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p. 595. Some problems in the counting of languageslocked

  • Stephen R. Anderson

Abstract

‘Some problems in the counting of languages’ points out that, though we have assumed that in principle we know how to count the world's languages, what actually makes languages distinct from one another is much more a social and political issue than a linguistic one. Most of the cited numbers (including those in Ethnologue) are matters of opinion rather than science. What counts as a language rather than a ‘mere’ dialect typically involves issues of statehood, economics, literary traditions, and writing systems, and other trappings of power, authority, and culture — with purely linguistic considerations playing a less significant role.

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