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Three-volume 17th edition
OwnerSIL International
Launched29 March 2000; 14 years ago (2000-03-29)[1]
Alexa rank
Increase 145,018 (global; 12/2014)
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Three-volume 17th edition
OwnerSIL International
Launched29 March 2000; 14 years ago (2000-03-29)[1]
Alexa rank
Increase 145,018 (global; 12/2014)

Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web-based publication that contains statistics for 7,106 languages and dialects in the 17th edition, released in 2013.[2] Up until the 16th edition in 2009, the publication was a printed volume. Ethnologue provides information on the number of speakers, location, dialects, linguistic affiliations, availability of the Bible in the language, and an estimate of language viability using the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS).[3][4] William Bright, then editor of Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America, wrote of Ethnologue that it "is indispensable for any reference shelf on the languages of the world."[5]


The Ethnologue is published by Dallas, Texas-based SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics), a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies numerous minority languages to facilitate language development and to work with the speakers of such language communities to translate portions of the Bible in their language.[6]

What counts as a language depends on socio-linguistic evaluation. As the preface says, "Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a 'language' and what features define a 'dialect'." Ethnologue follows the general linguistic criteria, which are based primarily on mutual intelligibility.[7] Shared language intelligibility features are complex, and usually include etymological and grammatical evidence agreed upon by experts.[8]

In addition to choosing a primary name for the language, Ethnologue also gives some of the names by which a language is referred to by its speakers, by governments, 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.

In 1984, the Ethnologue released a three-letter coding system, called an "SIL code", to identify each language that it describes. This set of codes significantly exceeded the scope of previous standards, e.g., ISO 639-1.[9] The 14th edition, published in 2000, included 7,148 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 15th edition of the Ethnologue was the first to use this standard, called ISO 639-3.[10]

With the 17th edition, Ethnologue introduced a numerical code for language status, along the lines of Fishman’s Graded Inter-generational Disruption Scale, that ranks a language from 0 for an international language to 10 for an extinct language with no attempt at revival.[11]


New editions of Ethnologue are published approximately every four years.[12]

1[13]1951Richard S. Pittman10 mimeographed pages; 40 languages[6]
4[16]1953Pittmanfirst to include maps[17]
5[18]1958Pittmanfirst edition in book format
7[20]1969Pittman4,493 languages
8[21]1974Barbara Grimes[22]
10[24]1984GrimesSIL codes first included
11[25]1988Grimes6,253 languages[26]
12[27]1992Grimes6,662 languages
13[28]1996Grimes6,883 languages
14[29]2000Grimes6,809 languages
15[30]2005Raymond G. Gordon, Jr.[31]6,912 languages; draft ISO standard; first edition to provide color maps[17]
16[32]2009M. Paul Lewis6,909 languages
172013, updated 2014[33]Lewis, Simons, & Fennig7,106 living languages

Language families[edit]

Ethnologue's 17th edition describes 225 language families (including 95 language isolates) and 6 typological categories (Deaf sign language, Creole, Pidgin, Mixed language, Constructed language, and as yet unclassified languages).[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Whois Lookup & IP". Whois. 2000-03-29. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  2. ^ Ethnologue 17th edition website
  3. ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F. (2010). "Assessing Endangerment: Expanding Fishman’s GIDS". Romanian Review of Linguistics (pdf) 55 (2): 103–120. 
  4. ^ Dutton, Lee S., ed. (2013-05-13). Anthropological Resources: A Guide to Archival, Library, and Museum Collections. Routledge. p. 345. ISBN 9781134818860. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  5. ^ Bright, William. 1986. "Book Notice on Ethnologue", Language 62:698.
  6. ^ a b Erard, Michael (July 19, 2005). "How Linguists and Missionaries Share a Bible of 6,912 Languages". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Scope of denotation for language identifiers". SIL International. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  8. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (2012-05-24). Basic Linguistic Theory Volume 3: Further Grammatical Topics. Oxford University Press. p. 464. ISBN 9780199571093. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  9. ^ Everaert 2009, p. 204.
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "Language status". Ethnologue. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  12. ^ "History of Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  13. ^ "[SIL01] 1951". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  14. ^ "[SIL02] 1951". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  15. ^ "[SIL03] 1952". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  16. ^ "[SIL04] 1953". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  17. ^ a b "Pinpointing the Languages of the World with GIS". Esri. Spring 2006. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  18. ^ "[SIL05] 1958". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  19. ^ "[SIL06] 1965". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  20. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  21. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  22. ^ Barbara F. Grimes; Richard Saunders Pittman; Joseph Evans Grimes, eds. (1974). Ethnologue. Wycliffe Bible Translators. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  23. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  24. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  25. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  26. ^ Ethnologue volume 11. SIL. 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  27. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  28. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  29. ^ "Ethnologue Fourteenth Edition, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  30. ^ "Ethnologue 15, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  31. ^ Everaert 2009, p. 61.
  32. ^ "Ethnologue, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  33. ^ "Check out the new Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 2014-04-30. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  34. ^ "Browse by Language Family". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  35. ^ "Unclassified languages". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]