Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Sunday Spotlight: Ethnologue September 20, 2009

Filed under: computer,linguistics — Radiance @ 11:00 AM
Ethnologue is an encyclopedic reference work cataloguing all of the world’s 6,912 known living languages. The print version is in its 15th edition being 1272 pages thick. The web version presents the data used to prepare the printed volumes, along with links to the SIL Bibliography and the International Academic Bookstore. It is a place where you can conveniently find many resources to help you with your research of the world’s languages. The website is owned by SIL International, a service organization that works with people who speak the world’s lesser-known languages.

The Ethnologue database has been an active research project for more than fifty years. It is probably the most comprehensive listing of information about the currently known languages of the world. Thousands of linguists and other researchers all over the world rely on and have contributed to the Ethnologue database. The website gives a country index (with maps) that lists (and shows) the languages spoken in a given region/country. It has a comprehensive section on the various language families and how the linguistic scholars determine which language belongs to which family? The information is also presented in statistical format by country, language family etc. There is a separate section on the ‘nearly extinct languages’, 516 in total. They are classified in this way when “only a few elderly speakers are still living.” Almost half of them are in the pacific region, with some of the languages being spoken by as less as just one individual! For those who are interested in digging deeper into the sources of the database, there is a very extensive bibliography on the website for linguists to feast on. Various print and online publications by SIL have also been listed and are available for sale in the online bookstore.

SIL has also produced some computer resources including an extensive library for language researchers and software tools and fonts. The freeware available for download can be used world-wide for any linguistics project. Technical support for the software users is also offered. Most of the material on the website is free for use without any permission needed. I found this website a GREAT resource for serious linguistic research as well as just information for curiosity’s sake.

One can find out interesting facts about their country’s linguistic make up. I found out that India has 427 spoken languages, 415 of which are indigenous. These make up for 6.2% of the world’s languages. And the diversity index for India is 0.93 which means if you select 2 Indians randomly, there is a 93% chance that their spoken language will be different from each other!

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