(or "Observatoire", based upon its
original French and legal title: Observatoire Linguistique) is a
transnational linguistic research network.
2 The Lingua sphere Register and Linguascale referential framework
2.2 Languages of London
2.3 See also
3 "Langues de la Liberté/Languages of Liberty"
4 "In the galaxy of languages, each person's voice is a star"
5 See also
7 External links
It was created in
Quebec in 1983 and was subsequently established and
Normandy as a non-profit association under the honorary
presidency of the late Léopold Sédar Senghor, a French-language poet
and the first president of Senegal. Its founding director is David
Dalby, former director of the
International African Institute and
emeritus reader in the University of London, and its first research
secretary was Philippe Blanchet, a Provençal-language poet currently
serving as Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of Rennes.
Since 2010, the deputy director and webmaster of the Observatoire has
been Pierrick le Feuvre,with the chairman of its research council
being Roland Breton, emeritus professor at the University of Paris
VIII. The Observatoire's research hub is currently based in the
European Union, in Carmarthenshire, Wales (UK) and in Paris. Its title
in Welsh is Wylfa Ieithoedd, literally the "Observatory (of)
languages", and its publishing associate (also in Wales) is the Gwasg
y Byd Iaith, i.e., "Linguasphere Press" or literally "Press (of) the
world (of) language".
The Observatoire has developed an innovative scheme of philological
classification, coding all living and recorded languages within a
global referential framework or "linguascale". This Linguascale
Framework uses a decimal structure (see below) to record both genetic
and geographic categories of relationship (termed phylozones and
In 1999/2000, the Observatoire published David Dalby's 2-volume
Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech
Communities. Reviews were published by
Edward J. Vajda in Language
and by Anthony P.Grant in Journal of the Royal Anthropological
The Observatoire has now prepared a revised edition of the
Linguasphere Register from 2010, the first of a projected series of
regular updates at 10-year intervals. The current edition (LS-2010),
comprising substantial materials from the foundation edition of 2000,
is published online from 2011 as a freely available public resource
and an online data-base, compiled and co-ordinated by David Dalby and
Pierrick le Feuvre. Provision is made for the online gathering of
additional and improved data, and for the open discussion of proposals
From 2001 until December 2005, the
Linguasphere Observatory was
actively involved in collaboration with the British Standards
BSI Group and with ISO/TC 37in the design and development
of a four-letter (alpha-4) code covering—potentially—every
recorded language variety in the world. The Observatoire was not,
however, associated with or responsible for the final ISO 639-6
standard which was a partial result of this collaboration, and which
was approved and published by ISO in 2009. It is the policy of the
Observatoire that its on-going independent work on language coding
should be complementary to and supportive of the ISO 639 international
The Lingua sphere Register and Linguascale referential framework
The Linguascale framework is a referential system covering all
languages, as published in the Linguasphere Register in 2000 and
subsequently refined in 2010. It comprises a flexible coding formula
or which seeks to situate each language and dialect within the
totality of the world's living and recorded languages, having regard
to ongoing linguistic research.
The first part of this linguascale is the decimal classification
referred to above, consisting of a linguasphere key of two numerals
denoting the relevant phylozone or geozone: from 00. to 99. This
provides a systematic numerical key for the initial classification of
any of the world's languages, following the principles set out in the
Linguasphere Register. The first numeral of the key represents one of
the ten referential sectors into which the world's languages are
initially divided. The sector can either be a phylosector, in which
the constituent languages are considered to be in a diachronic
relationship one with another, or a geosector, in which languages are
grouped geographically rather than historically.
The second numeral is used to represent the ten zones into which each
geosector is divided for referential purposes. The component zones,
like the sectors, are described as either phylozones or geozones,
based on the nature of the relationship among their constituent
languages: either historical or geographical.
The second part of the linguascale consists of three capital letters
(majuscules): from -AAA- to -ZZZ-. Each zone is divided into one or
more sets, with each set being represented by the first majuscule of
this three-letter (alpha-3) component. Each set is divided into one or
more chains (represented by the second majuscule) and each chain is
into one or more nets (represented by the third majuscule). The
division of the languages of a zone into sets, chains and nets is
based on relative degrees of linguistic proximity, as measured in
principle by approximate proportions of shared basic vocabulary.
Geozones are on average divided into more sets than phylozones because
relationships among languages within the latter are by definition more
obvious and much closer.
The third and final part of the linguascale consists of up to three
lowercase letters (minuscules), used to identify a language or dialect
with precision: from aaa to zzz. The first letter of this sequence
represents an outer unit (preferred from 2010 to the original term of
"outer language", to avoid the shifting and often emotive applications
of the terms "language" and "dialect"). The inner units and language
varieties that may comprise any outer language are coded using a
second, and wherever necessary a third minuscule letter.
The application of the linguascale may be illustrated with the
concrete examples below, chosen from within the English language.
The code covering all forms of English is 52-ABA, where 5= represents
the Indo-European phylosector, 52= represents the Germanic phylozone,
52-A represents the Norsk+ Frysk set (a compound-name chosen to cover
the contents of the Germanic phylozone), 52-AB represents the English+
Anglo-Creole chain, and 52-ABA is the English net. Within this net,
the outer units are:
52-ABA-a – Scots+ Northumbrian.
52-ABA-b – "Anglo-English" (the traditional localised varieties of
southern Great Britain & also Ireland).
52-ABA-c – Global English (varieties of modern English as spoken and
written around the world).
Some more specific examples of English varieties are:
52-ABA-abb is the
Geordie traditional variety: belonging to 52-ABA-a
Scots+ Northumbrian outer language, and 52-ABA-ab Northumbrian.
52-ABA-bco is the
Norfolk traditional variety: belonging to 52-ABA-b
"Anglo-English" outer unit, and specifically to 52-ABA-bc Southern
(British) traditional English.
52-ABA-cof covers the range of (non-creolised) Nigerian English :
belonging to 52-ABA-c Global English outer unit, and 52-ABA-co
West-African English. Nigerian English is thus distinguished from the
often overlapping 52-ABB-bf Enpi (or "NP", from the abbreviation of
so-called "Nigerian Pijin"): belonging to 52-ABB Anglo-Creole net, and
52-ABB-b Wes-kos (West Coast Anglo-Creole).
Languages of London
A practical application of the Linguasphere Register and its
linguascale in the study of a complex urban linguistic environment has
been as the referential framework for successive surveys of over 200
languages other than English spoken by plurilingual children at state
schools in London (representing just under 40% of the total number of
children attending), as edited in 2000 by Baker & Eversley &
in 2010 by Eversley et al.
Language code with tabulated example of coding systems (for English
and Spanish), including ISO 639 and Linguasphere.
"Langues de la Liberté/Languages of Liberty"
In Paris, from 1987, the Observatoire linguistique created a bilingual
exhibition Langues de la Liberté / Languages of Liberty, tracing the
transnational development of certain basic concepts of personal
freedom through the interaction of English and French, rather than by
the action of any one nation. At the outset of a series of 34
illustrated tryptychs, attention was drawn to the historical role of
other transnational languages in the development of such concepts,
including Greek and German.
The exhibition was sponsored by the government of a bilingual nation,
Canada, by the international francophone Agence (ACCT) & by the
region of Haute-Normandie. It was inaugurated in
Paris at the Centre
Georges Pompidou on 6 June 1989, & presented there throughout the
summer of 1989 as the official Canadian contribution to the
bicentenary celebrations of the French Revolution.
At the subsequent presentation of this bilingual exhibition at the
Hôtel de Région in Rouen (Haute-Normandie), from 23 September to 21
October 1989, the Observatoire linguistique organised the first public
display of the only surviving contemporary copy of the vernacular
(& arguably pre-Latin) text of England's Magna Carta, written in
13th century French.
Thanks to continued support from Canada, the exhibition was
subsequently presented by the Observatoire in Belgium & England,
at the Palais des Congrès in
Liège & at the Commonwealth
Institute in London in 1990, and finally in Australia, at Old
Parliament House, Canberra in May 1991.
In the context of the need to design a plurilingual framework of
ethics for a future planetary society, the Observatoire has announced
its intention to return to the transnational theme of the Magna Carta
in 2015, on the occasion of the 8th centenary of the signing of its
formal Latin version at
Runnymede in 1215.
"In the galaxy of languages, each person's voice is a star"
The motto of the Observatoire linguistique dates from 1990—in
French: Dans la galaxie des langues, la voix de chaque personne est
une étoile (translated into English as above).
The Observatoire adopted these words as its guiding philosophy on the
occasion of the first series of debates organised by the Observatoire
linguistique in 1990-1991, at
Fleury-sur-Andelle in Haute-Normandie,
Maillane in Provence and at
Huy in Wallonie, sponsored by each of
the relevant regions, on the subject of Nos langues et l'unité de
l'Europe ("Our languages and the unity of Europe"). The guest of
honour at the first of these debates was André Martinet
(1908–1999), doyen of trans-Atlantic linguistics.
From the year 2000
UNESCO adopted and adapted the Observatoire's motto
in the form: "In the galaxy of languages, each word is a
^ David Dalby, Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and
Speech Communities, Gwasg y Byd Iaith for Observatoire linguistique:
Hebron, Wales, 1999–2000 (vol.1) ISBN 0-9532919-1-X & (vol.
2) ISBN 0-9532919-2-8
^ See reviews of the Linguasphere Register by
Edward J. Vajda in
Language (Linguistic Society of America), Vol.77, 3 (Sept. 2001) pp.
606–608, and by Anthony P.Grant in Journal of Royal Anthropological
Society (June 1, 2003).
^ P.Baker & Eversley, J., Multilingual Capital: the languages of
London's schoolchildren and their relevance to economic, social &
educational policies, Battlebridge for Corporation of London: London
2000 ISBN 1-903292-00-X (also P.Baker & J.Kim, Global London,
Battlebridge: London 2003 ISBN 1-903292-09-3) and in J.Eversley,
D. Mehmedbegović, A.Sanderson, T.Tinsley, M. vonAhn &
R.D.Wiggins, Language Capital: Mapping the languages of London's
schoolchildren, CILT National Centre for Languages: London 2010
^ The bilingual texts of the exhibition's tryptychs are presented in:
David Dalby, Le français et l'anglais : Langues de la Liberté,
Observatoire linguistique: Cressenville 1989 ISBN 2-9502097-4-2.
Wikidata has the property:
Linguasphere Observatory language codes
(P1396) (see talk; uses)
From May 2011, http://www.linguasphere.info provides free online
access to the current research & reference materials of the
Observatoire linguistique /Linguasphere Observatory, including the
complete Linguascale coding of the world's languages (LS-2010,
totalling over 32,800 coded entries & over 70,900 linguistic
names) and the contents of the original Linguasphere Register of the
World's Languages & Speech Communities (LS-2000).