During a public opinion survey in New York City, most people estimated that we have “perhaps several hundred of them.” The Linguistic Society of America has a more precise answer.
One, two, three…
In 1911 authors of encyclopedia Britannica estimated the number of known languages on the planet as 1,000.
However, during the 20th century this number had been growing steadily. Not because new dialects developed but due to earlier unknown languages discovered, Stephen R. Anderson comments for Linguisticsociety.org.
A huge success in the study and documentation of languages was reached by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL International). The organization is known for its work on translation of the Bible into world’s languages. By 2009, the Bible (or at least a part of it) had been translated into 2,508 languages.
There are over 7,000 known languages in the world but many are dying
The largest of the existing language catalogs is called Ethnologue. As of 2009, its statistics provided data on 6,909 languages.
Curiously enough, only 230 of them are used in Europe, while in Asia people speak 2,197 different languages.
Linguistic diversity is really high in Papua—New Guinea. The region is populated by only 4 million people speaking 839 languages.
- For comparison, Russian is spoken by 270 million people on Earth.
- Over 1.3 billion people, or every fifth person in the world, communicate in English (as of 2007).
According to Wikipedia, the latest edition of Ethnology (19th) was released in 2016. Its experts had counted 7,457 languages on our planet (7,472 in 2015). 7,097 of them are “alive” (7,102 last year).
We know that languages die. Their number is decreasing with every year, which is seen in the statistics mentioned above. The language starts dying when children stop using it. About a quarter of all languages worldwide are threatened with extinction because they are spoken by less than 1,000 people.