The Info List - Ethnologue

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_ETHNOLOGUE: LANGUAGES OF THE WORLD_ is a commercial publication about the living languages of the world, first issued in 1951. As of 2017, it contains web-based information about 7,099 languages in its 20th edition, including the number of speakers, location, dialects, linguistic affiliations, autonym , availability of the Bible
in each language and dialect described, a cursory description of revitalization efforts where reported, and an estimate of language viability using the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS).


* 1 Overview * 2 History * 3 Reputation * 4 Editions * 5 See also * 6 Citations * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links


_Ethnologue_ has been published by SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics), a Christian linguistic service organization with an international office in Dallas
, Texas
. The organization studies numerous minority languages in order to facilitate language development and work with speakers of such language communities in translating portions of the Bible
into their language.

What counts as a language depends upon socio-linguistic evaluation; as the preface to _Ethnologue_ says, "Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a 'language' and what features define a 'dialect '." _Ethnologue_ follows general linguistic criteria, which are based primarily on mutual intelligibility. Shared language intelligibility features are complex, and usually include etymological and grammatical evidence that is agreed upon by experts.

In addition to choosing a primary name for a language, _Ethnologue_ gives names that its speakers, governments, foreigners and neighbors use for it and its dialects, and also describes how the language and its dialects have been named and referenced historically, regardless of whether a name is considered official, politically correct or offensive. These lists of names are not necessarily complete.


In 1984, _Ethnologue_ released a three-letter coding system, called an SIL code , to identify each language that it described. This set of codes significantly exceeded the scope of other standards, e.g. ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2 . The 14th edition, published in 2000, included 7,148 language codes.

In 2002, _Ethnologue_ was asked to work with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to integrate its codes into a draft international standard. The 15th edition of _Ethnologue_ was the first edition to use this standard, called ISO 639-3 . This standard is now administered separately from Ethnologue ( though still by SIL according to rules established by ISO, and since then _Ethnologue_ relies on the standard to determine what is listed as a language. In only one case, _Ethnologue_ and the ISO standards treat languages slightly differently. ISO 639-3 considers Akan to be a macrolanguage consisting of two distinct languages, Twi
and Fante , whereas _Ethnologue_ considers Twi
and Fante to be dialects of a single language (Akan), since they are mutually-intelligible. This anomaly resulted because the ISO 639-2 standard has separate codes for Twi
and Fante, which have separate literary traditions, and all 639-2 codes for individual languages are automatically part of 639-3, even though 639-3 would not normally assign them separate codes.

In 2014, with the 17th edition, _Ethnologue_ introduced a numerical code for language status using a framework called EGIDS (Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale ), an elaboration of Fishman’s GIDS ( Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale ). It ranks a language from 0 for an international language to 10 for an extinct language , i.e. a language with which no-one retains a sense of ethnic identity.

In December 2015, _Ethnologue_ launched a soft paywall ; users in high-income countries who want to refer to more than seven pages of data per month must buy a paid subscription .

As of 2015, _Ethnologue'_s 18th edition described 228 language families including 96 language isolates and six typological categories , namely sign languages , creoles , pidgins , mixed languages , constructed languages , and as yet unclassified languages .


In 1986, William Bright , then editor of the journal _ Language
_, wrote of _Ethnologue_ that it "is indispensable for any reference shelf on the languages of the world". In 2008 in the same journal, Lyle Campbell and Verónica Grondona said: "Ethnologue...has become the standard reference, and its usefulness is hard to overestimate."

In 2015, Harald Hammarström, an editor of _ Glottolog _, criticized the publication for frequently lacking citations and failing to articulate clear principles of language classification and identification. However, he concluded that, on balance, "_Ethnologue_ is an impressively comprehensive catalogue of world languages, and it is far superior to anything else produced prior to 2009."


Starting with the 17th edition, _Ethnologue_ has been published every year.


1 1951 Richard S. Pittman 10 mimeographed pages; 40 languages

2 1951 Pittman

3 1952 Pittman

4 1953 Pittman first to include maps

5 1958 Pittman first edition in book format

6 1965 Pittman

7 1969 Pittman 4,493 languages

8 1974 Barbara Grimes

9 1978 Grimes

10 1984 Grimes SIL codes first included

11 1988 Grimes 6,253 languages

12 1992 Grimes 6,662 languages

13 1996 Grimes 6,883 languages

14 2000 Grimes 6,809 languages

15 2005 Raymond G. Gordon, Jr. 6,912 languages ; draft ISO standard; first edition to provide color maps

16 2009 M. Paul Lewis 6,909 languages

17 2013, updated 2014 M. Paul Lewis, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig 7,106 living languages

18 2015 Lewis, Simons, 7,472 total

19 2016 Lewis, Simons, ? total

20 2017 Simons ? total


* Linguasphere Observatory Register * Lists of languages * List of language families


* ^ _Ethnologue_ 20th edition website * ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F. (2010). "Assessing Endangerment: Expanding Fishman’s GIDS" (PDF). _Romanian Review of Linguistics_. 55 (2): 103–120. * ^ _A_ _B_ Erard, Michael (July 19, 2005). "How Linguists and Missionaries Share a Bible
of 6,912 Languages". _ The New York Times _.

* ^ "Scope of denotation for language identifiers". SIL International . Retrieved 2013-06-23. * ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2012-05-24). _Basic Linguistic Theory Volume 3: Further Grammatical Topics_. Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
. p. 464. ISBN 9780199571093 . Retrieved 2014-07-13. * ^ Everaert 2009 , p. 204. * ^ Simons, Gary F.; Gordon, Raymond G. (2006). "Ethnologue". In Brown, Edward Kenneth. _Encyclopedia of Language
and Linguistics_ (PDF). 4 (2nd ed.). Elsevier . pp. 250–253. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0 .

* ^ " Language