Number of languages

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


The concern with establishing the number of the world’s extant languages appeared in Europe during the 18th century. In the 20th century, anthropological research drove this exercise, alongside the need to deal with an increase in publications produced in a variety of non-European languages across the decolonized states. Meanwhile, during the past two centuries, the counting of languages was underpinned with the millenarist program of translating the Bible into all the world’s languages. The end of the Cold War heralded the rise of the internet. Only the languages that are officially ‘counted’ (enumerated and supplied with standardized codes) feature in cyberspace.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational encyclopedia of language and linguistics
EditorsPetar Milin, Hilary Nesi
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780323955041
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2024


  • Languages
  • Concept of a language
  • Concept of Einzelsprache
  • Counting languages
  • History of linguistics
  • Cyberspace


Dive into the research topics of 'Number of languages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this