Ethnologue: Languages of the World is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It was first issued in 1951, and is now published annually by SIL International, a U.S.-based, worldwide, Christian non-profit organization. SIL's main purpose is to study, develop and document languages to promote literacy and for religious purposes.

As of 2018, Ethnologue contains web-based information on 7,097 languages in its 21st edition,[1] including the number of speakers, locations, dialects, linguistic affiliations, autonyms, availability of the Bible in each language and dialect described, a cursory description of revitalization efforts where reported, and an estimate of language viability using the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS).[2][3]

Ethnologue logo
Three-volume 17th edition
OwnerSIL International, United States
Alexa rankIncrease 92,650 (global; 03/2017)


Ethnologue has been published by SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics), a Christian linguistic service organization with an international office in Dallas, Texas. The organization studies numerous minority languages to facilitate language development, and to work with speakers of such language communities in translating portions of the Bible into their languages.[4]

The determination of what characteristics define a single language depends upon sociolinguistic evaluation by various scholars; as the preface to Ethnologue states, "Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a 'language' and what features define a 'dialect'." Ethnologue follows general linguistic criteria, which are based primarily on mutual intelligibility.[5] Shared language intelligibility features are complex, and usually include etymological and grammatical evidence that is agreed upon by experts.[6]

In addition to choosing a primary name for a language, Ethnologue provides listings of other name(s) for the language and any dialects that are used by its speakers, government, foreigners and neighbors. Also included are any names that have been commonly referenced historically, regardless of whether a name is considered official, politically correct or offensive; this allows more complete historic research to be done. These lists of names are not necessarily complete.


In 1984, Ethnologue released a three-letter coding system, called an 'SIL code', to identify each language that it described. This set of codes significantly exceeded the scope of other standards, e.g. ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2.[7] The 14th edition, published in 2000, included 7,148 language codes.

In 2002, 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 Ethnologue was the first edition to use this standard, called ISO 639-3. This standard is now administered separately from Ethnologue (though still by SIL according to rules established by ISO, and since then Ethnologue relies on the standard to determine what is listed as a language).[8] In only one case, Ethnologue and the ISO standards treat languages slightly differently. ISO 639-3 considers Akan to be a macrolanguage consisting of two distinct languages, Twi and Fante, whereas Ethnologue considers Twi and Fante to be dialects of a single language (Akan), since they are mutually intelligible. This anomaly resulted because the ISO 639-2 standard has separate codes for Twi and Fante, which have separate literary traditions, and all 639-2 codes for individual languages are automatically part of 639–3, even though 639-3 would not normally assign them separate codes.

In 2014, with the 17th edition, Ethnologue introduced a numerical code for language status using a framework called EGIDS (Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale), an elaboration of Fishman's GIDS (Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale). It ranks a language from 0 for an international language to 10 for an extinct language, i.e. a language with which no-one retains a sense of ethnic identity.[9]

In December 2015, Ethnologue launched a metered paywall; users in high-income countries who want to refer to more than seven pages of data per month must buy a paid subscription.[10]

As of 2017, Ethnologue's 20th edition described 237 language families including 86 language isolates and six typological categories, namely sign languages, creoles, pidgins, mixed languages, constructed languages, and as yet unclassified languages.[11]


In 1986, William Bright, then editor of the journal Language, wrote of Ethnologue that it "is indispensable for any reference shelf on the languages of the world".[12] In 2008 in the same journal, Lyle Campbell and Verónica Grondona said: "Ethnologue...has become the standard reference, and its usefulness is hard to overestimate."[13]

In 2015, Harald Hammarström, an editor of Glottolog, criticized the publication for frequently lacking citations and failing to articulate clear principles of language classification and identification. However, he concluded that, on balance, "Ethnologue is an impressively comprehensive catalogue of world languages, and it is far superior to anything else produced prior to 2009."[14]


Starting with the 17th edition, Ethnologue has been published every year.[15]

Edition Date Editor Notes
1[16] 1951 Richard S. Pittman 10 mimeographed pages; 40 languages[4]
2[17] 1951 Pittman
3[18] 1952 Pittman
4[19] 1953 Pittman first to include maps[20]
5[21] 1958 Pittman first edition in book format
6[22] 1965 Pittman
7[23] 1969 Pittman 4,493 languages
8[24] 1974 Barbara Grimes [25]
9[26] 1978 Grimes
10[27] 1984 Grimes SIL codes first included
11[28] 1988 Grimes 6,253 languages[29]
12[30] 1992 Grimes 6,662 languages
13[31][32] 1996 Grimes 6,883 languages
14[33] 2000 Grimes 6,809 languages
15[34] 2005 Raymond G. Gordon Jr.[35] 6,912 languages; draft ISO standard; first edition to provide color maps[20]
16[36] 2009 M. Paul Lewis 6,909 languages
17 2013, updated 2014[37] M. Paul Lewis, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig 7,106 living languages
18 2015 Lewis, Simons, & Fennig 7,102 living languages; 7,472 total
19 2016 Lewis, Simons, & Fennig 7,097 living languages
20 2017 Simons & Fennig 7,099 living languages
21[38] 2018 Simons & Fennig 7,097 living languages
22[39] 2019 Eberhard, Simons & Fennig 7,111 living languages

See also


  1. ^ Ethnologue 21st edition website
  2. ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F. (2010). "Assessing Endangerment: Expanding Fishman's GIDS" (PDF). Romanian Review of Linguistics. 55 (2): 103–120.
  3. ^ Bickford, J. Albert; Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F. (2015). "Rating the vitality of sign languages". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 36 (5): 513–527. doi:10.1080/01434632.2014.966827.
  4. ^ a b Erard, Michael (July 19, 2005). "How Linguists and Missionaries Share a Bible of 6,912 Languages". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Scope of denotation for language identifiers". SIL International. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  6. ^ Dixon, R. M. W. (May 24, 2012). Basic Linguistic Theory Volume 3: Further Grammatical Topics. Oxford University Press. p. 464. ISBN 9780199571093. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  7. ^ Everaert 2009, p. 204.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Language status". Ethnologue. 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
  10. ^ M. Paul Lewis, "Ethnologue launches subscription service." Ethnologue. December 6, 2015
  11. ^ "Browse by Language Family". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  12. ^ Bright, William. 1986. "Book Notice on Ethnologue", Language 62:698.
  13. ^ Campbell, Lyle; Grondona, Verónica (January 1, 2008). "Ethnologue: Languages of the world (review)". Language. 84 (3): 636–641. doi:10.1353/lan.0.0054. ISSN 1535-0665.
  14. ^ Hammarström, Harald (2015). "Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: A comprehensive review". Language. 91 (3): 723–737. doi:10.1353/lan.2015.0038. ISSN 1535-0665.
  15. ^ M PaulLewis (February 21, 2015). "Welcome to the 18th edition!". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2015-04-28.
  16. ^ "[SIL01] 1951". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  17. ^ "[SIL02] 1951". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  18. ^ "[SIL03] 1952". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  19. ^ "[SIL04] 1953". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  20. ^ a b "Pinpointing the Languages of the World with GIS". Esri. Spring 2006. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  21. ^ "[SIL05] 1958". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  22. ^ "[SIL06] 1965". Glottolog. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  23. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  24. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  25. ^ Barbara F. Grimes; Richard Saunders Pittman; Joseph Evans Grimes, eds. (1974). Ethnologue. Wycliffe Bible Translators. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  26. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  27. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  28. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  29. ^ Ethnologue volume 11. SIL. April 28, 2008. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  30. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  31. ^ "Glottolog 2.3". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  32. ^ "Ethnologue, 13th edition, 1996". Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  33. ^ "Ethnologue Fourteenth Edition, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  34. ^ "Ethnologue 15, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  35. ^ Everaert 2009, p. 61.
  36. ^ "Ethnologue 16, Web Version". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  37. ^ "Check out the new Ethnologue". Ethnologue. April 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  38. ^ "Ethnologue 21, Web Version". Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  39. ^ "Ethnologue 22, Web Version". Retrieved 2019-02-22.


Further reading

External links

Bimin language

Bim or Bimin is one of the Ok languages of New Guinea.

Dao language

Dao, or Maniwo, is a Papuan language spoken in the Paniai lakes region of the Indonesian province of Papua. It is close to Auye.

Faiwol language

Faiwol is one of the Ok languages of Papua New Guinea. There are numerous dialects, including Faiwol proper, Angkiyak, Wopkei, and Kauwol on the Indonesian border.

Gujarati language

Gujarati (; ગુજરાતી gujarātī [ɡudʒəˈɾɑtiː]) is an Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian state of Gujarat and spoken predominantly by the Gujarati people. Gujarati is part of the greater Indo-European language family. Gujarati is descended from Old Gujarati (circa 1100–1500 AD). In India, it is the official language in the state of Gujarat, as well as an official language in the union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. As of 2011, Gujarati is the 6th most widely spoken language in India by number of native speakers, spoken by 55.5 million speakers which amounts to about 4.5% of the total Indian population. It is the 26th most widely spoken language in the world by number of native speakers as of 2007.The Gujarati language is more than 700 years old and is spoken by more than 55 million people worldwide. Outside of Gujarat, Gujarati is spoken in many other parts of South Asia by Gujarati migrants, especially in Mumbai and Pakistan (mainly in Karachi). Gujarati is also widely spoken in many countries outside South Asia by the Gujarati diaspora. In North America, Gujarati is one of the fastest growing and most widely-spoken Indian languages in the United States and Canada. In Europe, Gujaratis form the second largest of the British South Asian speech communities, and Gujarati is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the U.K.'s capital London. Gujarati is also spoken in Southeast Africa, particularly in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa. Elsewhere, Gujarati is spoken to a lesser extent in China (particularly Hong Kong), Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain.Gujarati was the mother tongue of Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Hausa language

Hausa (; Yaren Hausa or Harshen Hausa) is the Chadic language (a branch of the Afroasiatic language family) with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by some 44 million people, and as a second language by another 20 million. The total number of Hausa speakers is estimated at 63 million, according to Ethnologue.

The ancestral language of the Hausa people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Central Africa, Hausa is mostly spoken throughout southern Niger and northern Nigeria. It has developed into a lingua franca across much of Western Africa for purposes of trade.


Hindi (Devanagari: हिन्दी, IAST: Hindī), or Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: मानक हिन्दी, IAST: Mānak Hindī) is a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language. Hindi, written in the Devanagari script, is one of the official languages of India, along with the English language. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Republic of India. However, it is not the national language of India because no language was given such a status in the Indian constitution.Hindi is the lingua franca of the Hindi belt, and to a lesser extent other parts of India (usually in a simplified or pidginized variety such as Bazaar Hindustani or Haflong Hindi). Outside India, several other languages are recognized officially as "Hindi" but do not refer to the Standard Hindi language described here and instead descend from other dialects of Hindustani, such as Awadhi and Bhojpuri. Such languages include Fiji Hindi, which is official in Fiji, and Caribbean Hindustani, which is a recognized language in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname. Apart from specialized vocabulary, spoken Hindi is mutually intelligible with Urdu, another recognized register of Hindustani.

As a linguistic variety, Hindi is the fourth most-spoken first language in the world, after Mandarin, Spanish and English. Alongside Urdu as Hindustani, it is the third most-spoken language in the world, after Mandarin and English.

Hupla language

Hupla is a Papuan language of the Indonesian New Guinea Highlands, similar to Lower Grand Valley Dani.

The Bible has been translated into the Hupla language.

Languages of Europe

Most languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family.

Out of a total population of 744 million (as of 2018), some 94% are native speakers of an Indo-European language;

within Indo-European, the three largest phyla are Slavic, Romance and Germanic, with more than 200 million speakers each, between them accounting for close to 90% of Europeans. Smaller phyla of Indo-European found in Europe include Hellenic (Greek, c. 10 million), Baltic (c. 7 million), Albanian (c. 5 million), Indo-Aryan (Romani, c. 1.5 million) and Celtic (including Welsh, c. 1 million).

Of c. 45 million Europeans speaking non-Indo-European languages, around 20 million each fall within the Uralic and Turkic families. Still smaller groups (such as Basque and various languages of the Caucasus) account for less than 1% of European population between them. Immigration has added sizeable communities of speakers of African and Asian languages, amounting to about 4% of the population, with Arabic being the most widely spoken of them.

Five languages have more than 50 million native speakers in Europe: Russian, German, French, Italian and English. While Russian has the largest number of native speakers (more than 100 million in Europe), English in Europe has the largest number of speakers in total, including some 200 million speakers of English as a second language.

List of contemporary ethnic groups

The following is a list of contemporary ethnic groups. There has been constant debate over the classification of ethnic groups. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be associated with shared cultural heritage, ancestry, history, homeland, language or dialect; where the term "culture" specifically includes aspects such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing (clothing) style, and other factors.

By the nature of the concept, ethnic groups tend to be divided into ethnic subgroups, which may themselves be or not be identified as independent ethnic groups depending on the source consulted.

List of languages by total number of speakers

A number of sources have compiled lists of languages by their numbers of speakers.

However, all such lists should be used with caution, for the following reasons.

First, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. For example, some languages, including Chinese and Arabic, are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Similarly, Hindi is sometimes considered to be a language, but together with Urdu it also is often considered a single language, Hindustani.

Second, there is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. For example, English has about 400 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.

Nekgini language

Nekgini is one of the Finisterre languages of Papua New Guinea, spoken in a single village in Madang Province.

Oksapmin language

Oksapmin is a Trans–New Guinea language spoken in Telefomin District, Sandaun, Papua New Guinea. It has been influenced by the Ok languages (the name "Oksapmin" is from an Ok language), and the similarities with those languages were attributed to borrowing in the classifications of both Stephen Wurm (1975) and Malcolm Ross (2005), where Oksapmin was placed as an independent branch of Trans–New Guinea. However, Loughnane (2009) and Loughnane and Fedden (2011) demonstrated that it is related to the Ok languages, though they share innovative features not found in Oksapmin.

The two principal dialects are distinct enough to cause some problems with mutually intelligibility.

Oksapmin has dyadic kinship terms and a body-part counting system that goes up to 27.

Pa language

Pa, also known as Pare or Akium-Pare, is a Papuan language of Papua New Guinea.

Saweru language

Saweru closely related to Yawa of central Yapen Island in Geelvink (Cenderawasih) Bay, Indonesia, of which it is sometimes considered a dialect. It is spoken on Serui Island just offshore.

Setaman language

Setaman is one of the Ok languages of New Guinea.

Silimo language

Silimo, also Wulik or South Ngalik, is a Papuan language of the Indonesian New Guinea Highlands.

Simbari language

Simbari or Chimbari, is an Angan language of Papua New Guinea.

Sulka language

Sulka is a possible language isolate scattered across the eastern end of New Britain island, Papua New Guinea. There are about 3000 speakers.

Sulka is very poorly attested. There is some evidence that it might be related to Kol or Baining.

Tainae language

Tainae is an Angan language of Papua New Guinea.

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