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MagiAs Christians begin the celebration of Advent, the time when we remember the birth of Jesus, few of us (except us language

Many people turn to the Ethnologue as their primary source for information about the state of the world's languages and we are always happy to see that this resource is valued. However, there are some uses of the Ethnologue that aren't justifiable given the nature of the data we report.

The Ethnologue continues to be widely used as a source by various media outlets and, of course, we're always happy to see the data being used.

In an earlier post I mentioned a new category of information, Status,  in which we provide a measure of the state of endangerment or development of each language using the

The Ethnologue deals with the languages of the world, so it would seem to be important that we be able to say what we mean when we refer to "a language." What is a language?  Well, Webster has 14 different definitions of the noun, not counting two for "language" as a verb (I language, you la

We sometimes are asked for information about a language or we see a language mentioned in the news and, of course, we go to the Ethnologue to see if it is listed and what we have to say about it.

Sign languages are not in the same category as all the other languages in Ethnologue, people say to me. What is the reason they are included right along with spoken languages?

What happened to the Ethnologue's identification of "national" and "official" languages?

In the 17th edition, the Ethnologue has deliberately moved away from the official/national distinction in the description of language status, on the grounds that such distinctions are often inconsistently applied from country to country and thus lead to considerable confusion. The categorizations that we now use focus on two facets of language status: the "health" of the language as more fully described by the EGIDS scale, and the function or functions of the language within that country.

How many languages in the world are unwritten?

The exact number of unwritten languages is hard to determine. Ethnologue (17th edition) has data to indicate that of the currently listed 7,105 living languages, 3,570 have a developed writing system. We don't always know, however, if the existing writing systems are widely used. That is, while an alphabet may exist there may not be very many people who are literate and actually using the alphabet. We have data to indicate that 696 languages are unwritten. And for the remaining 2,839 languages we have no data.

What is EGIDS? How is it used?

EGIDS stands for the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale.  This is a tool that is used to measure the status of a language in terms of endangerment or development.  See Language Status for more information; see Endangerment for information on how this scale relates to endangered languages.

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