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Re: Languages with writing systems?

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  • Don Osborn
    Hi Sangeeta, As a short answer to your question, I don t know of any authoritative estimates of the number (or %) of languages with writing systems, though I
    Message 1 of 10 , Oct 10, 2006
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      Hi Sangeeta, As a short answer to your question, I don't know of any
      authoritative estimates of the number (or %) of languages with writing
      systems, though I suspect that there may be no simple answer. Here are
      a few thoughts along that line.

      First, the number of 6000-7000 languages often mentioned in the press
      and academic literature is the count of the well-known resource,
      Ethnologue http://www.ethnologue.org/ which tends to count variant
      forms of a language as separate.

      All of this goes back to the definition of a "language" so a second
      thought is that in the case of various "dialects" the issue of whether
      there is a standard form of the language is another issue. The case of
      Arabic may be a particular or extreme example, but Ethnologue counts
      about 20 "languages" for Arabic - there are significant differences
      among the spoken colloquial varieties, but there is really only one
      standard written form. So on the one hand, one might say that Arabic
      is counts as 100% (=1/1) in tallying the number of languages with a
      writing system in the world, but on the other hand, perhaps it
      accounts for 4-5% since, from what I am told, it is not common to
      write the colloquial speech. I think that there are a number of other
      languages are in more or less similar situations (several "languages"
      closely related, of which only one is written to any appreciable extent).

      Other readers please correct me on details in the case of Arabic, but
      if you consider that one might be able to write any of the colloquial
      varieties, even though this might not be done, then the issue is
      clouded further. That is a third thought.

      Fourth, and getting closer to the point that (as I understand it)
      concerns Sangeeta, there are certainly a lot of languages that have
      been put to writing relatively recently, such that (1) the system of
      writing is not widely known, (2) there are competing systems of
      writing, or (3) the only writing is that done by some researchers of
      one sort or another. This set of circumstances is particularly common
      across Africa, but certainly observed elsewhere. It is aggravated in
      some cases by educational policies or the lack of language planning.

      All of this is something I'm thinking about and communicating with
      colleagues about. Having seen a proposed system for classifying
      languages according to the technical resources available for them
      (tau, mu and pi languages), I am inclined to think that it would be
      very helpful to have a similar sort of classification about writing
      and languages - that is the degree of establishment and use of written
      forms of a language. It does not seem to have a simple answer like x%
      or y% of languages having writing systems - it all depends on what one
      means by "having a writing system" or what it means to be a "written
      language." And this is much like the criteria for definition of what
      is a "language" itself (i.e., separate language as opposed to dialect
      of a language etc.). (I guess this counts as #5)

      Another (sixth) thought is a question: how do you deal with languages
      with written traditions in more than one alphabet, such as Amazight
      (Berber)? Admittedly this is an easier question, but it points to
      another level of complexity.

      A seventh and final thought is the definition of a "writing system."
      Although we take it to mean something that can represent the spoken
      language or a full range of thought comparable to the spoken language,
      there are some who define written systems more widely to include
      various symbols with meaning that may be used individually or in
      combinations to express certain things.

      I'm sorry if this clouds the issue more than clarifies, but at the
      moment it seems like this is the reality.

      I'll forward this to another list - Qalam - that deals specifically
      with writing systems to see what kind of responses it gets there.

      All the best!

      Don


      --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta has a question very pertinent to discussing
      > multilingual literacy, and that is the number of languages with
      > writing systems. I will offer some thoughts later, but in the
      > meantime, encourage others to reply as well. DZO
      >
      > ------------------------------------------
      >
      > I have a query to the members of the Multilingual literacy discussion
      > group. I have a source that puts the figure of number of languages in
      > the world today to around 6000. The number of languages with a written
      > system is often put to 100-120. I bumped into another source recently
      > that suggests that 10-12 procent of the worlds known languages have a
      > written system. The latter seems way too many. I'd be very happy to
      > hear from list members of what estimates they are aware of. I'd also
      > be very happy to get references to sources.
      >
      > Thanks!
      >
      > Sangeeta
      >
      > --
      > Associate Professor/Docent
      > Department of Education/Pedagogiska institutionen Communication,
      > Culture & Diversity - Deaf Studies (KKOM-DS) Research Group Örebro
      > University SE 701 82 Örebro Sweden
      >
      > http://www.oru.se/pi/sangeeta
      >
    • paul_lewis@sil.org
      Just a small but important correction. The correct URL is: http://www.ethnologue.com For the details on how Ethnologue defines what constitutes a language
      Message 2 of 10 , Oct 10, 2006
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        Just a small but important correction. The correct URL is:
        http://www.ethnologue.com

        For the details on how Ethnologue defines what constitutes "a language"
        see: http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/introduction.asp#language_id

        Regards,

        M. Paul Lewis
        Ethnologue Editor
        7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
        Dallas, TX 75236
        Tel: (972) 708-7432 / Fax (972) 708-7380
        www.ethnologue.com



        "Don Osborn" <dzo@...>
        Sent by: Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
        10/10/2006 04:14 PM
        Please respond to
        Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com


        To
        Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
        cc

        Subject
        [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?






        Hi Sangeeta, As a short answer to your question, I don't know of any
        authoritative estimates of the number (or %) of languages with writing
        systems, though I suspect that there may be no simple answer. Here are
        a few thoughts along that line.

        First, the number of 6000-7000 languages often mentioned in the press
        and academic literature is the count of the well-known resource,
        Ethnologue http://www.ethnologue.org/ which tends to count variant
        forms of a language as separate.

        ...
      • Don Osborn
        Thank you, Paul, and I apologize for the error. I reference Ethnologue s website fairly often, so should know better. In this case I keyed it in, and
        Message 3 of 10 , Oct 21, 2006
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          Thank you, Paul, and I apologize for the error. I reference
          Ethnologue's website fairly often, so should know better. In this case
          I keyed it in, and intuitively it seemed more like an .org than a .com.

          To everyone, the copy of Sangeeta's request for information that I
          sent to the Qalam list has generated a lot of discussion, but only a
          little is relevant to the question she posed. I will reply to a
          couple, copying this list (and with apologies to anyone who happens to
          be on both for the crossposting).

          Don

          --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, paul_lewis@... wrote:
          >
          > Just a small but important correction. The correct URL is:
          > http://www.ethnologue.com
          >
          > For the details on how Ethnologue defines what constitutes "a language"
          > see: http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/introduction.asp#language_id
          >
          > Regards,
          >
          > M. Paul Lewis
          > Ethnologue Editor
          > 7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
          > Dallas, TX 75236
          > Tel: (972) 708-7432 / Fax (972) 708-7380
          > www.ethnologue.com
          >
          >
          >
          > "Don Osborn" <dzo@...>
          > Sent by: Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
          > 10/10/2006 04:14 PM
          > Please respond to
          > Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
          >
          >
          > To
          > Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
          > cc
          >
          > Subject
          > [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > Hi Sangeeta, As a short answer to your question, I don't know of any
          > authoritative estimates of the number (or %) of languages with writing
          > systems, though I suspect that there may be no simple answer. Here are
          > a few thoughts along that line.
          >
          > First, the number of 6000-7000 languages often mentioned in the press
          > and academic literature is the count of the well-known resource,
          > Ethnologue http://www.ethnologue.org/ which tends to count variant
          > forms of a language as separate.
          >
          > ...
          >
        • Don Osborn
          Here are two exchanges of correspondence on this topic from the Qalam list, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/qalam/ (which focuses on writing systems): 1.
          Message 4 of 10 , Oct 21, 2006
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            Here are two exchanges of correspondence on this topic from the Qalam
            list, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/qalam/ (which focuses on
            writing systems):

            1. ------------------------------------

            [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?

            Re: "Degrees of written"

            Peter, all, I'm getting back to this slowly but a lot of the traffic
            in the thread seems to have gone elsewhere.

            The fact of transcribing a language may or may not make that system of
            transcription widespread. I understand your point about why create the
            system if one doesn't plan to make it known & used. But there are
            other factors that can make the issue more complex.

            For instance, in some cases the system developed for writing has not
            been widely used. There are also cases where different missionary
            groups have written the same language with different systems of
            transcription, as well as cases where government agencies have revised
            single standard transcriptions one or more times, and where
            individuals or groups have resorted to workarounds on computers when
            the available fonts didn't accommodate whatever transcription would
            have been appropriate. Not even to mention cases where alternate
            scripts were or are used.

            So, maybe there are really 2 questions:
            1. Has the language been given a writing system? In this case, the
            response would be 0 or 1 ; IOW, has it ever been put to writing?
            2. Is it a "written language" in the sense that writing is established
            to one degree or another? In this case there might be such
            considerations as (a) standardization, (b) familiarity of speakers
            with the, or any one of the systems of writing, and (c) production in
            writing (any system). The latter could be as complicated as one
            wanted, but some reasonable degrees of distinction might be helpful.

            I think the original question was #1, but the data Sangeetaa mentioned
            that purports to respond to that question may not use consistent
            criteria (?).

            My question about "degrees of written" is intended to suggest that a
            more complex index might be helpful for applied work: literacy,
            development of materials or web content in a language, localization, etc.

            Don

            --- In qalam@yahoogroups.com, "Peter T. Daniels" <grammatim@...> wrote:
            >
            > The missionary enterprise generally includes instruction for the
            locals in reading their new Bible books, for what would be the purpose
            otherwise of translating them?
            >
            > Presumably the SIL itself publishes reports on its literacy
            activities. But it can't be denied that several levels of
            already-written languages would prove more important in the long run,
            including regional, national, lingua franca, and metropolitan languages.
            > --
            > Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...
            >
            >
            >
            > ----- Original Message ----
            > From: Don Osborn <dzo@...>
            > To: qalam@yahoogroups.com
            > Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 7:59:54 PM
            > Subject: [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?
            >
            > Thanks, Peter. Any thoughts on "degrees of written" or classifications
            > of how well established a writing system is? It's one thing to have an
            > orthography or a Bible sections (often the first thing printed) in a
            > particular language - but if it's not taught in schools and literacy
            > rates in it are low, one could argue that the writing system however
            > valid or appropriate, is not (well) established.
            >
            > It's not an idle question. I recently had a correspondence about
            > writing systems in Nigeria (for languages other than the 3
            > "decamillionaires" ) in which it was suggested that the orthographies
            > had been changing in large part due to what available fonts on
            > available computer sytems would permit.
            >
            > There are also of course languages with competing orthographies (here
            > speaking of Latin-based ones introduced by different groups such as
            > missionaries; this is a slightly different case than that of Amazight
            > where there are 3 totally different scripts involved for historical
            > reasons).
            >
            > BTW, I misquoted the Ethnologue URL which is actually
            > http://www.ethnolog ue.com
            >
            > Don
            >
            > --- In qalam@yahoogroups. com, "Peter T. Daniels" <grammatim@ ..> wrote:
            > >
            > > The most useful source I know for the number of written languages is
            > the United Bible Societies' catalog of the languages of the world into
            > which at least one book of the Bible has been translated. The most
            > recent edition I have, from 1990 [the orange one], lists 1,946 such
            > languages; one more was published [the green one], but it's sold out,
            > and now they only put the information on their website any more.
            > >
            > > Thus given Ethnologue's maximal number of languages around 6000, and
            > the UBS's minimal number of written languages around 2000 (likely
            > significantly more than that by now), the number of the world's
            > languages with writing systems must be something over 1/3.
            > >
            > > I once tried to list all the different writing systems currently in
            > use (counting all the uses of Roman, Cyrillic, and Arabic as 1 each,
            > and counting Japanese as 1) and came up with about 32 (depending on
            > how many ones of very limited use like Cherokee and Pahawh Hmong you
            > want to include) -- somewhere between 30 and 35.
            > > --
            > > Peter T. Daniels grammatim@ .
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > ----- Original Message ----
            > > From: Don Osborn <dzo@>
            > > To: qalam@yahoogroups. com
            > > Cc: Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta <sangeeta.bagga- gupta@ >
            > > Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 6:11:50 PM
            > > Subject: FW: [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?
            > >
            > > One of the members of the Multilingual_ Literacy group, Sangeeta
            > Bagga-Gupta
            > > of ÃÆ'rebro University in Sweden, asked about the number of the world's
            > > languages that have writing systems. You may want to jump past my
            windy
            > > comments to her original question below. TIA for any feedback.
            > >
            > > Don Osborn


            2.-----------------------------------

            FW: [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?

            Thanks Jonathon, You pose some questions that I'll belatedly respond
            to (in text).

            --- In qalam@yahoogroups.com, "Jonathon Blake" <jonathon.blake@...> wrote:
            >
            > Don forwarded:
            >
            > > I have a query to the members of the Multilingual literacy discussion
            > > group. I have a source that puts the figure of number of languages in
            > > the world today to around 6000. The number of languages with a written
            > > system is often put to 100-120. I bumped into another source recently
            > > that suggests that 10-12 procent of the worlds known languages have a
            > > written system.
            >
            [JB]> Some crucial things:
            > Define "language";

            [DO]This is a key question. I think that any source stating that x% of
            languages are written needs to be clear on this. One possible pitfall
            is using a definition of "language" that cots vernacular forms or
            dialects as separate, but then counts the standard form or dialect as
            the only one with writing. Clarity.

            > Define "writing system"

            In this case the question has to do with whether the language has been
            put to writing (and perhaps how well/widely that system is known or
            actually used). There are cases where "writing" is defined so widely
            that it includes divination symbols etc., but for this question it
            concerns a system in the more conventional (?) sense of being able to
            represent the full range of expression in the language.

            > http://www.ontopia.net/i18n/scripts.jsp lists roughly 200 writing
            systems.
            > http://www.omniglot.com/ lists about 200 writing systems (excluding
            > writing systems for conlangs.)
            >
            > The next step is:
            > * Do they want the number of languages in which something can be
            written?

            Yes.

            > * Do they want the number of languages which have their own, unique
            > writing system?

            No. (In the context of basic literacy it isn't important whether the
            system is unique or not, IMO. However in the context of language
            planning, and how it views scripts and literacy, it might be.)

            > To explain the difference:
            > The first question would treat Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino as 3;
            > The second question would treat Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino as 1;
            >
            > Then decide whether Moon, Braille, BlissSymbolics, and ASL should be
            > included, or excluded from your count. If they should be included,
            > decide for how many languages they should be counted. [Moon would be
            > one or two. BlissSymbolics would be zero or one. Braille can be/has
            > been used for every language that has been reduced to a writing
            > system.]

            This gets into other issues. It is important to bring up the issue of
            braille, but it sounds like another question: How many languages have
            a braille system? It is writing too, but you wouldn't probably have
            braille but no other writing, so braille would be another index.
            (Effectively, how many languages with a system for writing also have
            braille?)

            Don
          • Don Osborn
            Here s a third one from Qalam, FYI (appended below). It raises some questions about literacy, bringing the topic full circle, more or less. For more please
            Message 5 of 10 , Oct 21, 2006
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              Here's a third one from Qalam, FYI (appended below). It raises some
              questions about literacy, bringing the topic full circle, more or
              less. For more please consult the Qalam archives
              http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/qalam/ (this is the last one I'll
              forward to M_L). Don

              ...

              3. ------------------------------------

              [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?

              Thanks, Richard. Some good points here too. I'll respond in the text...

              --- In qalam@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Wordingham" <richard@...> wrote:
              >
              > --- In qalam@yahoogroups.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@> wrote:
              >
              > > Any thoughts on "degrees of written" or classifications
              > > of how well established a writing system is? It's one thing to have an
              > > orthography or a Bible sections (often the first thing printed) in a
              > > particular language - but if it's not taught in schools and literacy
              > > rates in it are low, one could argue that the writing system however
              > > valid or appropriate, is not (well) established.
              >
              > There are some interesting qualitative differences besides literacy
              rates:
              >
              > (1) Are most speakers illiterate in every language?
              >
              > (2) Are speakers that are literate in some language chiefly illiterate
              > in the language in question?

              These are the kinds of questions that the Multilingual_Literacy list
              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Multilingual_Literacy/ is intended to
              promote discussion of. This kind of brings us around full circle. You
              need to know about writing for a language if you want to promote
              literacy in it. In cases where there are many languages and polyglot
              people, and some of the languages are disfavored historically and
              demographically, you may end up with situations where "literacy" and
              comptetence in a dominant or "official" language are conflated.

              In fact measures of literacy do not seem to be very clear on such
              points. A starting point is to figure out how to "count" or index
              literacy in multilingual situations (what in Europe is sometimes
              called "pluriliteracy" rather than "multiliteracy").

              Ethnologue, in some of its language profiles, indicates literacy % in
              L1 and L2, which may be the only source currently making such
              distinctions (I may be wrong, hopefully).

              > (3) Is there traditional acceptance of the writing system as the right
              > way to write the language?

              Here you get on to issues that relate to language policy and
              sociolinguistics. All relevant to literacy, localization, and so on.

              > Even then, I'm not sure it tackles issues such as how well-established
              > a Romanisation is. I suppose technology-induced Romanisation should
              > become a thing of the past, though the Romanisation of names may
              > remain as a restricted writing system of a language. I'm thinking in
              > particular of the application to Thai, where prominent individuals can
              > choose how their names are Romanised. Thai English language
              > newspapers do ask!

              Or on the other hand, for instance, how well standardized the Ajami
              (Arabic script) transcription of Hausa is, relative to the
              historically more recent but clearly standardized Boko (Latin or
              Romanized) transcription.

              Alternate transcriptions raise other questions which may or may not be
              relevant to literacy:
              1. How many languages have more than one writing system? And how well
              standardized are each? What are the policy and sociolinguistic
              dynamics? (It would be interesting to have an international conference
              for multiscript languages, if it hasn't been done already).

              2. Of languages traditionally written only in non-Latin scripts, what
              is the degree of standardization of Romanized transcription?

              All the best.

              Don
            • Donald Z. Osborn
              One quick final note on this topic. In rereading part of David Crystal s _Language Revolution_ this afternoon (for another project), I noted that he mentions
              Message 6 of 10 , Oct 21, 2006
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                One quick final note on this topic. In rereading part of David Crystal's
                _Language Revolution_ this afternoon (for another project), I noted that he
                mentions 40% of the world's languages "have never been written down" (p. 94,
                with reference to an earlier discussion I didn't find).

                These "unwritten" languages are presumably mostly languages with few
                speakers in
                poor countries, which would mean that the languages the vast majority
                of people
                use have some sort of writing system. Which is not to ignore the fate of the
                others, of course, but this would mean that in principle, lack of writing is
                not a problem for pluriliteracy for most people in multilingual
                contexts (there
                are other hurdles, but lack of writing is probably not among them in most
                cases).

                Don
              • Don Osborn
                And another one that gets to the difficulty in answering the question (now I m running across things looking for something else). From Writing unwritten
                Message 7 of 10 , Oct 22, 2006
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                  And another one that gets to the difficulty in answering the question (now
                  I'm running across things looking for something else). From "Writing
                  unwritten languages," Drafted by Clinton Robinson with Karl Gadelii,
                  December 2003 at
                  http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=28301&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&UR
                  L_SECTION=201.html
                  -or-
                  http://tinyurl.com/ykozlc

                  (in the context of the total number of languages in the world...)
                  "How many of these are written? It is extremely difficult to estimate how
                  many written and unwritten languages there are in the world, and there is no
                  established source of information. The difficulty in counting comes in part
                  from a lack of information of what is happening on the ground. The world
                  currently has no systematic way to collect data on the number of communities
                  which are developing their languages, what stage they have reached, whether
                  existing writing systems are actually used, or whether attempts have been
                  made to develop writing systems that are not in use. The Ethnologue notes
                  sporadically whether a language 'has an orthography' or 'has an official
                  orthography', but does not present information on writing systems for each
                  language."
                • Debbie Garside
                  Hi Don When the research is complete, the data for ISO 639-6 will give you much of this information. It is due to be published as IS January 2008 Best regards
                  Message 8 of 10 , Oct 22, 2006
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                    Hi Don

                    When the research is complete, the data for ISO 639-6 will give you much of
                    this information. It is due to be published as IS January 2008

                    Best regards

                    Debbie
                    (Editor ISO 639-6)


                    _____

                    From: qalam@yahoogroups.com [mailto:qalam@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Don
                    Osborn
                    Sent: 22 October 2006 14:45
                    To: Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
                    Cc: qalam@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: RE: [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?



                    And another one that gets to the difficulty in answering the question (now
                    I'm running across things looking for something else). From "Writing
                    unwritten languages," Drafted by Clinton Robinson with Karl Gadelii,
                    December 2003 at
                    http://portal.
                    <http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=28301&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&U
                    R> unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=28301&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&UR
                    L_SECTION=201.html
                    -or-
                    http://tinyurl. <http://tinyurl.com/ykozlc> com/ykozlc

                    (in the context of the total number of languages in the world...)
                    "How many of these are written? It is extremely difficult to estimate how
                    many written and unwritten languages there are in the world, and there is no
                    established source of information. The difficulty in counting comes in part
                    from a lack of information of what is happening on the ground. The world
                    currently has no systematic way to collect data on the number of communities
                    which are developing their languages, what stage they have reached, whether
                    existing writing systems are actually used, or whether attempts have been
                    made to develop writing systems that are not in use. The Ethnologue notes
                    sporadically whether a language 'has an orthography' or 'has an official
                    orthography', but does not present information on writing systems for each
                    language."







                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Don Osborn
                    Hi Debbie, and thanks for bringing this up. Although a detailed discussion would get beyond the purpose of Multilingual_Literacy, I think it is helpful for
                    Message 9 of 10 , Oct 22, 2006
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                      Hi Debbie, and thanks for bringing this up. Although a detailed
                      discussion would get beyond the purpose of Multilingual_Literacy, I
                      think it is helpful for those working on literacy, multilingualism,
                      and multilingual literacy who are not already aware of it, to know
                      about the ISO-639 system of language indicators or codes - anyone
                      using information technology in these areas may well encounter it in
                      one way or another.

                      At the most fundamental level, ISO, of coures, is the International
                      Organization for Standardization (apparently not an acronym), an
                      international body validating (not sure if that's the right term)
                      various different standards. More information is available at:
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Organization_for_Standardization

                      Basically the ISO-639 system consists of sequences of letters (or
                      numbers) that serve to identify languages. The original impetus I
                      believe was bibiographic, but the driving force now seems to be a
                      combination of the needs for internationalization/localization of
                      software and internet content on the one hand, and concern about the
                      future of the world's languages and linguistic diversity on the other.
                      Any system of encoding something as difficult to define as "language"
                      ends up with multiple answers (my interpretation).

                      There are 6 levels, of which the first two are official, and the next
                      4 in varying stages of finalization or preparation:
                      1 - Two-letter codes (mathematically cannot cover the world's languages)
                      2 - Three-letter codes (mathematically can cover the world's
                      languages, but does not - I think this was a matter of lack of a
                      systematic approach)
                      3 - Three-letter codes (mathematically can cover the world's languages
                      and does, using Ethnologue's definitions of languages; there are some
                      differences with ISO-639-2)
                      4 - Explanation of / rules for how to use the codes
                      5 - Three-letter codes for language groups and families
                      6 - Four-letter codes for subdivisions/variation of languages (e.g.,
                      dialects).

                      A more complete description with the proper names and all is available
                      at & via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_639

                      Don

                      --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, "Debbie Garside"
                      <debbie@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Hi Don
                      >
                      > When the research is complete, the data for ISO 639-6 will give you
                      much of
                      > this information. It is due to be published as IS January 2008
                      >
                      > Best regards
                      >
                      > Debbie
                      > (Editor ISO 639-6)
                      >
                      >
                      > _____
                      >
                      > From: qalam@yahoogroups.com [mailto:qalam@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
                      Of Don
                      > Osborn
                      > Sent: 22 October 2006 14:45
                      > To: Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com
                      > Cc: qalam@yahoogroups.com
                      > Subject: RE: [M_L] Re: Languages with writing systems?
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > And another one that gets to the difficulty in answering the
                      question (now
                      > I'm running across things looking for something else). From "Writing
                      > unwritten languages," Drafted by Clinton Robinson with Karl Gadelii,
                      > December 2003 at
                      > http://portal.
                      >
                      <http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=28301&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&U
                      > R> unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=28301&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&UR
                      > L_SECTION=201.html
                      > -or-
                      > http://tinyurl. <http://tinyurl.com/ykozlc> com/ykozlc
                      >
                      > (in the context of the total number of languages in the world...)
                      > "How many of these are written? It is extremely difficult to
                      estimate how
                      > many written and unwritten languages there are in the world, and
                      there is no
                      > established source of information. The difficulty in counting comes
                      in part
                      > from a lack of information of what is happening on the ground. The world
                      > currently has no systematic way to collect data on the number of
                      communities
                      > which are developing their languages, what stage they have reached,
                      whether
                      > existing writing systems are actually used, or whether attempts have
                      been
                      > made to develop writing systems that are not in use. The Ethnologue
                      notes
                      > sporadically whether a language 'has an orthography' or 'has an official
                      > orthography', but does not present information on writing systems
                      for each
                      > language."
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      >
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