I saw this question asked on Twitter today. At first blush it seemed like an easy reference question, but I can't find any place that actually has this spelled out in one place. I ended up having to do a lot of research, and still lots of folks came up with answers I didn't think about.

So perhaps this question can be that place. Feel free to add any qualifying languages that aren't listed to the wiki answer below.

For the purposes of the question, I'd like to stick to standard accepted boundaries of Europe, and not to include languages that only appeared due to late modern migration (eg: Arabic in Germany). Also of course no dead languages. (sorry, Etruscan. We miss you!)

Globe map of Europe

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    I see you've already got several high quality answers here so it's too late to change anything, but this question would have been better asked on Linguistics.SE.
    – CJ Dennis
    May 22, 2019 at 3:39
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    @LangLangC I don't think most definitions (perhaps not any geographic definitions) of Europe include parts of Georgia. The most modern definition uses the ridge of the Caucasus as the border, and that's the northern border of Georgia. Most older definitions placed the Europe/Asia border even farther north. The only claims I see of Georgia as being European are based on culture, which doesn't seem to me to be valid. You might as well call Canada European on that basis!
    – C Monsour
    May 22, 2019 at 11:00
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    @DavidRobinson I asked in Linguistics since I find the comment and possible answers to it very interesting.
    – Pavel
    May 23, 2019 at 14:21

5 Answers 5



Wikipedia: Languages of Europe Src: Linguistic Maps Of Europe | Languages Of Europe

Since there are a fair amount of them, languages are grouped below by language family:


A linguistic isolate native to the Pyrenees mountains between Spain, and France.

Basque Map
Source: "Location of the Basque-language provinces within Spain and France" by Eddo from Wikipedia.org

Uralic Languages

Map of Uralic
Source: "Linguistic maps of the Uralic languages" by Eddo derived based on a work by Chumwa from Wikipedia.org

Afro-Asiatic Languages:

  • Maltese*, spoken on the island of Malta. Quite closely related to Arabic, this is the only Afro-Asiatic language that is an official language of an EU member country.

enter image description here

Turkic Languages

Turkic Map
Source: "An accurate representation of the areas in which Turkic languages are spoken." Copyright by Mirza Farahani, used under CC BY-SA 4.0 from wikipedia.org.

  • Turkish in the portions of the nation of Turkey west of the Bosporus (including Istanbul).

  • Azeri in the portion of Azerbaijan that is in Europe.

  • Volga Tatar in Tatarstan area of Russia

  • Crimean Tatar, spoken by Tatars in Crimea

  • Kipshak in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe

  • Bashkir language is a Turkic language belonging to the Kipchak branch. It is co-official with Russian in the Republic of Bashkortostan, European Russia

  • Kazakh in the Russian-Kazakh border regions

  • Gagauz language by the Gagauz people of Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey, and it is the official language of the Autonomous Region of Gagauzia in Moldova.

  • Chuvash language in European Russia, primarily in the Chuvash Republic and adjacent areas.

Caucasian language families

These three language families are not considered to be related to each other, so this a geographic grouping, not a linguistic one. The below language families are all native to the region between the Black and Caspian seas.

Northeast Caucasian (Caspian) Languages

enter image description here
Source: "Approximate distribution of the branches of the Northeast Caucasian languages" by JorisvS from wikipedia.org

Spoken in both Azerbaijan and in the Russian Republics of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. These include Chechen, Avar, Lezgian, Dargwa, Ingush, Lak, and Nakh.

Northwest Caucasian (Pontic) Languages

enter image description here
Source: "Approximate distribution of the branches of the Northwest Caucasian languages" by Gaga.vaa from wikipedia.org

Within Europe, spoken primarily in the Russian Republics of Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia. Members of the family represented in Europe include Karbardian and Adyghe.

Kartvelian (Iberian) Languages

enter image description here

  • Georgian in European portions of Georgia*

Mongolian languages

In the form of Kalmyckian Oirat, with Kalmyckia also the region in Europe with Buddhism as the main religion.

enter image description here


* - Geographically debatable

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Due to collaborative nature of this answer, we encourage use of the chat link for discussion on the contents of this answer. Further comments below will most likely be deleted. May 21, 2019 at 23:45
  • I think, beyond the listed families you won't find any living non-IE languages in Europe. So, either one could add new individual languages to these families or add extinct languages.
    – Anixx
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:28
  • I explicitly left extinct languages out of the question. I really love Etruscan and pals, but there are a nearly infinite amount of extinct languages.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:08

This answer is about Maltese. There have been various comments, which I build on and add to, as there are several complications:

  1. Does it result from a "modern migration"?
  2. Is Malta in Europe?
  3. Is it an Indo-European language?

Let us look at each of these. The main reference is Maltese language.

1. Does it result from a "modern migration"? Now that the question has been clarified with a link to a definition of modern, the answer is clearly no. So it is eligible.

2. Is Malta in Europe? It is an island between Europe and Africa, so, logically, it is neither European nor African. You could say it is European, based on proximity, but as T.E.D. quotes. "Islands are generally grouped with the nearest continental landmass...there are some exceptions based on sociopolitical and cultural differences... Malta was considered an island of Northwest Africa for centuries" so there are arguments on both sides. As for the argument about whether it is culturally European, there are two complications here. One is that it is not homogeneous. The northern part (nearer Sicily) is more Italianate (even with quite a lot of bilingualism) compared to the south. The other problem is that not all of its European-ness results from its proximity to Italy (which would help to class it as European) but rather from the fact that the UK treated it as a colony for quite a long time. We do not generally count places as part of Europe just because the UK injected culture from afar. As far as religion is concerned, Catholicism does not make a place European. The Maltese do seem to treat themselves as entirely European (in my limited experience) and they are in the EU, so I would put them in Europe on balance.

3. Is it an Indo-European language? The above reference says it is a Semitic language, but the fact is that it is a creole, with Sicilian Italian as the acrolect and Sicilian Arabic as the basolect. Whether you classify a creole according to the acrolect or the basolect is more to do with politics than linguistics, since the linguistic fact is that it is a mixture. As recently as the 1990s Maltese children were being taught in schools, heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, and on the flimsiest of evidence, that Maltese was based on Italian. Every creole is different in terms of how much of the acrolect and basolect there is in it, but there is typically a higher proportion of the basolect in the grammar and basic vocabulary than there is in the advanced vocabulary. In the case of Maltese the above reference says

The original Semitic base, Siculo-Arabic, comprises around one-third of the Maltese vocabulary, especially words that denote basic ideas and the function words, but about half of the vocabulary is derived from standard Italian and Sicilian; and English words make up between 6% and 20% of the vocabulary. A recent study shows that, in terms of basic everyday language, speakers of Maltese are able to understand less than a third of what is said to them in Tunisian Arabic, which is related to Siculo-Arabic, whereas speakers of Tunisian are able to understand about 40% of what is said to them in Maltese.

That looks to me like a substantially Indo-European language, but also like a substantially non-Indo-European language. Since the question is about non-Indo-European influence in Europe, which does occur in Maltese, I think Maltese should be included, for the Semitic half.

So, on balance, I think Maltese should be included, as it contains a significant amount of Semitic in somewhere that is substantially European.

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    Cyprus being in Europe is not remotely debatable, despite it's location – at the least the larger Greek part. Culturally it is Greek (thus European), linguistically it is Greek, and ethnically many Greek Cypriots (and some Turkish Cypriots) still share a lot with other Greeks. Oh yeah, and did I mention it's a member state of the EU? Anyway, Malta is very much debatable, though @David Robinson addressed this point among others, and made a decent argument.
    – Noldorin
    May 22, 2019 at 1:20
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    @Noldorin Continents are determined by geography, not by culture. You really weaken your case when you say that at least part of Cyprus is in Europe. Either the whole island is in Europe or none of it is. The cultural argument clearly holds no water, for consider that the coast of Asia Minor was historically Greek. And do you know what the Greeks called it? "Asia".
    – C Monsour
    May 22, 2019 at 1:52
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    Malta is an island on the European continental shelf, it is geographically in Europe. @Noldorin Cyprus is clearly in Asia, geographically speaking. Culturally, it is European, however.
    – Chieron
    May 22, 2019 at 6:28
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    @LangLangC it is counted as Germanic, it seems to mostly have Hebrew (semitic) loanwords (many of which found its way into German, too), but the grammar is Germanic
    – Chieron
    May 22, 2019 at 6:29
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    Its WP page pretty firmly places the Maltese language as Semitic, and it isn't listed on any of their lists of creoles. Where's this answer's reference that someone credible agues otherwise? It did say that a hair over half its vocabulary has Romance (IE) roots, but there's far more to a language than just its vocabularly (just like there's far more to a computer programming language than just its reserved words and symbols).
    – T.E.D.
    May 22, 2019 at 14:17

I think Kalmyk has not been mentioned yet. And depending on what you define as "late modern", Chinese (e.g. in Liverpool) may also count.

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    The Late Modern period in historical circles is generally taken to start in the mid 18th Century. This was picked specifically to avoid the innumerable little urban ethnic diaspora enclaves all over the world enabled by modern transportation (and to give transient minority populations time to assimilate if that's their inclination).
    – T.E.D.
    May 22, 2019 at 14:24
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    Chinese definitely doesn't count. I think the OP makes it clear that we're only talking of languages that have some reasonable claim to being "native" or "long-established" in Europe.
    – Noldorin
    May 22, 2019 at 16:11
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    And yet Kazakh is supposed to count, because some areas west of the Ural river have been part of a Kazakh nation-state for an eternity of around 27.5 years (if I have calculated correctly).
    – Jan
    May 22, 2019 at 19:05
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    I agree, Kazakh probably shouldn't count either...
    – Noldorin
    May 22, 2019 at 20:18
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    There have been Kazakh native speakers in the area West of the Ural River for centuries, yes? So of course Kazakh should be on the list. If long-standing political independence were a requirement, you couldn't even count Basque.
    – C Monsour
    May 23, 2019 at 11:56

According to Dr. Seth Lerer, of The Great Courses and University of California San Diego, the Georgian language 's parentage is unknown, so it may not be Indo-European.

  • Do you have any citations that Georgian might be Indo-European? The only proposed connection between the Kartvelian languages and IE that I am aware of is Nostratic.
    – chepner
    May 23, 2019 at 20:19
  • I don't. The closest I can come to that is very anecdotal. I have discussed this with a Russian girl whose mother is from Georgia. She thinks it must be Indo-European based on the fact that, while speaking in the Georgian language, they (the Georgian people) use a lot of Russian words. This, of course, does not constitute any amount of scientific rigor. Given the close proximity of Georgia and Russia and Russia's overlordship of Georgia over the last century, it's not surprising that plenty of Russian words have mixed into the Georgian vernacular. That's all I've got concerning your question.
    – Mike
    May 29, 2019 at 18:44
  • Yeah, there's no "might" about it; Georgian is flat out not an IE language. I highly suspect that is what those words from Dr. Lerer were trying to tell you.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 25, 2020 at 13:44
  • The "Basque" lanuage (spoken at the northern border between Spain and France) is also of an unknown origin and not IE.
    – Mike
    Mar 2, 2020 at 15:06

This answer is about Yiddish. There have been various comments, which I build on and add to, as there are several complications:

  1. Does it result from a "modern migration"?
  2. Is Yiddish spoken in Europe?
  3. Is it an Indo-European language?

Let us look at each of these.

1. Does it result from a "modern migration"? Now that the question has been clarified with a link to a definition of modern, the answer is clearly no. So it is eligible.

2. Is Yiddish spoken in Europe? Yes, it has been for centuries, although it is rapidly dying out. So it should be counted as a European language

3. Is it an Indo-European language? The quick answer, according to most sources on the internet, is that it a Germanic language (thus IE) with Hebrew (thus Semitic) added.

But I don't think it is fair to classify any language as IE or non-IE based solely on a simple majority. If there are significant elements from both IE and non-IE, then it is linguistically important as both an IE and a non-IE language, in my view. If we were to go with a simple majority view then perhaps the UK should be excluded from Europe based on the fact that 52% of the population does not want it included in Europe.

When we get to the question of how much Hebrew there is in Yiddish, and thus whether Yiddish makes a significant contribution to non-IE European language, I came across a problem. No easy-to-find online source in English told me. This reflects the low status of Yiddish in the English-speaking world in the 21st century.

I turned to French Wikipedia which stated that the vocabulary is 10-15% Semitic. I would say that this figure, by itself, means that Yiddish should be included, as it means there is a Semitic element in European language, even if it is not large.

But there is a much more important consideration: whereas Maltese has had no significant effect on any other European language that I can find (notwithstanding this list of words I have never heard of), Yiddish has been the conduit for a number of Semitic words to enter not only German and Polish, but also English (paying attention to those marked as Hebrew in origin) (many of which I have heard of) and French.

So, given that Yiddish is the European language which has introduced many (and possibly the most) Semitic words into English, German, Polish and French, I think it deserves a place on the list, regardless of its predominantly IE grammar and the particular percentage of words of Semitic origin.

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    Do you have a credible source to reference this claim that Yiddish is not Indo-European? This website is meant to be descriptive, not proscriptive. If you have a novel idea about how historical things are to be viewed or classified that goes completely against the current scholarly consensus, we'd ask that you first submit it to the appropriate journals and get it published (peer-reviewed, etc.).
    – T.E.D.
    May 22, 2019 at 18:12
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    Every detailed tree of Indo-European languages I've seen places Yiddish squarely in the Germanic branch. May 22, 2019 at 19:47
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    I mean, around 60% of English words are of Latin origin, but no one in their right mind would argue that English is a Romance language. May 22, 2019 at 20:40
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    @David Robinson Please cite a text that treats Norman words in English as not being loan words.
    – C Monsour
    May 23, 2019 at 16:15
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    A point no one has mentioned: the Semitic words in Yiddish are, to a large extent, related to Jewish rituals and practices. (An example - I don't recall the source; might have been one of Max Weinreich's books - is how Yiddish uses a Germanic-derived word (zun) for the sun, but a Hebrew-derived one (levone) for the moon, because the moon figures much more in Jewish practice - there is a monthly ceremony of blessing G-d for creating and renewing it.) Which makes Yiddish more in the nature of a jargon, not unlike "medicalese," for example, which no one would consider a separate language.
    – Meir
    May 24, 2019 at 4:23

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