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SIL International Media Release

Tsunami Impacts Language Communities in Asia

DALLAS, TX (January 11, 2005) Due to the magnitude of the destruction and the disruption of communications, it is not possible to have a thorough assessment of the loss experienced by the many languages groups living in this region. However, there are 1,534 known languages spoken in the affected countries.

Speaking of the impact of the disaster, Executive Director of SIL International, Dr. John Watters, stated, “The tsunami that has destroyed so many and so much throughout Southeast Asia has not only caused deep and lasting loss for individuals and families, but has devastated language communities throughout the region. We join the rest of the world in grief and sadness. Not only has there been a loss of over 225,000 people, but the world has also lost the unique voices they spoke in varied languages across Asia. It will be a long, long time before we fully recognize the effect this catastrophic disaster has had on the heart and soul of humankind.”

For the past 70 years, SIL International’s focus has been the study, documentation, and assistance in the development of the world’s lesser-known languages. SIL’s Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a resource for information about the language communities living in the tsunami-affected areas. The Ethnologue is a comprehensive catalog that alphabetically lists the known living languages, documenting the world’s complex language situations, including endangered languages. The total numbers of living languages in the affected countries are:

14th edition
15th edition
Bangladesh 38 39
India 387 415
Indonesia 726 737
Malaysia 140 140
Maldives 1 1
Myanmar 107 108
Somalia 13 13
Sri Lanka 7 7
Thailand 75 74