Ethnologue Explained

Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics), a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.[1]

The Ethnologue contains statistics for 7,358 languages in the 16th edition, released in 2009 (up from 6,912 in the 15th edition, released 2005 and 6,809 in the 14th edition, released 2000) and gives the number of speakers, location, dialects, linguistic affiliations, availability of the Bible and so forth. It is currently the most comprehensive existing language inventory, along with the Linguasphere Observatory Register. But, some information is dated.

In 1984, the Ethnologue released a three-letter coding system, called a SIL code, to identify each language that it describes. This set of codes significantly exceeded the scope of previous standards, e.g., ISO 639-1. The 14th edition, published in 2000, included 7148 language codes which generally did not match the ISO 639-2 codes. In 2002 the Ethnologue was asked to work with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to integrate its codes into a draft international standard. The Ethnologue now uses this standard, called ISO 639-3. The 15th edition, which was published in 2005, includes 7299 codes. A 16th edition was released in the middle of 2009.

What counts as a language depends on socio-linguistic evaluation: see Dialect. As the preface says, "Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a 'language' and what features define a 'dialect. Ethnologue follows the criteria used by ISO 639-3,[2] which are based primarily on mutual intelligibility.

In addition to choosing a primary name for the language, Ethnologue also gives some of the names by which a language is called by its speakers, by the government, by foreigners and by neighbors, as well as how it has been named and referenced historically, regardless of which designation is considered official, politically correct or offensive or by whom.

William Bright, then editor of Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America, wrote of Ethnologue that it "is indispensable for any reference shelf on the languages of the world." (1986:698).[3]

Language families

Following are the 121 language families listed in the Ethnologue language family index of the 16th edition. The first column gives the Ethnologue name for the group, followed by the location by continent and Ethnologues count of the number of languages in the family. In addition to language families, Ethnologue lists 1 artificial language, 82 creoles, 17 pidgins, 130 Deaf sign languages, 23 mixed languages, 50 language isolates, and 73 unclassified languages.

FamilyContinentCount
AfroasiaticAfrica/Asia374
AlacalufanSouth America2
AlgicNorth America44
AltaicEurope/Asia66
Amto–MusanAustralasia2
AndamaneseAsia13
ArafundiAustralasia3
Arai–KwomtariAustralasia10
ArauanSouth America5
AraucanianSouth America2
ArawakanSouth America59
Arutani–SapeSouth America2
AustralianAustralasia264
Austro-AsiaticAsia169
AustronesianAsia/Australasia1257
AymaranSouth America3
BarbacoanSouth America7
BasqueEurope1
Bayono–AwbonoAustralasia2
BorderAustralasia15
CaddoanNorth America5
CahuapananSouth America2
CaribSouth America31
Central SolomonsAustralasia4
Chapacura-WanhamSouth America5
ChibchanSouth America21
ChimakuanNorth America1
ChocoSouth America12
ChonSouth America2
Chukotko-KamchatkanAsia5
ChumashNorth America7
CoahuiltecanNorth America1
DravidianAsia85
East Bird's Head – SentaniAustralasia8
East Geelvink BayAustralasia11
East New BritainAustralasia7
Eastern Trans-FlyAustralasia4
Eskimo–AleutNorth America11
GuahibanSouth America5
GulfNorth America4
HarakmbetSouth America2
Hibito–CholonSouth America2
Hmong–MienAsia38
HokanNorth America23
HuaveanNorth America4
Indo-EuropeanEurope/Asia439
IroquoianNorth America9
JaponicAsia12
JivaroanSouth America4
KartvelianAsia5
KatukinanSouth America3
KaureAustralasia4
KeresNorth America2
KhoisanAfrica27
Kiowa–TanoanNorth America6
Lakes PlainAustralasia20
Left MayAustralasia2
Lower MamberamoAustralasia2
Lule–VilelaSouth America1
Macro-GeSouth America32
MairasiAustralasia3
MakuSouth America6
MascoianSouth America5
Mataco–GuaicuruSouth America12
MayanNorth America69
MaybratAustralasia2
MisumalpanNorth America4
Mixe–ZoqueNorth America17
Mongol-LangamAustralasia3
MuraSouth America1
MuskogeanNorth America6
Na-DenéNorth America46
NambiquaranSouth America7
Niger–CongoAfrica1532
Nilo-SaharanAfrica205
NimboranAustralasia5
North BougainvilleAustralasia4
North BrazilSouth America1
North CaucasianEurope/Asia34
Oto-MangueanNorth America177
PanoanSouth America28
PauwasiAustralasia5
Peba–YaguanSouth America2
PenutianNorth America33
PiawiAustralasia2
QuechuanSouth America46
Ramu – Lower SepikAustralasia32
SalishanNorth America26
SalivanSouth America3
SenagiAustralasia2
SepikAustralasia56
Sino-TibetanAsia449
SiouanNorth America17
SkoAustralasia7
SomahaiAustralasia2
South BougainvilleAustralasia9
South-Central PapuanAustralasia22
TacananSouth America6
Tai–KadaiAsia92
TarascanNorth America2
TequistlatecanNorth America2
Tor–KwerbaAustralasia24
TorricelliAustralasia56
TotonacanNorth America12
Trans–New GuineaAustralasia477
TucanoanSouth America25
TupiSouth America76
UralicEurope/Asia37
Uru–ChipayaSouth America2
Uto-AztecanNorth America61
WakashanNorth America5
West PapuanAustralasia23
WitotoanSouth America6
YanomamSouth America4
Yele – West New BritainAustralasia3
YeniseianAsia2
YuatAustralasia6
YukaghirAsia2
Yuki–WappoNorth America2
ZamucoanSouth America2
ZaparoanSouth America7

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://www.sil.org/sil/
  2. http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/scope.asp
  3. Bright, William. 1986. "Book Notice on Ethnologue", Language 62:698.