Re: Languages of the world

From: Frank Yung-Fong Tang (
Date: Fri Mar 25 2005 - 10:14:04 CST

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    some people already answer some of the question, so I will only focus
    on the unanswer part.

    On Fri, 25 Mar 2005 00:26:17 +0500, N.R.Liwal <> wrote:
    > Hello,
    > I wonder weather a discussion that I would like to initiate might have been
    > already discussed on this forum, it is:
    > How many languages are spoken in the world today?
    > How many languages are written in the world today?

    This question is more complex than you think because one question you
    need to ask frist is 'written by 'who'?

    Some of the languages have written forms for years and the written
    form was already wildely accepted in the native society. Some others
    only have written form recently, invented by missonary, and the
    written form is either not-widely-adopted, in-progress, or
    well-adopted. This make the answer to the question very complicated.
    For example, Christian missionaries came to Taiwan and make Bible
    translation for Min-Nan and also languages for native tribes. Before
    that, people speak Min-Nan will read Chinese writting and 'in-brain'
    translate into Min-Nan (I have to say it is a very interesting
    process) when they speak. The Min-Nan Bible translation did not take
    that approach, but use Roman letter to translate the Min-Nan Bible.
    The result is the Bible translation is much easier for people to
    'read' (out lound) and is very will accepted in the Taiwanese
    Christian community. But there are also people try to use Chinese
    character to 'transliterate' Min-Nan. Some one language could have two
    written forms. I believe 100 years ago the Min-Nan Roman
    transliteration is considered 'not wildly adopted' , but today it is
    for sure 'wildly- adopted' . For many of these languages, it is very
    hard to tell the level of adoption.

    if you read it tell you
    basically at least there are 1500+883+1034+405= 3822 languages that
    someone 'write down' some of the Bible text. However, it does not mean
    all these languages have well-adopted wirtten from. The 1500+ so
    called ' in progress' languaeg could mean only one or two missionary
    'write down' the language in his/her personal computer and no native
    speaker know how to read them.
    Even the 883+1034 languages which have NT translation or some
    scripture does not mean most people know how to read them yet.

    > It might be controversial, do we have any ranking of the world languages?

    Yes, there are.
    You can rank language in different way
    1. By total population of 'native speaker'

    2. By total population of 'any speaker' (primary and secondary)
    3. By the number of user using it online

    4. By the GOP

    5. by influence

    but that does not mean those ranking make sense in your context, nor
    does it mean we have accurate data about them.

    I suggest you dig into
    to find more info if you want to.

    also, the CIA World Fact Book whould give you some info of raw data.

    > Is a culture die with a language, what we loose if a language die?
    I guess you need to first define who do you mean 'WE'.
    I, Frank Tang, will loose nothing if a language die.
    We, if it mean my family, will loose nothing if a language die.
    We, if you mean all people use English to write email in the unicode
    mailling list, probably will still loose nothing if a language die.
    We, internationalization software developer, will have one less
    language to worry about how to implement the renderning, input , line
    wrapping, spell checking, if a language die.
    We, business man who sale language software, will have one less
    opportunity to sale language product, if a language die.

    Many languages die in the last 3000 years. But I beleive the total
    number of languages actually increase instead of decrease in the last
    3000 years. So.... I think you need to worry how many languages got
    'diversed' instead of how many language 'die'.

    > What precautions are needed to save languages from becoming endangered?

    What precautions are needed to prevent new language be formed?

    > Regards.
    > N.R.Liwal

    Frank Yung-Fong Tang
    Šýšţém Årçĥîţéçţ

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