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Cliff Face
08-17-2010, 07:52 AM
Okay, so I did some Googling, researching Christianity for a book I want to write that concerns a fallen angel. I wanted some good ammo.

Anyway, when I typed in "Fun bible facts" to start my research, the first page I found had, as one of their facts, that the bible has been translated into 6000 languages...

Now, this struck me as being a bit out there, so I went back to Google and searched for "number of languages in the world". The answer I got back was in the order of 42000-something.

So I was like, "Uh, okay, did not know THAT!"

Searched, "Number of countries in the world" next. 195 countries.

Now, I was under the impression that countries had one or two national languages, and places like America and Australia had loads of languages because, let's face it, loads of people from all over the world live there... BUT those languages spoken in the "globalised" countries would come from a specific country, so in the end those globalised countries really just have their native language to rack up the numbers.

So, if there are 195 countries, and 42000-ish languages, how the hell does that work? What? 200-odd languages per country?!

Any explanation for this would be much appreciated!

(And no, this isn't specifically important for my book research, but I'm all curious now anyway...)

Thanks in advance. :)

Kateness
08-17-2010, 08:03 AM
Quick and dirty answer, because I can't give you the specifics:

Yes, countries in Europe and North/South America tend to have only a handful of languages spoken among them. Oceania to an extent.

Then you come to Asia. There are the post-Soviet Central Asians, who may or may not all speak one language. There are Indians, who speak just a whole ton of different languages. I'm not sure about China.

And when we get to Africa, just forget it. The thing is about Africa is that they have tended to be tribal people (NOT passing judgment, simply stating), and as such, they often have their own languages. Because of this, when you come to each country as its boundaries were defined by their European conquerors (whole different story there) you tend to have a bunch of different tribes, all speaking their own language, plus the language of their conquerors.

Cliff Face
08-17-2010, 08:10 AM
Hmm, okay. Thanks!

It was just a little shocking for me to think there would be 42000 languages... I mean, I've only ever been exposed to things like, "French", "Spanish", "Italian", "Greek", etc. as well as English and indigenous American and Australian languages. Not all in the context of learning them, but when someone says which language they speak, you usually get a language that's specific to one or two countries, usually the name of the language containing the same prefix as the country...

But then, I've never learned much about Africa and the tribal elements... it's sad but true that probably most of those tribes don't have Internet access or funds for travel, so they go largely unnoticed in this busy world. (And correct me if I'm wrong here - it just seems the most likely explanation why I've never realised Africa had so many languages... not trying to be nasty.)

Kateness
08-17-2010, 08:18 AM
I just googled a couple of countries, to give you examples.

These are all from the CIA World Factbook.

Ethiopia:
Amarigna 32.7%, Oromigna 31.6%, Tigrigna 6.1%, Somaligna 6%, Guaragigna 3.5%, Sidamigna 3.5%, Hadiyigna 1.7%, other 14.8%, English (major foreign language taught in schools) (1994 census)

Nigeria:
Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

backslashbaby
08-17-2010, 08:21 AM
ETA: crossposted, but we're good. Remember islands, too.


And there are still Native American languages, Aboriginal languages, more than a few Celtic languages, Creole languages, etc, etc.

I've never researched whether it's counted as a language, but in the Pyrenees, the language sure as heck is different. I wouldn't be surprised to find that it's different enough to be an actual different language. They may be quite close to each other, or to a more-spoken language, in other words.

^^^ I know about the Basques, btw, but it didn't sound Spanish enough. Maybe I understand Basque, lol! I wouldn't know :ROFL:

Cliff Face
08-17-2010, 08:26 AM
:)

backslashbaby
08-17-2010, 08:59 AM
I looked up Basque vocab just now. Oh Hell no, I don't understand that ;) :D

It was something quite Frenchy. Whether a dialect or language, dunno :)

Collectonian
08-17-2010, 09:01 AM
Even among the ones you were aware of, there are actually multiple variants and dialects. Even English has variants, that are all "English", but can have some major differences. Consider the differences between American English, UK English, and the English spoken in Australia. Chinese probably has some of the most variations, that I know of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_dialects :-P

Kateness
08-17-2010, 09:07 AM
Backslash...Basque is currently considered one of the isolate languages. That means it has no (thus far) demonstrable relationship with any other languages. They exist worldwide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_isolate

backslashbaby
08-17-2010, 09:16 AM
I was bad for assuming it would be some mixture of French and Spanish. How interesting! And I thought Hungarian was crazy-different and lonely ;)

Kateness
08-17-2010, 09:18 AM
Yep. There are all kinds of weird and crazy languages out there. And stupid me, I only took one linguistics class at university! [/derail]

Rammstein
08-17-2010, 09:50 AM
Not to mention a plethora of extinct languages that I'm sure someone translated the Bible into.

Kateness
08-17-2010, 11:06 AM
and languages that go extinct every year. There's a community of linguists who explicitly seek out these almost-dead languages, going to the last handful of speakers so they can record as much as possible. If you care enough about language (in general), it's almost heartbreaking to think of the languages that disappear each and every year.

johnnysannie
08-17-2010, 03:22 PM
Add into the count the many different Native American languages in the US, many of which are still spoken today.

In the Pacific there are many diverse island dialects - at school, we have a number of Islander students and some come from an area in which their language is so different that other Islanders can't understand them, it's a unusual mix of Island dialect and Japanese.

Then there's Gaelic.....Irish as spoken today in Ireland is different than Scots Gaelic.

Becky Black
08-17-2010, 06:45 PM
Then there's Papua New Guinea, which apparently has over 800 different languages.

JulieHowe
08-17-2010, 06:56 PM
Okay, so I did some Googling, researching Christianity for a book I want to write that concerns a fallen angel. I wanted some good ammo.

Anyway, when I typed in "Fun bible facts" to start my research, the first page I found had, as one of their facts, that the bible has been translated into 6000 languages...

Now, this struck me as being a bit out there, so I went back to Google and searched for "number of languages in the world". The answer I got back was in the order of 42000-something.

So I was like, "Uh, okay, did not know THAT!"

Searched, "Number of countries in the world" next. 195 countries.

Now, I was under the impression that countries had one or two national languages, and places like America and Australia had loads of languages because, let's face it, loads of people from all over the world live there... BUT those languages spoken in the "globalised" countries would come from a specific country, so in the end those globalised countries really just have their native language to rack up the numbers.

So, if there are 195 countries, and 42000-ish languages, how the hell does that work? What? 200-odd languages per country?!

Any explanation for this would be much appreciated!

(And no, this isn't specifically important for my book research, but I'm all curious now anyway...)

Thanks in advance. :)


There are countless regional variants of Nahuatl, an indigenous dialect spoken primarily in Mexico and Central America.

Ladino, a language being heard less often as the native speakers pass away, is spoken most often in Spanish-speaking Jewish cultures.

There are a stunning number of languages in the world, most of them regional dialects.

Hallen
08-17-2010, 07:20 PM
Afrikaans is a cool language. It's a cross between Dutch and a smattering of other languages. It has the tone and cadence of the English South African accent so it takes a second to realize that they are no longer speaking English to you. It can be confusing. :)

SirOtter
08-18-2010, 02:54 AM
Sometimes it also comes down to who you ask the difference is between a dialect and a language. Are Plattdeutch and Yiddish different enough from Old High German to be separate languages? I've heard both referred to by their speakers as 'German', but they definitely aren't the German that Frau Love taught me at Hillsboro High School in Nashville in the early 70s. What about Dutch and Flemish, or even Frisian? French and Walloon? Catalan and Aragonese? English and Scots? Welsh and Breton? Provinçal is generally counted as a distinct tongue by most folks, but is it, really? Even within Western European countries, there are unsuspected pockets of older tongues that aren't necessarily mutually intelligible with the main language one normally associates with those countries. How many more must there be in lands with a shorter (or no) history of a central cultural identity? I'm frankly surprised there are only 42,000. I'd've thought there'd be lots more.

JemmaP
08-18-2010, 03:02 AM
For giggles, I think the Bible's also been translated into Klingon and I think Elvish, though that project's ongoing.

Basically, if some Christian encountered the language somewhere, they probably tried to translate the Bible into it. It's a Thing. (Says the former Baptist High School girl who barely escaped with her life.)

Still, given that the mandated 'learn to read the Bible' is what prompted a mass surge of literacy in the Enlightenment, I suppose it's a bit rude to fuss over it nowadays just because my family members like to wave rude signs at rallies and generally embarass me at vegan potlucks.

amlptj
08-18-2010, 03:14 AM
I dont know if this helps but in highschool i had two friends who were both asian. There parents wer imigrants from cambodia but lived on different sides. They couldnt understand the other because of the diolects. Apparently in Asian countries, the different diolects can be so drastic that they are like completely different laguages.

DrZoidberg
08-18-2010, 12:59 PM
Australia had loads of languages because, let's face it, loads of people from all over the world live there...


That's not it. There are over 400 distinct Aborigine languages. The pattern is this. The less an ethnic group have historically travelled and traded the more distinct the language will be. The more a people travel, the more languages tend to blend, simplify and become less distinct with those around it. China and Europe are regions where people historically have travelled a lot so their internal languages are closely related even over large distances. Same with Arab countries.

That's why Australia has so many distinct languages. The Aboriginies, for whatever reason, didn't travel over their continent that much.

Most languages today are tiny and dying. I forget the exact numbers but something like 20% of the worlds languages are only spoken by people over 80 years old. Modernity has come with full force to every little nook and cranny these last couple of generations and cleaned house. Nobody wants to learn a language only spoken by twenty people and has an impossibly complicated grammar.

That's another rule. The smaller the language the more complicated and difficult it is to learn. Which adds to it dying. When foreigners learn a language they evolve it, and simplify it. All big languages have been through this for thousands of years.

Priene
08-18-2010, 01:29 PM
Your number of languages sounds too high. This (http://www.ling.gu.se/projekt/sprakfrageladan/english/sprakfakta/eng-sprak-i-varlden.html) estimates between 3000 and 8000, which would be about because PNG, with over 800, is the most linguistically diverse country. An exact count of languages is next to impossible because there's no exact divide between language and dialect. For instance, Serbian and Bulgarian are usually said to be different languages, and (Slavic) Macedonian lies somewhere in the middle. So are Macedonians Serbs or Bulgarians or both or neither? Wars were fought over this very point.

Willowmound
08-18-2010, 03:52 PM
And I thought Hungarian was crazy-different and lonely ;)

Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language and so related to Finnish, Estonian and the various Sami languages. The Finno-Ugric languages are not part of the Indo-European language tree, which means they're wholly unrelated to most other European languages.

Just throwing that out there.

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-18-2010, 06:29 PM
Now, I was under the impression that countries had one or two national languages, and places like America and Australia had loads of languages because, let's face it, loads of people from all over the world live there... BUT those languages spoken in the "globalised" countries would come from a specific country, so in the end those globalised countries really just have their native language to rack up the numbers.

You are forgetting there are a BOATLOAD of native languages:

Arizona has the expected English and Spanish, and then the "native" Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Tohono O’Odham, Hualapai, Yuma, A'â'tam, and probably a few other Native American languages I can't think of right now.

Mexico has 60+ native languages. Brazil has dozens more.

boron
08-18-2010, 06:39 PM
Your number of languages sounds too high. This (http://www.ling.gu.se/projekt/sprakfrageladan/english/sprakfakta/eng-sprak-i-varlden.html) estimates between 3000 and 8000, which would be about because PNG, with over 800, is the most linguistically diverse country. An exact count of languages is next to impossible because there's no exact divide between language and dialect. For instance, Serbian and Bulgarian are usually said to be different languages, and (Slavic) Macedonian lies somewhere in the middle. So are Macedonians Serbs or Bulgarians or both or neither? Wars were fought over this very point.

I can tell you Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian languages are so different, you wouldn't understand all, if you understand one. All Slavic languages have a lot of common words, but they are often variants of words, plus those small words, like to, from, with, over, why, there..., may be really different and make a sentence hard to understand.

veinglory
08-18-2010, 07:32 PM
A country like Indonesia is moutainous (hard to traverse) and has a lot of people living in a subsistance way (not travelling a lot, no internet), so there are about as many languages of severe dialects as you can count just there.

writeonsandy
08-22-2010, 10:21 PM
My mother spoke a dialect of Italian that is no longer spoken in Italy. Boy did I look silly when I went to Italy and couldn't converse with relatives because they spoke a 'more pure' dialect than I grew up speaking in America. Also, I grew up in Texas with Italian parents that spoke very little English, and was taught by Irish nuns who spoke with no southern drawl. So, when people hear me speak, I've been told I don't sound like I come from Texas, but the mid-west. (I'm like, huh? Really? You can't really get further south than Texas.)

So, I think, as more and more people have access to, or can afford television and radios, we will lose more dialects. As we travel and settle in different parts of the country we will lose accents (southern, midwestern, etc.)

Just my 2 cents.

Sandy

Smiling Ted
08-23-2010, 10:59 AM
My mother spoke a dialect of Italian that is no longer spoken in Italy. Boy did I look silly when I went to Italy and couldn't converse with relatives because they spoke a 'more pure' dialect than I grew up speaking in America.

Sandy

This makes an important point. Even in countries that we think of as "monolingual" - like France, Spain, and Italy - there are dozens of regional dialects that may or may not be mutually intelligible. In Italy alone, there's Lombard, Neapolitan, Venetian, Friulian and Sicilian, in addition to Italian. France has Breton (Celtic), Corsican, and Occitan and Gascon (Romance). And the EU has programs designed to promote and preserve these languages.

Ruv Draba
08-23-2010, 02:26 PM
Australia had around 200 indigenous languages (http://www.dnathan.com/VL/austLang.htm), of which about 90% have been destroyed. Most wouldn't have seen many or any books translated into their tongue though, since they had no written script. Bear in mind too that many historical languages (like ancient Aramaic or Old English) also saw Biblical translations.

Ruv Draba
08-23-2010, 02:45 PM
A list of registered scripture translations can be found here (http://www.ubs-translations.org/about_us/#c165). UBS estimate that over 2370 languages have at least one Biblical book in translation.