Redesigned Ethnologue website invites visitors to explore the world’s languages

Executive Editor Dr. Gary Simons identifies EGIDS assessments as the most significant addition to the new site. EGIDS evaluates language vitality based on current language use and language development in process.

(March 2013)  SIL International announces the release of the 17th edition of Ethnologue: Languages of the World and the launch of the newly redesigned Visitors to this new site will find updated language data and statistics, as well as many helpful new features, such as interactive maps.

The Ethnologue began in 1951 as ten mimeographed pages of information on forty-six languages or language families. Since that time, the project has grown exponentially, gaining respect as a well-researched catalog of the world’s known living languages. The latest edition includes data on 7,105 languages. All languages in the Ethnologue are identified according to the ISO 639-3 standard of three-letter language codes.

SIL has a longstanding commitment to sharing knowledge and providing service to all. Since 1996, Ethnologue data has been available online as a free and searchable database. Features of the newly redesigned site include:

  • an easy-to-navigate interface that provides access to updated reference information and statistics on every known living language, as well as information on language development and language endangerment;
  • an assessment of overall language vitality for each language using EGIDS—the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale; and
  • interactive map graphics with a mouse-over summary of the language situation in each world region and country.

screen shot of new Ethnologue website front page

The site provides an overview of language status for every country, UN region, major world area (continent) and the world as a whole. Researchers have noted that the situation of the world’s smaller language communities is increasingly precarious. By some estimates, half of the languages currently spoken could be extinct within the next century. Language endangerment is not merely a matter of academic interest—language is a core element of a community’s identity and cultural heritage. While the situation is serious, it is not without hope. Dr. Gary Simons, Chief Research Officer for SIL and Executive Editor of the Ethnologue notes,

The EGIDS assessments for every known language are the most significant addition to this edition of the Ethnologue and the redesigned website. EGIDS is more than just a way of assessing language endangerment; it is also a way of identifying languages that are strong or developing. In very round numbers, our current finding is that about one-third of the world’s languages are in trouble or dying, another third are healthy with writing standards established or developing, and the remaining third are still vigorous but used only orally.

Many communities around the world are gaining a vision for the impact that language development can have on the vitality of their linguistic and cultural heritage. Efforts such as literacy and multilingual education and written descriptions such as grammars and dictionaries can play a key role in the continued use of a language for a variety of functions. Language development efforts underway in a language community are considered in the evaluation of language vitality data by which an EGIDS level is assigned.

The print version of the 17th edition of the Ethnologue (edited by Paul Lewis, Charles Fennig and Gary Simons) is scheduled for release by SIL International Publications later this year.

Visit the new to experience this updated reference to the world’s living languages.

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