Welcome to the 19th edition

As our contribution to the celebration of International Mother Language Day, we are pleased to release Ethnologue, 19th edition. Mother Language Day, February 21, reminds the world of the importance of the lesser-known languages of the world. Because that has been an area of focus of the Ethnologue since its inception in 1951, we are happy to be able to provide our most up-to-date information about the languages of the world on this day.

This edition is the result of more than 19,000 individual changes to our database since the 18th edition was released one year ago.  As a result, the descriptions of 5,438 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 the Americas and the Pacific. 

The most commonly cited statistic from the Ethnologue is the tally of living languages.  This edition lists a total of 7,097 living languages worldwide—a net decrease of 5 living languages since the 18th edition was published one year ago. This is the result of changes in extinction status of some languages and of updating Ethnologue to keep it aligned with the ISO 639-3 inventory of languages. This edition drops 30 languages that were listed as living in the previous edition (9 being changed in status from living to extinct, 11 having been merged in the ISO standard into another language, and 10 having been removed from the standard because they were duplicates or could not be substantiated as ever having been a language). Conversely, 25 languages are newly listed as living (4 being shifted out of the status of extinct or unattested, 15 having been added by the ISO standard as not having been previously identified, and 6 being former additions to the standard that should have been added in a previous edition).

Two improvements in the reporting of language data make their debut in this edition. First, the distinction as to whether a language is indigenous or non-indigenous in each country is a new addition to the database. When a language is not indigenous, this fact is noted in the Other comments element of the language entry. The summary count of living languages given in the Language counts element of each country page also now provides a breakdown of indigenous versus non-indigenous languages. Second, for a language that is used in multiple countries, the reporting of total user population at the end of the Population element now includes the second language users (with a breakdown of L1 users versus L2 users being given when the total involves both).

This edition also expands our coverage of the world by adding a separate entry for the Faroe Islands—a self-governing country within the Danish kingdom. In addition, there are a number of improvements to the language maps that appear in this edition. Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro are placed on a new map and the map for Greece has been enlarged. There are also new maps covering zoomed areas of southeastern Colombia, eastern Ghana, the Milne Bay region of Papua New Guinea, and the regions surrounding Pretoria and Johannesburg in South Africa. 

Along with these updates and improvements to the website, we have updated all of the country reports. The Global Dataset is similarly updated.  The three regional print volumes, which will be released in short order, will also be updated to include all of the 19th edition data and additional features described above.

And we're not done yet!  As we work diligently to research the languages 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 feedback and we encourage you to register, create a profile, and provide us with corrections, suggestions, and updates using the Feedback tab that appears on each country and language page.

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 surrounds us.


Submitted by Irene_Tucker on Tue, 2016-02-23 04:41
Well done all of you on the editorial and publishing teams. This looks great. Irene
Submitted by Tabitha Dohmatob on Fri, 2016-05-20 22:20
I really appreciate this great effort to give us information on our languages. However, i noticed the Mubako language of Bali-Kumbat people is not found in this 19th edition, I wonder why. I am yet to check in the former editions for any information on it. Thank you.
Submitted by Ethnologue Editor on Mon, 2016-05-23 09:42
Dear Tabitha, The Mubako language to which you refer is called Nyong [muo] in the Ethnologue (www.ethnologue.com/language/muo). We are not familiar with the Bali-Kumbat name; is that the name given to the people who speak this language? Thank you for contacting the Ethnologue with your question. Charles Fennig Managing Editor, Ethnologue