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world languages
April 2, 2003 12:44 PM   Subscribe

The World has at least 6,800 active languages and countless more dialects ranging from Alacatlatzala to Zoque Tabasco. These are the Top 10 languages.
posted by stbalbach (21 comments total)

 
Not that I've perused the entire list, but here's my favorite thus far: Amerex:

SIL code:  AEX
ISO 639-2:  nai
 
Population No estimate available.
Classification Unclassified.
Comments Spoken by Neo-Muslims in prisons. Reported to not have mother tongue speakers. It may have Arabic influences (J M. Cowan 1990). Muslim. Second language only.
posted by kozad at 12:53 PM on April 2, 2003


From the last link:

To say "hello" in Hindustani, say "Namaste" (Nah-MAH-stay).
...
To say "hello" in English, say "What's up, freak?" (watz-UP-freek).

posted by eddydamascene at 1:09 PM on April 2, 2003


To say "hello" in English, say "What's up, freak?" (watz-UP-freek).

That was surprisingly funny.
posted by four panels at 1:21 PM on April 2, 2003


It's a wonder we communicate at all. Languages and dialects, with just one thing in common...
posted by black8 at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2003


To say "hello" in English, say "What's up, freak?" (watz-UP-freek).

I thought it was "Sup?"
posted by LowDog at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2003


To say "hello" in English, say "What's up, freak?" (watz-UP-freek).

I thought it was "Sup?"


I thought it was "Hey, sailor!"
posted by Captain_Tenille at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2003


There won't be that many languages for long...

The Rosetta Project (probably linked to previously)

The necessity (and execution) of this project is so heart-breakingly sad and beautiful that it blows my mind every time I visit the site, hoping that the discs will finally be available.

If the price isn't prohibitive, every person loved by my partner and myself will be receiving one as a gift. Even if it is prohibitive, we've agreed that *we* will be getting one, no matter what.
posted by fnord23 at 1:49 PM on April 2, 2003


otherlanguages.org is gradually building a reference resource for over five thousand linguistic minorities and stateless languages worldwide.

See the guy's links on languages in extinction, and check out the linguablogging gang in general, if this kind of thing is your cup of cha maté.
posted by hairyeyeball at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2003


Obligatory Onion link: Klingon Speakers Now Outnumber Navajo Speakers.
posted by homunculus at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2003


- over 50% of the world’s 6000 languages are endangered
- 96% of the world’s 6000 languages are spoken by 4% of the world’s population
- 90% of the world’s languages are not represented on the Internet
- 1 language is disappearing on average every two weeks (unesco)
posted by eddydamascene at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2003


Mandrin is not the most widely spoken language. English is. That's wide as in 'spread out'.

Get it right...
posted by i_cola at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2003


Exactly, i-cola! Portuguese may only be 8th in the world, but it's the third truly international language, after Spanish (grrrr...) and English.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:10 PM on April 2, 2003


Hm. You should have stuck with Ethnologue (one of my favorite bookmarks, obviously); that last link is amateurish (as might be expected from a site called soyouwanna.com). To take one obvious point, Mandarin Chinese doesn't have anywhere close to a billion speakers; Andrew Dalby estimates 800,000,000, and I suspect that's generous, taking Peking's word for how many southerners speak it in addition to their native Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese), Kejia (Hakka), &c. Malay/Indonesian shouldn't be anywhere near the top ten; Dalby gives 35,000,000 speakers, and it's not even in Merriam-Webster's top 30 list (s.v. "language"), which is based on an earlier edition of Ethnologue. It's doubtful whether "Arabic" should be considered one language; of course Classical Arabic is, but that's not a spoken language except in certain official and liturgical contexts. Lumping Hindi and Urdu is also dubious; although the basic everyday spoken forms are practically the same, once you get beyond that they're very different, with cultural loanwords from Sanskrit in the first case and Persian in the second. But hell, don't mind me, if I can't nitpick here, where can I nitpick? Delightful post!
posted by languagehat at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2003


Portuguese may only be 8th in the world, but it's the third truly international language

The Portuguese language, coupled with Brazilian women, is the most internationally moving entity I've ever experienced.
posted by four panels at 4:10 PM on April 2, 2003


The Portuguese language, coupled with Brazilian women, is the most internationally moving entity I've ever experienced.

Beautiful sentence. :-)
posted by zerofoks at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2003


About the last link: As an English speaker who speaks a bit of Mandarin, to say that Mandarin is more widely spoken than ridiculous. I would say you count as a speaker if you have a decent everyday command of the language - enough to read a basic paper. I'm not a linguist (perhaps Language Hat can help here), but I'd say it's a safe bet that nearer to a billion can speak English in that capacity, which is what really matters. There's a reason kids everywhere learn English and not Mandarin.
posted by Kevs at 5:09 PM on April 2, 2003


Yeah it seems like the last link in a FPP gets the most attention even though the meat of the post is in the first. I would have stuck with Ethnologue but couldn't find statistics.
posted by stbalbach at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2003


Thanks Stbalbach! That was a really cool read!


Of course there are the more "unofficial" dialects...Such as Redneck and good ol' Swedish Chef...

I know this has been posted before! An oldie but a goodie!
http://rinkworks.com/dialect/
posted by Civa at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2003


Lessee, I got English, Chinese and Russian in my collection...anyone wanna trade for something? I'd like to get Spanish, preferably with the original packaging, but I'll settle for used.
posted by Poagao at 11:35 PM on April 2, 2003


It's doubtful whether "Arabic" should be considered one language.
In what sense languagehat? More so than, say Italian (assured mutual incomprehensibility between Sicilian and Piedmont dialect speakers)?

This data was based on what the "official language" of a country is, which is often quite different than what the spoken languages there are. Does anyone know of a ranking of languages according to the number of people speaking them either as a first or a second (third, fourth etc.) language?

Good post.
posted by talos at 12:54 AM on April 3, 2003


talos: Good comparison, illustrating the difficulty in deciding what's a language and what's a dialect. Nobody thought there was an "Italian language" until after the unified state of Italy was created, at which point they decided on a homogenized Tuscan and promoted it nationwide. But as you point out, many Italians still speak mutually incomprehensible dialects, particularly in the south—and Sicilian is considered a separate language (I have a dictionary and phrasebook). It's a historical accident (having to do with the history and sense of cohesiveness of the Arab countries) that we speak of "Arabic" rather than "Maghrebi" (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian), "Egyptian," "Syrian" (including Lebanese and Palestinian), and so on; it's like saying France, Spain, Italy, &c. speak "Romance." But calling something an "official language" doesn't make it a (unified) language from a linguist's point of view.

Here's the Merriam-Webster list, which is a bit outdated in terms of numbers of speakers but still useful for ranking.
posted by languagehat at 9:43 AM on April 3, 2003


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