According to Ethnologue, there are 7,111 living
languages (languages that are still being used and spoken by people) worldwide.
Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken
languages worldwide when only first-languages are considered.
Asia and Africa account for the highest number
of indigenous languages (over 70% of the total)
Papua New Guinea has the highest number of
‘living’ indigenous languages in the world (840). India has been ranked 4th (453).
Ethnologue has also put forward a ‘Greenberg’s
diversity index’. It is the probability that any two people of the country
selected at random would have different mother tongues.
The value ranges from 0 to 1, where 0 indicates
no diversity (everyone has the same mother tongue) and 1 indicates total
diversity (no two people will have the same mother tongue). India has a
diversity value of 0.9
According to UNESCO’s ‘Atlas of the World’s
Languages in Danger’, 228 languages have become extinct since 1950. About 10%
of the languages are classified ‘vulnerable’. 10% are ‘critically endangered’.
In India, 5 languages have become extinct since
1950. 42 languages are critically endangered.
United Nations has announced 2019 as the International
Year of Indigenous Languages.
It aims to promote indigenous languages in five
key areas: a) Increasing understanding, reconciliation and
international cooperation, b) Creation of favourable conditions for
knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices, c) Integration of
indigenous languages into standard setting, d) Empowerment through capacity
building and e) Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.
Ethnologue is an annual publication that
provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world.
It is published by US-based SIL International.