Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Language Facts

  1. There are more than 2,700 major languages spoken throughout the world.
  2. There are over 583 different languages and dialects spoken in Indonesia alone, including Numbered ListEnglish and Dutch. More Info: The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa. Other languages include Minahasa, Tetu, Ambonese, Buginese, Dayak, Halmahera, Javanese, Acehnese, Batak, Toraja, Sundanese, Ceramese, and Sasak.
  3. More than 2,000 languages are spoken in the entire continent of Africa.
  4. The language spoken by the people most is Mandarin, a type of Chinese. Second is English.
  5. The most difficult language to speak is Basque. It is not related to any language in the world. It is spoken in north-western Spain and south-western France.
  6. The Berbers of Northern Africa have no written form of their language.
  7. Somalia is the only country in the world where every citizen speaks one language, Somali.
  8. The only country where Latin is the official language is Vatican City.
  9. The Cambodian alphabet is the world’s largest alphabet, with 74 letters.
  10. The world’s shortest alphabet, used in the Solomon Islands, has only 11.
  11. English, the second most spoken language in the world, has more words than any other language. But English speakers generally use only about 1% of the language.
  12. About one third of the more than one million English words are technical terms.
  13. The language of Taki, spoken in parts of French Guinea, consists of only 340 words.
  14. The Irish language has three dialects, the Connact Irish, Munster Irish, and Ulster Irish.
  15. The language Malayalam, spoken in parts of India, is the only language whose name is a palindrome.
  16. Tigrinya, spoken by half of Eritrea’s population, is a Semitic language based on Ge’ez, the ancient liturgical (and now extinct vernacular) language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
  17. Modern Japanese employs four writing systems: kanji (adapted from the Chinese hanji), hiragana, katakana, and romaji.
  18. Today, 58 countries in the world and the United Nations include English as an official language, followed by French with 32 countries and the United Nations, and Arabic at 25 countries and the United Nations.
  19. There are more than 7,000 dialects in the world.
  20. Sign language for the deaf was first systematized in France during the 18th century by Abbot Charles-Michel l’Ep?e.
  21. French Sign Language (FSL) was brought to the United States in 1816 by Thomas Gallaudet, founder of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, whom developed American Sign Language (ASL).
  22. By the time a child is 5 years old, he/she will on average have spent 9,100 hours learning its native language.
  23. What is known as standard Italian today dates back to last century, when the great Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) gave Italy a national language by resolving that it should be Tuscan Italian.
  24. German is commonly divided into two forms, Low German (Plattdeutsch) and High German (Hochdeutsch).
  25. There are 33 letters in the Cyrillic alphabet.
  26. The country Nigeria itself has more than 250 different languages, making the production of newspapers and television shows a challenge. Major languages include, French, Arabic, Hausa, Djerma, and Songhai.
  27. Many linguists estimate that of the 6,800 languages currently spoken, only about 3,000 will remain viable by the end of the century.
  28. Some 95% of the world’s population living today learn one of about 100 languages as a first language, leaving the remaining 6,700 languages spoken by 5% of the population.
  29. Two areas of the world have the largest number of languages (some 300 to 400 total) that are currently becoming extinct: Australia and North America (Aboriginals and Native American languages).
  30. About 140 languages are thought to be dead and dying in Australia and some 80 to 90 in North America.
  31. Votic, a Finno-Ugric tongue of the Uralic language family in the Kingisepp district on the Leningrad region of Russia, has less than a hundred remaining speakers.
  32. According to the 2000 Census, of the nearly 47 million Americans at least 5 years old who spoke a language other than English, about 60% of them spoke Spanish.
  33. Esperanto is an artifical language devised by a Polish eye doctor, L. L. Zamenhof, introduced in 1887. The name comes from his pen name, Dr. Esperanto, which in the language means one who hopes.” Based on Indo-European roots with a simple grammar, it was intended to be an international second language that people from different countries could learn easily and use to communicate. Thousands of books have been published in Esperanto, and there are 100,000 or more Esperanto speakers in the world according to some estimates.
  34. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language. It uses 4 different tones to convey different meanings: flat, rising, falling then rising, or falling.
  35. The language with the largest number of consonantal sounds was that of the Ubykns in the Caucasus, with 82. The last fully competent speaker, Tevtik Esenc, died in Istanbul in October 1992.
  36. The language with the most vowels is Sedang, a central Vietnamese language, with 55 distinguishable vowel sounds. via


Anonymous said...

There are so many errors in this it's not funny. For starters, Basque is not the only language isolate in the world. Various Berber languages have had their own script, used latin and arabic characters, etc. Not every single person in Somalia speaks Somali. Where on earth did you come up with that? I'm sure there are more errors but I stopped readingthere.

Alison said...

Citations? As a linguist, I've noted a couple mistakes (though noting the first couple, I admit, I have not read the list in its entirety), and citations would be a huge boon, if only to follow the trail to see how a summary here missed a vital fact from a primary source.

Anonymous said...

Well I read the whole thing.
I thought it was good.

Galliwampus said...

'Fact' is used thrice rather loosely here and I would like, graciously, to comment further.

5. "The most difficult language to speak is Basque. It is not related to any language in the world. It is spoken in north-western Spain and south-western France." In addition to Basque's absolute difficulty being an unempirical claim, it is also a relative one - it may be difficult for one language group's speakers but less so for another. As for where it's spoken and its being unrelated to other languages, these are defensible claims.

25. "There are 33 letters in the Cyrillic alphabet." You must mean in the modern Cyrillic alphabet as used in Russian; early Cyrillic had many more characters and the modern Cyrillic alphabet has been expanded for adaptation to other languages, Slavic as well as non-Slavic.

34. "Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language. It uses 4 different tones to convey different meanings: flat, rising, falling then rising, or falling." While this is true, it is also misleading and redundant. All Chinese languages are tonal. Mandarin is distinguished by having four tones plus a so-called neutral tone. Cantonese and Hakka have almost double the number of tones Mandarin has. Shanghainese has three to five, depending on who's counting.

Anonymous said...

Full of errors.

for starters, berber was written both in Arabic and in Latin characters... and if that's not enough, it even has an exclusive writing system.

the rest of the list doesn't really say anything about languages, other than useless facts

LIESL said...

Just another random fact - Afrikaans (from South Africa - formed out of Dutch) is the youngest fully developed language in the world - only around 100 years old.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but there does seem to be a few errors.The difficult part will be to keep these languages from dying out.

Unknown said...

Tok Pisin has only begun nativization since the 1950s. That's newer than any cut off for Afrikaans.

Galliwampus said...

Afrikaans a young language? Classifying Afrikaans as a separate language is a political gesture, not a linguistic one, for it is a Dutch dialect. As with most colonial languages, it has largely frozen in terms of morphological change and has absorbed vocabulary from languages it touches, but calling it a separate language is far-fetched at best.

LIESL said...

Galliwampus. Well, that was unnecessarily offensive. No political gesture intended. You seem to have some deep-seated resentment towards Afrikaners. I'm sorry you feel that way.

LIESL said...

And, by the way:

Afrikaans, member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages ). Although its classification is still disputed, it is generally considered an independent language rather than a dialect or variant of Dutch (see Dutch language ).

LIESL said...

Afrikaans is a Low Franconian language. It is a member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European languages. Though derived from Dutch, Afrikaans is considered an independent language; it is neither a Dutch dialect nor variant.

One of South Africa's two official languages - the other is English. It developed from the Dutch of the settlers of the region in the 17th century and is now seen as an independent language thanks only to the separate development of the two languages over the centuries.

Saying that Afrikaans is a dialect of Dutch is like saying that English is a dialect of Latin. In fact, the closest language to Afrikaans is actually Flemish. I suggest you do a bit of research before making flippant and dismissive comments.

Galliwampus said...


We do not have to agree on the definition of language, as that argument will outlive either of us.

If one looks at the Scandinavian trio of Norwegian, Danish and Swedish, the same thing is evident, that cosmetic and regional accents set aside, these are essentially the same language, but their differences are what matter to the speakers, not their similarities, and it is upon these differences that national identity, in part, is based. Spanish and Portuguese - though their pronunciation is wildly different, are essentially the same language (and some time during the last thousand years were the same).

How you have inferred that I "have some deep-seated resentment towards Afrikaners" from my point bewilders me. My quarrel is with the politicization of language and philology in general, not with specific governments, who (as governments go) at any rate are notoriously insensitive to understanding that language defines us more than we can define language (i.e., legislate it - c.f. France's xenophobic language policy or China's butchering of their writing system during the hopefully entitled Cultural Revolution. Here in the USA we are launching a foolhardy attempt to curb Spanish - in preference of 'English only' - but it will crash). And finally, my experience with Afrikaners during my ten days in Zuid Afrika was nothing but pleasant and I maintain friendships there still. I am not desperately seeking other friendships but it was not my intention to offend you or any Afrikaner.

Dacey said...

Languages evolve and die, it's all cyclical.

Peter said...

Modern Japanese employs four writing systems: kanji (adapted from the Chinese hanji), hiragana, katakana, and romaji.

The Chinese writing system is called Hanzi. And romaje is a transcription into our alphabet to make it easier for foreigners to learn the language and it is not used in Japanese texts. A lot of languages with a different script have an official spelling in our alphabet, so it is not limited to Japanese.

Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my college thesis, thanks for your great points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Kris

Anonymous said...

Calling it Hanzi or Hanji are both romanizations of sounds not made in the English language, so to argue about it is pointless, as is arguing about any of these errors in the list. We all see faults in it, from English not being the second most spoken language in the world, to what is truly the "hardest language to learn", since that's a subjective claim dependant on many variables. But I think we can all agree that this list was posted by someone with minimal linguistic knowledge, and who was simply trying to sound intelligent, so there's no sense wasting our time seriously considering any of it. Also if you're looking for new languages, take a look at Nicaraguan Sign Language.

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