A hint of things to come...

The updated Ethnologue.com website went online in February 2013 with the publication of the 17th edition of the Ethnologue data.  It's hard to believe that a year has passed already and it is almost time for us to release updated information.  We're aiming to make that happen later this month.  It's been our goal to make International Mother Language Day (February 21st) our release date and we hope to achieve that. As always, however, when computers, databases, and humans are involved there could be some slippage.

We are updating the Ethnologue website with corrections and new information that we have received in the last 12 months.  This includes the most recent changes to the ISO 639-3 inventory of identified languages which were approved at the end of 2013. We've also continued our review of the EGIDS estimates and there are some significant refinements in those numbers. The categories for the functions of languages within their countries that we introduced last year has also been updated and refined. In addition, we've received and responded to a large number of communications which pointed out errors, both factual and typographical, and we are grateful for the keen eyes of the many users of Ethnologue who made the effort to inform us of specific errors. While there have been many changes, we are still identifying the data online as 17th edition data and if you cite www.ethnologue.com you should do the same, just follow standard bibliographic procedure in identifying the date on which you accessed the website.

So what else is new?

Books! In many respects the data corrections are the most important part of what we'll be sharing with this update.  However, there are several other new things to announce.  Within days (weeks?) of the release of the new data online, we will make available a snapshot of the data in a variety of printed forms.  The major innovation here is that we'll be releasing print editions of the 17th edition (as now revised) in three regionally-focused volumes.  While the single-volume format we've used in the past has been handy as a desk reference (at over 1500 pages and more than 5 lbs.), it has also overwhelmed users with poor upper-body strength and those who are interested in only a particular region or group of languages. Each volume is entirely self-contained with introductory material, tables of content and abbreviations, indexes, maps, references cited, and statistical tables customized for the regions covered. By adopting the three-volume format, users can purchase only the volume that best serves them and those who want it all can buy the entire set.

Reports! In addition to the larger volumes, we will have individual country reports available for many countries.  These will be downloadable PDF files that can be consulted electronically or printed out. These will also be completely self-contained with a table of contents, indexes, maps, etc. If viewed electronically, page numbers and cross-references will all be live links that will take you to the corresponding part of the report. We hope these will be useful to many. The cost for these reports will vary.

Data! The third new product we'll be releasing is the Ethnologue Global Dataset.  We've received many requests for Ethnologue data in a tabular format that is amenable to analysis and manipulation by database software.  This initial Global Dataset release contains a subset of the Ethnologue database comprised of the fields that contain "normalized" data.  We expect the dataset to grow over time as we are able to add more fields to the product. There are, of course, licensing restrictions on how the data can be used (and a fee) but we are excited to be able to share this product with those who have requested it.

There are other innovations in the works that will affect the website itself, some of them related to the purchase and download of these products. Others, however, are going to radically alter the way users can provide us with feedback and participate in this ongoing research project.  More about all of that next time...