language family tree

One of the most evocative and universal creations of Norse mythology is Yggdrasil, the World-Tree, literally the axle-tree of creation, its roots, trunk, and branches uniting the nine worlds. This great ash tree is also central to the development of language, especially writing, with Odin, ruler of the gods, sacrificing himself to himself on the tree to acquire the runes. And fittingly, Finnish-Swedish webcomic artist Minna Sundberg has created this superb representation of the roots of European languages as – again literally – a tree diagram.

Sundberg herself began on one of the smaller branches of this tree, the isolated sprout of Uralic and Finno-Ugric, for her first story, A Redtail’s Dream, based on Finnish mythology. But her new webcomic, Stand Still. Stay Silent, goes back to more Nordic … ahem … roots as “a post apocalyptic webcomic with elements from Nordic mythology mixed in.”

The tree doesn’t do much for those languages outside the Indo-European and Finno-Ugric families, but it does spread its branches over the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Persia, with the area of foliage proportionate to the number of native speakers of each language. And while you’re enjoying it, don’t forget to check out Minna Sundberg’s prior comparison chart of Nordic languages, with their speakers drawn as cats – or her webcomics themselves. Delightful.


  1. This is inaccurate, you are misleading the language tree. you have ignored south indian languages, particularly Tamil, which is the origin of others like telugu, kannada, malayalam. The Tamil literary work has details of rivers and seas before continental shifts, which is the most classical in the world.

  2. Very inaccurate. Why is Bulgarian listed as Slavic? Just because most of the words are close? What about the rest of the words? What about the grammatical structure? Or you will call it Turkish, just because the major West line wants to call it like that? And Why is Macedonian even a language? Just because they created the Macedonian history out of nowhere and they claim to be a separate nation, not a mix of Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Albanians?

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