About the Ethnologue


Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a comprehensive reference work cataloging all of the world’s known living languages. Since 1951, the Ethnologue has been an active research project involving hundreds of linguists and other researchers around the world. It is widely regarded to be the most comprehensive source of information of its kind.

The information in the Ethnologue will be valuable to anyone with an interest in cross-cultural communication, bilingualism, literacy rates, language planning and language policy, language development, language relationships, endangered languages, writing systems and to all with a general curiosity about languages.

Language descriptions in the Ethnologue

  • are organized by world area, UN region, and country

  • indicate region of use within countries

  • list alternate language and dialect names

  • specify the three-letter code from ISO 639-3

  • estimate speaker populations

  • give genetic classification of the language

  • describe language use and viability

  • identify writing scripts used

  • cite availability of literature and other products of language development

Other key features of the site:

  • statistical summaries by world area, language size, language status, language family, and country

  • extensive bibliography of references cited

  • over 200 color language maps

About the 18th edition

Over 12,000 updates have been made to the Ethnologue database since the 17th edition was released one year ago. While we are always processing additional research and any feedback received from users, every year we also give proactive attention to some part of the data. In this edition we have focused on soliciting review of information on the languages of Africa. As a result of these efforts, the descriptions of 4,447 languages contain at least one update.

Because languages are dynamic, variable, and constantly changing, the total number of living languages in the world cannot be known precisely. Therefore that number changes as knowledge of the world’s languages improves. This edition lists a total of 7,102 living languages worldwide—a net decrease of 4 living languages since the 17th edition of Ethnologue was published one year ago. This is the result of updating Ethnologue to align with the 2014 series of changes to the ISO 639-3 inventory of languages. That standard removed 17 languages listed as living in the previous edition (11 being merged with other languages and 6 being removed because they were duplicates or could not be substantiated as ever having been a language). Conversely, 13 languages are newly listed as living (7 being added by the standard as not having been previously identified and 6 being shifted within Ethnologue out of the status of extinct or unattested).

In addition to living languages, Ethnologue also contains data on languages which have gone out of use since the first appearance of the publication over 60 years ago. This edition lists 367 such recently extinct languages. Ancient, classical, and long-extinct languages are not listed (even though the ISO 639-3 standard assigns codes to them), unless they are in current use, such as in the scriptures or liturgy of a faith community. Such languages are included in the count of Dormant (EGIDS 9) languages.

Maps for Austria and Georgia are new in this edition and the maps of many countries have been revised and greatly expanded.