reportedly spoken in Indonesia and 530 in Nigeria. 350 languages are spoken in the United States.

This Word Accidently Made It Into the Dictionary

Magnifying glass on dictionary page.
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The word “dord” was accidentally added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1934 and even included a definition.

Dord was defined as a synonym for density used in physics and chemistry, however, it resulted from a misinterpretation of the editor-in-chief. The original text read, “D or d, cont./density”, though the first part was mistaken for a single word. 

The error was noticed in 1939, but it wasn’t removed until 1947.

How Many Sign Languages Are There?

Woman uses sign language with friend.
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Sign languages are not universal; they vary across cultures, regions, and even within communities. Each sign language has its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, reflecting the unique communication needs and cultural context of Deaf communities worldwide.

26 Letters in the Alphabet? Not Everywhere!

Old Khmer writing on wall.
Image Credit:
Marina Ivanova/Shutterstock.com.

The Cambodian language of Khmer has 74 letters. Khmer includes consonants and vowels, but also diacritics and ligatures, facilitating the phonetic nuances and linguistic intricacies.

Who Needs All the Extra Letters Anyway?

Lots of little black letters sprinkled on a notebook page in a journal with a pencil.
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Rotokas is spoken by about 4,320 people on the island of Bougainville, located east of New Guinea. Their alphabet has just 12 letters: A E G I K O P R S T U V.

An Alphabet of Stone

Giant stone letters in a field.
Image Credit: Sergei-Afanasev/Shutterstock.

In Byurakan, Armenia there is a field of 39 giant stone letters. The Armenian Alphabet Monument was created in 2005 by architect J. Torosyan, to celebrate the 1600 year anniversary of the alphabet's creation. It is near the resting place of the alphabet's creator, Mesrop Mashtots.

What’s Another Word for Synonym?

Thinking woman with glasses looking up on many questions marks.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

There isn’t one. 

Other words without synonyms include a, an, any, either, neither, my, and the.

This Country Has the Most Native Speakers

Map of China.
Image Credit: hyotographics/Shutterstock.com.

While English may be the most common language, it is not the language spoken by the most native speakers.

Chinese and its variations take the title with 940 million native speakers. In second place, Spanish comes in with nearly 480 million native speakers.

English comes in third with 380 million native speakers.

This Is the Most Commonly Used Letter in English

A Block with E on it.
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The letter E is the most commonly used letter in the English language. T is second, followed by A.

E is also the most common first letter, followed by S, I, and A.

These Letters Are the Least Common

Wooden alphabet blocks.
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It should come as no surprise that the letters J, Q, X, and Z are the least common letters in the English language.

This Is the Fast Spoken Language

Speaking
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

When measured at syllables spoken per second or per minute, Japanese takes the lead with 7.84 per second!

These Are the Slowest Spoken Languages

Three pelicans enforcing the speed limit
Photo Credit: Lynn Hristov Shutterstock

Coming in at the other end of the speed spectrum you will find Mandarin and German, with speeds of 5.18 and 5.97 syllables per second.

On Your Mark, Get Set…

Sprinter starting race.
Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com.

“Go!” is the shortest and grammatically correct sentence in the English language.

The Official Language of the United States of America

George Washington on United of America Flag.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

With 350 languages spoken in the US, English is the most widely spoken. However, it is not the official language.

In fact, the USA does not have an official language.

This Country Has the Most Official Languages

South Africa on a map.
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Among the world’s 195 countries, 178 recognize an official language, and 101 recognize more than one.

South Africa is an exceptionally diverse nation, recognizing 11 official languages.

This Language Is the Fastest Evolving Language

English teacher at board.
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With each edition of the English dictionary, new words make the cut. In 2023, 690 new words were added to the fastest and ever-evolving English language.

From Art Comes Language

William Shakespeare Sculpture in London
Photo credit: Depositphotos

It’s often said that art imitates life, but in one person’s case, art created new language.

A creative playwright, poet, and actor who holds a firm place in history, Shakespeare is said to have created 1700 new words over the course of his work, including bedroom, gossip, bedroom, and hurry.

An Almost Extinct Language

Map of Cameroon.
Image Credit: BUTENKOV ALEKSEI/Shutterstock.com.

In 1986, only eight people in the Southern Bantoid of Cameroon communicated in Busuu. 

By 2005, only three remained.  

More Letters Than the Alphabet

Silicosis dictionary definition.
Image Credit: Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com.

The longest word contained in an English dictionary is comprised of 45 letters. The world refers to a specific form of lung disease stemming from the inhalation of volcanic silica dust.

The word is ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’ and is also, thankfully, known as silicosis.

Digital Dominion

A human finger and a robotic finger converge amidst a luminous network of digital connections, symbolizing human-AI interaction.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Much of the world’s data is stored in a digital format for safekeeping and convenience. 

While no one knows for sure, there are an estimated 15 trillion files worldwide, including text, video, pictures, and sound. Of written scholarly articles, 114 million, or 80%, are stored in English.

The Language of Twins

Twins in a field.
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Twins are already intriguing. But up to 50% of young twins will have their own twin language with each other that others can’t understand.

Cryptophasia is the term used to describe the phenomenon of language between twins.

The Most Translated Book of All Time

Person holding bible.
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By far, the Bible is the most translated book in the world, making it accessible – at least in part – to nearly half of the world’s languages.

  • 3,384 languages (at least one book)
  • 2,191 languages (at least New Testament)
  • 698 languages (Old and New Testaments)

Author: Todd Rowley

Title: Copywriter

Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.