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Hi, after my discussion with Inge and
Marten. In this video, I want to look a little
bit more into language variation. How many languages are there in the world? How do we count them? Well, how many languages
are there in the world? It's actually difficult to decide, maybe it's impossible to decide
on real scientific criteria. We have to guess. The reason is that there's many areas
in the world where we simply don't know which languages are spoken there. And in other areas, it's sometimes
difficult to decide whether something is, for instance,
a dialect rather than a language. There are no objective criteria for
making this decision, so we guess. The most heard estimate is
something between 6 and 7,000 languages in the world. That's also the number which is given
by probably the most authoritative list of languages. Which is an online encyclopedia
of languages called Ethnologue. We're going to use that encyclopedia
quite a lot in this course. Ethnologue is free and you can use it
to find information about countries, about languages,
about language families etc. This is an example of a webpage about
a language from the Amazon called Itonama. What you can see is that Ethnologue tells
you where the language is spoken and what it's status is. Itonma used to be spoken
in some places in Bolivia, but from the status we can see that
the language is actually dying out. Ethnologue also gives us
information about countries. Look at this page about Brazil for
instance. You have to be very
careful in interpreting the results about what
Ethnologue actually say. Also, the editors of Ethnologue sometimes
make arbitrary decisions about what to call a language or not. Take a look. As you see in Ethnologue,
if you study it a little bit more. You will find that many languages
in Ethnologue are very small. Many have fewer than say 1,000 speakers. Many of those languages are dying out, they will no longer be spoken
in a century from now. As a matter of fact, some people estimate
that by the end of this century. There will be only about 300
languages left in the whole world. This obviously makes it very important
to document these smaller languages and to do so now. So other languages are very big,
here's the top 10. With Chinese as number one with
the biggest population of speakers, and followed by Spanish and English. But let's take a closer look at Chinese,
that's not just one language. There's actually many different varieties. And those varieties in some
other parts of the world, might be called separate languages. In this MOOC,
you will discover that those 6,000 or 7,000 languages can differ from
each other in many different ways. For instance, there are languages which
seem to have around 20 different vowel sounds where as others may have only two or
three. Or it is even be claimed that there are
languages which have only one vowel sound. Some languages seem to put a lot of
information in one long big word. Turkish is an example of such a language. Others seem to have very short words and
therefore, they have sentences with many words. Vietnamese is an example
of such a language. In Chinese, we have different words for
the older brother of your father and the younger brother of your father. In English, you would always use the same
word for those two different people. On the other hand, if you speak English you always have
to distinguish between the sentences. He is nice, masculine,
and she is nice, feminine. Which Chinese speakers do not have to do. In the next modules, we're going to look in much more detail
into these kinds of differences. But in spite of those differences,
languages can also be very similar. One factor for these similarities is
that they are organized in families. In languages which are historically
related to each other. For instance, French and Italian are so called sister languages because
they have the same parent language. Namely Latin. You can also see this now, nowadays because many of
their words are very similar. The French word un,
of course in Italian uno. The French word main
corresponds to Italian mano. The French word homme corresponds to uomo. German and
English are also related to each other. And again, we can see this. The German word ein is
the English word one. The German word Hand is
the English word hand. Languages are just structure based
on these kind of relationships. And we can go even further. German and English we call Germanic languages
because they are related to each other. French and
Italian we call Romance languages. But in turn, Romance and Germanic
are part of the same language family. Mainly Indo-European, so they are related
at a slightly different level. Most of the languages in
Europe belong to this family, as do many languages spoken in Asia. There's a lot of these
families around the world. Other examples are the Dravidian languages
spoken in South Asia of which Tamil is an example. Or Niger-Congo, spoken in sub Sahara Africa of
which Swahili is a famous example. In some regions,
there's still much confusion about how languages are exactly
related to each other. For instance in South America,
there's still a lot of debate about this. Also, there are languages that
do not seem to be related to any other language in the world. A very known example of this,
in Europe is Basque. It's spoken in Europe,
in Spain and France,. But it's not clearly related to any
other language spoken in this continent. There's also other reasons
why languages can be similar. For instance,
they can be in contact with each other. They can be spoken in the same area and
people may borrow words from each other. Internet is an English word that
we now find in many languages because many languages
are in contact with English. And finally, all human languages
are built according to a similar scheme because they're all spoken by humans. We all have similar bodies. We have similar brains. And therefore,
also our languages are similar. In summary, we now know there
are about 6,000 languages. But we also know that it's actually
very hard to count them precisely. I've shown you around on Ethnologue
a little bit, which is a very useful tool. I would like to invite you to use it,
to explore it a little bit on your own. To find out things about your own
language, your own country, or other languages and other countries. We've also looked about what are the
factors which make languages be similar or related to each other. And I've given you a few teasers about how
languages can be different, and the same. And we're going to talk a lot more
about that in the next modules. So now you know a little bit about
languages as a research topic. But in the next video, I'm going to
explore a very intriguing question with the students Inge and Marten. The question, what do linguists really do?

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