Including living languages and languages in decline or almost extinct, you have already wondered how many languages are there in the world?
While many believe that the number of languages in the world is approximately 6500, there are 7106 living languages. However, this number is documented according to the latest contagion.
There is no clear answer as to how many languages still exist. The question of how many languages exist has always been surrounded by uncertainty.
Although we can assume that linguists have a definitive idea of the exact number, it is verified that there are many different reasons why it is so difficult to determine the full contagion of languages in the world. And it cannot be attributed simply to the fact that there are still parts of the world that have not yet been fully explored, The Amazon and the highlands of Nova Guiné are a clear example of it.
The public in general probably has no idea about the exaggerated number of languages spoken in the world, even though they can prove that there are several hundreds. However, over time, the number continued to increase. The 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) estimated about 1000. In the course of the twentieth century, the number continued to increase, mainly due to a larger understanding of the languages spoken in areas that were previously unknown or little explored.
Many of the pioneers in the documentation of world languages were the missionaries, such as those from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). These missionaries were interested in translating the Bible. Since 2009, the Bible is available in 2508 languages.
In the same year, “Ethnologue: Languages of the World“, widely considered the most extensive catalog of the world’s languages, was published, stating that 6909 languages were still in use. The catalog was published by SIL and the latest edition of the catalog (17th edition, 2014) now includes 7106 living languages.
While the number of living languages currently stands at more than seven thousand, the 2014 figures also include 915 languages that are dying.
During the second millennium B.C., the number of extinct languages was only seven. Along with each millennium, the number of dead languages is a question of balance.
The largest number of languages lost was during the 20th century when a total of 110 languages were declared extinct.
In the current century, there are already 12 dead languages, the most recent being the loss of Klallam, in February of 2014, when Hazel Sampson, its last native speaker, died.
Klallam was the traditional language of the Klallam natives living in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, located on the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington and in Beecher Bay, British Columbia.
In addition to the main languages, such as Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and English, there are still many other languages, such as English, French, and German belonging to different linguistic families, in which the degree of diversity represents a problem in quantifying numbers. However, one fact is true: a large part of the languages of the world are rapidly disappearing.
One of the main reasons for the death of a language is the invasion of the main languages in different parts of the world. Once the language is no longer learned by the younger generation, its loss becomes inevitable, and when the last remaining speakers of a specific language leave that land, the language is also lost forever.
About 25% of the world’s languages have less than 1,000 speakers and linguists estimate that nearly half of the world’s languages will disappear in the next century.
The loss of so many languages is a matter of concern for specialists and causes great debate among linguists. Some argue that the disappearance of languages, like people, is a natural process and that, while some languages die naturally, new ones are born, as in the case of Hebrew. Others, however, question the wisdom of abandoning a language for one that is more economically influential.