Friday, July 2, 2010

Languages on Worldmapper

Spent a happy hour in the Languages section of the visually remarkable Worldmapper site. (The maps, or "cartograms" on that site "re-size each territory according to the variable being mapped".)

The Indigenous living languages map presents a pretty good picture of the world's linguistic diversity (the uncertainty about numbers notwithstanding).

One surprise was the map of Languages not mapped: "The languages that we have not mapped tend to be confined to just a few often neighbouring countries; many are spoken by members of just one tribe." And then adds:

"Some of the largest of the languages included here are Telugu and Marathi, both have high numbers in speakers in certain regions of India...."

Hmm. The geographical boundedness of Telugu (74 m speakers) and Marathi (72 m) had not struck me until now.

The native-speaker numbers in brackets are from the Indian government's 2001 census. Other sources give other figures. UCLA's Language Materials Project, for instance, draws upon other sources to give Marathi "90 million people in India, 70 million of whom speak the language natively. The remaining 20 million people speak Marathi as a second language."

For Telugu, the profile says, "There are about 69,634,000 speakers of Telugu in India (1997 IMA). The total population in all countries is 69,666,000 or more. The total population of speakers including second language speakers is about 75,000,000 (1999 WA)."

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