small vital languages

Matthew S. Dryer dryer at BUFFALO.EDU
Fri Dec 24 16:44:23 UTC 2010


I'm curious just how "small" you mean.  Some of the responses to your query cite
languages with as many as 5000 speakers.  I don't know what the median number of
speakers for languages in Ethnologue is, but I suspect that if one counts
languages with as many as 5000 speakers, perhaps as many as one fourth of the
languages of the world would count as answers to your query.  And perhaps more
than 500 languages in New Guinea would count.  In the area of New Guinea where I
work, most of the languages are no longer being learned by the majority of
children, but 25 years ago, ALL of the languages of the area were vital with
fewer than 1000 speakers, in some cases with considerably fewer than that.

Matthew Dryer

On Thu 12/23/10  8:43 PM , Steven Bird sb at sent:
> Thanks to everyone for your interesting contributions.  Some were sent
> only to me and I hope their senders will forward them to the whole
> list.  -Steven

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