The Tree of Language

tree metaphor with language branches

Trees are a fascinating way to show relationships between languages. Minna Sundberg, a Finnish illustrator, used a tree very effectively to show how major European and many Eastern languages can be grouped into families. The whole image is dotted with languages, with bigger leaves representing those with the most native speakers. If you look at the whole tree you can see, for example, how English has Germanic roots. And surprisingly (to me), Finnish does not come from the same branch as Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. Rather, Finnish belongs to the Uralic language family and shares roots with some indigenous tongues in Scandinavia such as Sami.

There’s a lot more to learn here … take a look!