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Research registers more languages

(December 2008) As knowledge of the world's languages increases, so does the number of registered languages. According to research reported to and collected by SIL during the past four years, 80 languages have been distinguished from others previously listed by the ISO 639-3 standard. An additional 83 languages have been newly recognized that were not previously associated with any other language.

Databases maintained by SIL are used to produce the Ethnologue: Languages of the World, and conform to the ISO 639-3 standard, which provides unique three-letter codes for identifying nearly 7,500 languages. SIL International serves as the Registration Authority for the ISO 639-3 inventory of language identifiers and administers the annual cycle for changes and updates. The total number of living languages in the world cannot be known precisely because languages are dynamic and variable.

Speech variation: language and dialect

Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for distinguishing a language from a dialect. Every language is characterized by variation within the speech community that uses it. Those varieties, in turn, are more or less divergent from one another. These divergent varieties are often referred to as dialects. They may be distinct enough to be considered separate languages or sufficiently similar to be considered merely characteristic of a particular geographic region or social grouping within the speech community. Often speakers may be very aware of dialect variation and be able to label a particular dialect with a name. In other cases, the variation may be largely unnoticed or overlooked.

The ISO 639-3 inventory of languages applies the following basic criteria for defining a language in relation to varieties which may be considered dialects:

Since its beginning in 1934, SIL has published more than 29,743 works about its research in more than 2,394 languages spoken in more than 70 countries. SIL promotes sustainable language development through research, translation, training and materials development for ethnolinguistic minority communities.

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