About this Edition


About the 21st Edition


Over 20,000 updates have been made to the Ethnologue database since the 20th edition was released one year ago. As a result, the descriptions of 3,875 languages contain at least one update. These include both substantive changes to the data, as well as stylistic ones as we continually seek to improve the presentation of the data. While we are always processing 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 and Europe.

Because languages are constantly changing and demonstrate significant internal variation, 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 7,097 living languages worldwide—a net decrease of 2 living languages since the 20th edition of Ethnologue was published one year ago. This is the result of changes in the extinction status of some languages and of updating Ethnologue to keep it aligned with the ISO 639-3 inventory of languages. This edition drops 19 languages that were listed as living in the previous edition (16 being changed in status from living to extinct, 1 having been merged in the ISO standard into another language, and 2 having been removed because they could not be substantiated as ever having been a language). Conversely, 17 languages are newly listed as living (6 having been shifted in status from extinct to dormant and 11 having been added by the ISO standard as not being previously identified).

In addition to living languages, Ethnologue also contains data on languages which have gone out of use since the first appearance of the publication 67 years ago. This edition lists 370 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 as Dormant (EGIDS 9) languages but labeled as “Second language only”.

This edition adds new country sections for five smaller political dependencies: Aland Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island, Falkland Islands, and Saint Helena (including Ascension and Tristan da Cunha). The editorial policy of Ethnologue is to follow the ISO 3166 standard in determining which geopolitical entities to list as "countries". Not every geopolitical entity identified in ISO 3166 is listed in Ethnologue. We list a geopolitical entity only if it is deemed to have a significant language situation. Specifically not included are historically uninhabited places which are now only the site of research stations or military bases.

This edition incorporates a number of improvements to the language maps:

  • New single-page maps of the Arabian peninsula (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE), Armenia, Greenland, Mongolia, Oklahoma (USA), Turkey, and the western Balkan region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia).
  • New enlargement maps for Nigeria map 2, Rote and West Timor region of Indonesia, and part of the Northern Philippines.
  • The two maps of central southern India have been reformatted into a single map.
  • Recent language survey work in Angola has enabled us to extensively revise that map.