TITLE: Ethnologue: Languages of the World

ACCESS: http://www.sil.org/ethnologue
Also available via gopher (gopher://gopher.sil.org/11/gopher_root_fileserv/ftp/ethnolog13/), ftp (ftp://ftp.sil.org/ethnolog13/), and e-mail (send the command "send [ftp.ethnolog13]00index.txt" to mailserv@sil.org).

Ethnologue is a catalogue of more than 6,700 languages spoken in 228 countries. The web version is drawn from three print publications: the 13th edition of Ethnologue: Languages of the World, the Ethnologue Language Name Index, and the Ethnologue Language Family Index edited by Barbara F. Grimes and published in 1997. The Ethnologue database is produced by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, an organization that conducts research on both written and unwritten languages and whose goal is to promote cross-cultural communication and develop usable literature in the form of dictionaries, grammars, and Bible translations.

Ethnologue is simple to navigate. The opening page includes a table of contents that lists languages by area and country, by language name, and by language family. Ethnologue offers a search engine that includes Boolean operators, truncation, and limiting by a region.

At the record level, the database is organized by country. An introductory paragraph provides background information listing the population, ethnic groups, and the literacy rate. Ethnologue cites the literature, grades the quality of information provided, and mentions whether a survey is needed to improve the entry.

The rest of the record consists of a list of languages spoken in that country. A typical language entry includes the names of the language or dialect spoken, a three-letter Language Identification Code (important for retrieving a complete list of languages in one family), number of speakers, and the name of other countries where that language or dialect is spoken. Each record classifies the language by linguistic family, by whether it is a national, trade, endangered, or recently extinct language, by its status as a main, second, or bilingual language, and by word order typology (a way of classifying a language by how it orders subjects, verbs, and objects). The national language is not necessarily listed first under a country name, but is inserted within an alphabetical list. Use your browser's "find in page" command to search for 'national'. Many records also list whether there is a dictionary or a grammar and all tell whether the Bible has been translated.

Ethnologue uses abbreviated language records for countries where the language is considered secondary. You are best off using the primary record - listed under the country of origin or where the majority of speakers live - for the most complete information about a language. For example, if you want to know how many Italian speakers live in Argentina, you have to go to the primary record listed under Italy - you won't find Italian listed under Argentina at all even though it is spoken by 1,500,000 people there.

Other sections include languages of special interest (Gypsy, Jewish, Creole and Pidgin, and Deaf Sign Languages), geographic distribution of living languages by broad region, and the top 100 languages by number of speakers. The web site also includes a list of abbreviations and an extensive bibliography. Ethnologue provides simple political maps of the world. In September of 1998, they added their first linguistic map showing where languages are spoken within Argentina and Chile. They plan to add additional country maps in the near future. Until Ethnologue finishes loading its linguistic maps, you

will need to rely on the print version or on the much more comprehensive Atlas of the World's Languages (Chris Mosely and R. E. Asher, Routledge, 1993).

Ethnologue is unique on the web - there is nothing else available that is anywhere near as comprehensive. To find similar information, you must turn to print encyclopedias like the International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (William Bright, Oxford University Press, 1992) on which Ethnologue based its linguistic families - or the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (R. E. Asher, Pergamon, 1994) or handbooks such as the World?s Major Languages (Bernard Comrie, Oxford University Press, 1987) and Compendium of the World's Languages (George L. Campbell, Routledge, 1991). While many of these resources go into greater depth, none provides as extensive a list as Ethnologue.

Overall, the editors have done a good job translating the print version to hypertext, although the introduction could use some revision to reflect the changes. As stated in that introduction, Ethnologue should be useful to 'linguists, translators, anthropologists, missionaries, bilingual educators, government officials, field administrators, potential field investigators, and interested lay people'.

Mark Emmons
University of New Mexico
October 30th 1998

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