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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, primarily to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language.

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. However, some information is dated.

What counts as a language depends on socio-linguistic evaluation: see Dialect. Some accuse the Ethnologue of dividing languages, preferring to call the different varieties "dialects". In other cases, the Ethnologue has been accused of lumping together different languages as "dialects" of single languages. As the preface says, "Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a 'language' and what features define a 'dialect.'"

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 Summer of 2009.

In addition to choosing a primary name for the language, it 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.

Errors are fixed in every new edition; for instance, en route to the 14th edition, some languages such as Chenoua were added, and some rumoured "languages" such as Nemadi or Wutana were removed. Some possible remaining errors are discussed at Imraguen language, Senhaja de Srair language, Ghomara language, Kwavi language, Molengue language, Yauma language, Fer language, Yeni language, Phla-Pherá languages and Ofayé.

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


Old information

Although Ethnologue is updated periodically, much of the information is old: The editors do not re-examine each entry for each new edition and generally rely on users to submit change requests. One example is the figures for Ireland, which rely on the census of 1983 even though three censuses have been held since then. Another is the classification of the Khoisan languages, which dates from the 1960s and includes several spurious language entries, though some of these were deleted for the 15th edition.

Language families

Following are the language families listed in the Ethnologue language family index of the 15th edition. The first column gives the Ethnologue name for the group, followed by the location by continent and Ethnologue's count of the number of languages in the family. In addition to language families, Ethnologue lists three artificial languages, one 'cant' (Pitkern), 86 creoles, 18 pidgins, 121 Deaf sign languages, three other sign languages, 21 mixed languages, forty language isolates, and 78 unclassified languages.

Family Continent Count
Afro-Asiatic Africa/Asia 375
Alacalufan South America 2
Algic North America 44
Altaic Europe/Asia 66
Amto-Musan Australasia 2
Andamanese Asia 13
Arauan South America 8
Araucanian South America 2
Arawakan South America 64
Arutani-Sape South America 2
Australian Australasia 263
Austro-Asiatic Asia 169
Austronesian Asia/Australasia 1268
Aymaran South America 3
Barbacoan South America 7
Basque Europe 3
Bayono-Awbono Australasia 2
Caddoan North America 5
Cahuapanan South America 2
Carib South America 32
Chapacura-Wanham South America 5
Chibchan South America 22
Chimakuan North America 2
Choco South America 12
Chon South America 2
Chukotko-Kamchatkan Asia 5
Chumash North America 7
Coahuiltecan North America 1
Dravidian Asia 73
East Bird's Head Australasia 3
East Papuan Australasia 36
Eskimo-Aleut North America 11
Geelvink Bay Australasia 33
Guahiban South America 5
Gulf North America 4
Harakmbet South America 2
Hibito-Cholon South America 2
Hmong-Mien Asia 35
Hokan North America 28
Huavean North America 4
Indo-European Europe/Asia 449
Iroquoian North America 11
Japanese Asia 12
Jivaroan South America 4
Kartvelian Asia 5
Katukinan South America 3
Keres North America 2
Khoisan Africa 27
Kiowa Tanoan North America 6
Kwomtari-Baibai Australasia 6
Left May Australasia 6
Lower Mamberamo Australasia 2
Lule-Vilela South America 1
Macro-Ge South America 32
Maku South America 6
Mascoian South America 5
Mataco-Guaicuru South America 12
Mayan North America 69
Misumalpan North America 4
Mixe-Zoque North America 17
Mura South America 1
Muskogean North America 6
Na-Dené North America 47
Nambiquaran South America 3
Niger-Congo Africa 1514
Nilo-Saharan Africa 204
North Caucasian Europe/Asia 34
Oto-Manguean North America 174
Panoan South America 28
Peba-Yaguan South America 2
Penutian North America 33
Quechuan South America 46
Salishan North America 27
Salivan South America 3
Sepik-Ramu Australasia 100
Sino-Tibetan Asia 403
Siouan North America 17
Sko Australasia 7
Subtiaba-Tlapanec North America 5
Tacanan South America 6
Tai-Kadai Asia 76
Tarascan North America 2
Torricelli Australasia 53
Totonacan North America 11
Trans-New Guinea Australasia 564
Tucanoan South America 25
Tupi South America 76
Uralic Europe/Asia 39
Uru-Chipaya South America 2
Uto-Aztecan North America 61
Wakashan North America 5
West Papuan Australasia 26
Witotoan South America 6
Yanomam South America 4
Yeniseian Asia 2
Yukaghir Asia 2
Yuki North America 2
Zamucoan South America 2
Zaparoan South America 7

See also



  • Bright, William. 1986. Book Notice on Ethnologue. Language62:698.

External links



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