Users of Writing Systems

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  Vivian Cook

The following summary is based on: (a) Ethnologue figures for the top 50 world languages in terms of number of speakers (1995)

(b) Coulmas and other information on type of writing system used for each language

(c) literacy rates from UNESCO (1995) for typical countries for each language (China, Egypt, India, Spain)

So it's all a bit dicey but gives ball-park minimum figures!

 

Total languages (top 50)

total speakers

total  users of writing system
based on illiteracy rates (approx)

Character-based systems

8 (all Chinese) + Japanese

1,087,770,000 930 million
Syllabic systems

13 (mostly in India) + Japanese, Korean

560,923,000 329 million
Consonantal systems

4 (2 Arabic, Urdu, Persian)

148 million XXX million
Alphabetic systems

21 (worldwide)

1,572,230,122 1232 million

Rough proportion of
users of each type of writing system

Top 50 Languages  (Ethnologue with writing system added)

             Type

Language

No of speakers

Characters

Chinese Mandarin

885,000,000

Chinese Wu

77,175,000

Chinese Yue

66,000,000

Chinese Min

49,000,000

Chinese, JINYU 

45,000,000

Chinese, XIANG 

36,015,000

Chinese, HAKKA 

34,000,000

Chinese, GAN 

20,580,000

(Japanese)

(125,000,000)

Syllabic

Bengali

189,000,000

Telugu

66,350,000

Tamil

63,075,000

Gujarati

44,000,000

Malayalam

34,022,000

Kannada

33,663,000

Oriya

31,000,000

Panjabi, Western 

30,000,000

Sunda

27,000,000

Panjabi, Eastern 

26,013,000

Maithili

24,260,000

Burmese

22,000,000

Awadhi

20,540,000

(Japanese)

(125,000,000)

(Korean)

75,000,000

Consonantal

Arabic Egypt

42,500,000

Arabic, Algeria

22,400,000

Persian, Western 

24,280,000

Urdu

58,000,000

Alphabetic

Spanish

332,000,000

English

322, 000,000

Hindi

182,000,000

Portuguese

170,000,000

Russian

170,000,000

German

98,000,000

Javanese

75,500,800

French

72,000,000

Vietnamese

67,662,000

Marathi

64,783,000

Turkish

59,000,000

Polish

44,000,000

Ukranian 

41,000,000

Italian

41,000,000

Romanian

26,000,000

Azerbaijani, South 

24,364,000

Hausa

24,200,000

Serbo-Croatian

21,000,000

Dutch

20,000,000

Yoruba

20,000,000

Sindhi

19,720,000

Direction in writing