Lecture 5 Language Diversity in the World

Lecture 5 Language Diversity in the World - Language...

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Language Assistance for the 2010 California Census “… over 13 million questionnaires will be printed with both English and Spanish on the same form. In addition, the questionnaire will also be printed in 5 additional languages: Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese.” http://www.californiacompletecount.org/2010_census_explained
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How many languages are spoken in the world right now?
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Some Language Statistics • Around 6,909 languages spoken in the world today according to the Ethnologue • ~250 countries • ~100 different language families Source: Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/
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How many languages? Although the ethnologue lists 6,909 ‘known languages’, estimates can vary. Why can’t we just count ’em all up? What counts as a (distinct) ‘language’?
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Language or dialect? Recall that the linguist’s ideal definition of ‘distinct languages’ differs from the real world definition. Mutually intelligible language varieties may be classified as distinct languages for political or other such reasons (e.g., Danish and Norwegian, or Serbian and Croatian). Mutually unintelligible language varieties may be classified as dialects of the same language for political or other such reasons (e.g., ‘Chinese’, or under Franco’s rule, the languages of Spain).
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Accurate information missing because sometimes governments: •Ignore or even ban the use of certain languages •Don’t recognize certain language varieties as languages •They deny the right of a group of people who speak a given language to exist. The reasons behind this are political , not linguistic. Accurate information also missing because up until recently: Linguists had tended to work on languages spoken in Weestern Europe by large number of speakers. Thousands of the world’s languages have not been properly studied! From Nettle & Romaine p. 29-30.
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Geographic Distribution of Currently- known Languages, 2005 Total “living” languages Percentage Asia 2,322 33.6% Africa 2,110 30.5% The Pacific 1,250 18.1% The Americas 993 14.4% Europe 234 3.4% TOTAL 6,909 100% Source: The Ethnologue (www.ethnologue.org)
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Nearly dormant (“extinct”) languages The Americas 170 The Pacific 210 Asia 78 Africa 46 Europe 12 Source: The Ethnologue (www.ethnologue.org)
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Lecture 5 Language Diversity in the World - Language...

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