From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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 6,912 languages in the 15th edition, released in 2005 (up from 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 Register. However, some information regarding more esoteric languages is quite dated.
What counts as a language depends on socio-linguistic evaluation: see Dialect.
In 1984 the Ethnologue released a three-letter coding system, called SIL code, to identify each language it describes. This set of codes significantly exceeded the scope of previous standards e.g. ISO 639-1 and RFC 3066. 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.
Conversely, the neutrality of Ethnologue as a scientific institution is sometimes lauded: 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. This selection of "alternative names" is extensive, but often incomplete.
Ethnologue contains its fair share of errors. Some of the 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, Hwla language, and Ofayé.
Ethnologue sometimes goes against general linguistic community consensus (and the opinion of the majority of the speakers themselves in some cases) as to what constitutes a separate language (as opposed to a dialect). A notable case is the classification of several dialects of Swedish as separate languages with unique language codes. In cases like Scanian, the dialect does not meet the minimum criterion for mutual unintelligibility from Standard Swedish, though some linguists have nevertheless classified it separately. The designation of Irish dialects does not match that generally used by Irish linguists, with an otherwise unattested dialect called Munster-Leinster mentioned by Ethnologue. For Scottish Gaelic only two extinct or moribund dialects are listed; none of the main living dialects are mentioned. Ethnologue also attributes separate language status to "Yinglish", an English vernacular spoken by some Jewish Americans which is to some degree influenced by the Yiddish and Hebrew languages. Some of these classifications do not meet Ethnologue's own professed criteria for classification.
In some cases Ethnologue's estimates about the number of the speakers of the languages do not concur with other sources. For example, in Ethnologue, the speakers of Persian and Azerbaijani languages in Iran are estimated as 36% and 37%, respectively. In The World Factbook, these percentages are estimated as 51% and 24%. Sometimes the total numbers of speakers of languages in a country differ from the overall population figure: for example, for Croatia, Ethnologue gives a total population of 4,496,869 while, remarkably, the number of Croatian speakers in Croatia is reported to be 4,800,000.
 Old Information
Even though Ethnologue is regularly updated, much of the information is old. The figures for Ireland rely on the census of 1983, although three census have been held after that.
 See also
 External links
- Web version of The Ethnologue
- Review of the 15th edition, by Ole Stig Andersen (Danmarks Radio)
- How Linguists and Missionaries Share a Bible of 6,912 Languages (New York Times)
- "Mapping Between ISO 639 and the SIL Ethnologue: Principles Used and Lessons Learned"