, a hypothetical grouping of languages supposed to be genetically related
, but at such a remove of time that this can not be agreed upon.
If the relationship was clear enough that linguists could agree to it, the grouping would be called a family. Established families include Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Afro-Asiatic, and Austronesian. The extinct ancestors of these can be reconstructed with some confidence.
Phyla are composed of a number of families, and possibly individual languages that can't be grouped into families. However, it is usually difficult to agree which families can be grouped together. (If it was easy, then the resemblance would be close enough to confirm that they were a single family.) Phyla represent theories rather than facts, and they are usually minority views.
Some that have been proposed are
- Nostratic, including many of the families of Europe and Asia: see separate node.
- Dene-Caucasian, a mixed bag of non-Nostratic languages of Europe, Asia, and North America: see separate node.
- Austric, comprising at least Austronesian and Mon-Khmer, and perhaps also Thai-Kadai, perhaps Japanese, perhaps Ainu.
- Papuan or New Guinean: in fact the languages of New Guinea are so diverse that even subdivisions of this are called phyla, such as Trans New Guinea, Sepik-Ramu, and Torricelli.
- Amerind, including all the disparate families of the Americas, except the northern Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene.
- Nostratic-Amerind, grouping two of the above.
- Indo-Pacific, grouping Papuan with Andamanese and Tasmanian.
The term macrofamily
is also used. This seems to be a theoretical
grouping more firmly based than a phylum but not as definite as a family.