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A languoid (or 'language-like entity') is a set of lects or languages that are grouped together for some purpose. In the simplest case, languoids are languages or dialects, but genealogical groups of languages (or areal groups, or indeed any other groups treated together by linguists for some reason) may also be considered together with languages and dialects and hence be subsumed with them under a single concept.

  • "a cover term for any type of lingual entity: language, dialect, family, language area, etc. It is roughly similar to the term taxon from biological taxonomy, except it is agnostic as to whether the relevant linguistic grouping is considered to be genealogical or areal (or based one some other possible criteria for grouping languages)" (Good & Hendryx-Parker 2006:5)

This term arose in the context of cross-linguistic databases, where it is often useful to refer to languages, groups of languages, and groups of lects with a single term. However, there are many day-to-day situations in which it is fruitful to remain agnostic about the kind of grouping proposed, e.g. when one is not certain whether a group of highly similar languages is a genealogical unit or a linguistic area. Another case of productive agnosticism is the perennial question whether a set of highly similar speech varieties should be called a language with different lectal variants, or a low-level genealogical group consisting of different languages. In all these situations, the groups are perfectly legitimate languoids, though researcher might disagree about their status.


In a very strict sense, a languoid can be defined recursively as a set of (lower-level) languoids. The lowest level languoid (needed to stop recursion) is a doculect (a "documented language variety"). Under this definition, any lect, language, family, or area is defined as a hierarchical ordering of sources.


The term originated in a discussion between Michael Cysouw and Jeff Good in 2006 at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. It consists of the root langu- (from English language) and the suffix -oid ('X-like entity').


  • Good, Jeff & Calvin Hendryx-Parker. 2006. Modeling Contested Categorization in Linguistic Databases. In Proceedings of the EMELD 2006 Workshop on Digital Language Documentation: Tools and Standards: The State of the Art. Lansing, Michigan. June 20–22, 2006. PDF