Over 20,000 updates have been made to the Ethnologue database since the 23rd edition was released one year ago. As a result, 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.”
This web edition of the Ethnologue may be cited as: Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2021. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-fourth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.