Welcome to the 24th edition

As our contribution to the celebration of International Mother Language Day, we are pleased to announce the release of the 24th edition of EthnologueMother Language Day, February 21, reminds the world of the importance of the lesser-known languages of the world. Because knowledge about lesser-known languages has been a focus of the Ethnologue since its inception in 1951, we are pleased to be able to provide our most up-to-date information about the languages of the world each year on this day. This new edition is the result of over 20,000 updates that have been made to the Ethnologue database since the 23rd edition was released one year ago. The descriptions of 3,935 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.

Not only are languages constantly changing, so is what we know about them. Therefore the total number of living languages in the world cannot be known precisely. That number changes as knowledge of the world’s languages improves. This edition lists a total of 7,139 living languages worldwide—a net increase of 22 living languages since the 23rd 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 5 languages that were listed as living in the previous edition (1 being changed in status from living to extinct and 4 having been merged in the ISO standard into another language). Conversely, 27 languages are newly listed as living (1 having been shifted in status from extinct to dormant, 8 being split from existing languages, and 18 having been added by the ISO standard as not being previously identified).

In an effort to better report the situation for the one-fifth of living languages that are no longer in use by children, this edition introduces a significant change. The language use section of language entries employs the phrase “Also use” to report the other languages that are used by members of the language community. Beginning with this edition, we attempt to identify which of those languages is the one being adopted in the home domain as the new L1 among children. In the case of EGIDS 7 (Shifting) languages, a language so designated is reported as the object of “Shifting to” rather than “Also use.” When the latter designation is used in the entry for a shifting language, it indicates a language that is an L2 for both the L1 members of the language community and for those who have shifted to another L1. In the case of EGIDS 8a and lower languages, the shift is complete since members of the child-bearing generation are no longer able to use the language and thus cannot transmit it naturally in the home domain. In these cases, the wording used is “Shifted to.”

Along with these updates and improvements to the website, we have updated all of the country digests to reflect the 24th edition data. The global dataset is similarly updated.  The 24th edition of the three print volumes will be released in short order.

And the job is not finished yet!  As we work diligently to research the language situation of the world, we will continue to benefit from the knowledge of our users who are familiar with specific countries and languages. We value your input  and we encourage you to join our Contributor Program. With a contributor account you will be entitled to complimentary access to the website and will be able to use the Contribute tab on the page for a language or country in order to propose corrections and additions.

On Mother Language Day, we hope you will be able to find your mother language (or perhaps that of one of your ancestors) in the Ethnologue and celebrate the linguistic diversity that enriches our world.

Comments

Submitted by Joan Spanne on Mon, 2021-02-22 10:37
Congratulations on the release of the 24th edition to all the staff who pushed hard to get this out for the celebration of Mother Language Day! Thanks so much! Joan Spanne
Submitted by khunu Kana Kuno on Thu, 2021-03-18 20:00
Felicitaciones por el trabajo.