A simple question on languages.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
Speaking "at least a little bit of English" is far from functional
bilingualism. You being able to buy toiletries is not the same as them
being able to read a press release.

Mark

On 25/01/2008, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 25/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Okay, still, that stands. A lot less people are bilingual than you
> > seem to think.
>
> What are you basing that on? Speaking more than one language isn't
> particularly common in English-speaking countries, but elsewhere, it's
> pretty much standard in my experience. I've done a fair bit of
> travelling and speak only English and a little German, and I've have
> rarely had much difficulty - an enormous number of people in the world
> speak at least a little English. People whose native language is only
> spoken by a small group will very often (probably almost always, but I
> don't have the evidence to back that up) also know the language that
> is more widely spoken in their country.
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>


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Re: A simple question on languages.

Dan Rosenthal
Don't forget though that English does not have to be one of the  
languages of the bilingualism. I'm sure there is a fair population who  
speaks say Yiddish and Russian, or  French and German, or Cantonese  
and Mandarin, etc.

-Dan
On Jan 25, 2008, at 10:20 AM, Mark Williamson wrote:

> Speaking "at least a little bit of English" is far from functional
> bilingualism. You being able to buy toiletries is not the same as them
> being able to read a press release.
>
> Mark
>
> On 25/01/2008, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> On 25/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>> Okay, still, that stands. A lot less people are bilingual than you
>>> seem to think.
>>
>> What are you basing that on? Speaking more than one language isn't
>> particularly common in English-speaking countries, but elsewhere,  
>> it's
>> pretty much standard in my experience. I've done a fair bit of
>> travelling and speak only English and a little German, and I've have
>> rarely had much difficulty - an enormous number of people in the  
>> world
>> speak at least a little English. People whose native language is only
>> spoken by a small group will very often (probably almost always,  
>> but I
>> don't have the evidence to back that up) also know the language that
>> is more widely spoken in their country.
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> foundation-l mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> Unsubscribe: http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>>
>
>
> --
> Refije dirije lanmè yo paske nou posede pwòp bato.
>
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Re: A simple question on languages.

Thomas Dalton
On 25/01/2008, Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Don't forget though that English does not have to be one of the
> languages of the bilingualism. I'm sure there is a fair population who
> speaks say Yiddish and Russian, or  French and German, or Cantonese
> and Mandarin, etc.

Exactly. My main point was about speakers of languages with only a
small number of speakers - they may well not speak English, but
they're very likely to speak something else. For example, I imagine
pretty much all Basque speakers speak either Spanish or French (quite
likely both in many cases) as well.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

Yaroslav M. Blanter
In reply to this post by Dan Rosenthal
> I'm sure there is a fair population who
> speaks say Yiddish and Russian,
>
>

Now almost nobody. Unfortunately.

Cheers,
Yaroslav


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Re: A simple question on languages.

Gregory Maxwell
In reply to this post by Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
On Jan 24, 2008 11:21 PM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> So please be explicit. You want to definitively challenge the mission
> set by Jimbo. Worded as:
> "an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest
> possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language".
> ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia#Language_editions )

I don't want to change anything at all about what we do... but rather
I don't want to continue to see arguments about language continue
without nary a fact in sight.

This is a basic question I've asked. It may not be an *easy* question,
but it is a basic one... and without having at least an approximate
answer to work from we can't hope to make rational decisions. No
wonder so many discussions of language around here devolve into racism
and nationalism... if all we have to go on is hunches and emotion.

As far as the old mission goes: What is a person's own language?  I'd
argue that it's the one that they'd prefer to use for a particular
purposes all other things being equal.   Other than knowing that thier
choice would be among the languages they can use I don't think we know
much else without asking them. Claiming that someone prefers a
language simply because of their race, nationality, or location is
bound to be inaccurate, as is typical of racial or national
stereotyping.

> Honestly, I don't get why anyone is wasting time even responding
> to this thread. We aren't gonna change here.

So long as people who advocate multi-lingulism in varrious forms can
not support their positions with data like I've asked for here they
will find it difficult to reach agreement with people for whom
multi-lingulism for multi-lingulisms sake is a lower priority.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

Gerard Meijssen-3
Hoi,
The answer that I gave you is clear. There are currently over 7000 languages
supported in ISO-639-3. Most are eligible according to the policy for new
languages.
Thanks,
     GerardM

On Jan 26, 2008 3:21 AM, Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Jan 24, 2008 11:21 PM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> > So please be explicit. You want to definitively challenge the mission
> > set by Jimbo. Worded as:
> > "an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest
> > possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own
> language".
> > ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia#Language_editions )
>
> I don't want to change anything at all about what we do... but rather
> I don't want to continue to see arguments about language continue
> without nary a fact in sight.
>
> This is a basic question I've asked. It may not be an *easy* question,
> but it is a basic one... and without having at least an approximate
> answer to work from we can't hope to make rational decisions. No
> wonder so many discussions of language around here devolve into racism
> and nationalism... if all we have to go on is hunches and emotion.
>
> As far as the old mission goes: What is a person's own language?  I'd
> argue that it's the one that they'd prefer to use for a particular
> purposes all other things being equal.   Other than knowing that thier
> choice would be among the languages they can use I don't think we know
> much else without asking them. Claiming that someone prefers a
> language simply because of their race, nationality, or location is
> bound to be inaccurate, as is typical of racial or national
> stereotyping.
>
> > Honestly, I don't get why anyone is wasting time even responding
> > to this thread. We aren't gonna change here.
>
> So long as people who advocate multi-lingulism in varrious forms can
> not support their positions with data like I've asked for here they
> will find it difficult to reach agreement with people for whom
> multi-lingulism for multi-lingulisms sake is a lower priority.
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>
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Re: A simple question on languages.

Michael Noda
On Jan 26, 2008 4:57 AM, Gerard Meijssen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Hoi,
> The answer that I gave you is clear. There are currently over 7000 languages
> supported in ISO-639-3. Most are eligible according to the policy for new
> languages.
> Thanks,
>      GerardM

The reply you gave may be clear, but it does not answer Mr Maxwell's question.

That being said, I think the question as asked is insidiously
difficult to answer as asked.  So I will propose two derivative
questions of my own (one with subquestions), which hopefully may be
easier to answer:

1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?

2a) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
the six official languages of the United Nations (ar, en, es, fr, ru,
zh)?
2b) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
ar, de, en, es, fr, pt, ru, zh?
2c-f) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one
of a list of [15, 30, 100, 200] languages chosen so as to maximize the
answer to this question?


These seem like even simpler questions (except the last part of 2,
which has a difficult optimization problem contained in it).  I hope
someone can answer them.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

Yaroslav M. Blanter

> 2a) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> the six official languages of the United Nations (ar, en, es, fr, ru,
> zh)?
> 2b) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> ar, de, en, es, fr, pt, ru, zh?
> 2c-f) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one
> of a list of [15, 30, 100, 200] languages chosen so as to maximize the
> answer to this question?
>
>
> These seem like even simpler questions (except the last part of 2,
> which has a difficult optimization problem contained in it).  I hope
> someone can answer them.
>

You probably need to specify what do you mean by "can read". Say in
Wikipedia Babel language proficiency level terms, if somebody "can read"
English - do you require for the question 2 en-1, en-2, or en-3 level?

My guess would be that with en-3 to a good approximation it is the same
percentage as calculated from the number of native speakers of these
languages; for en-2 and en-1 it could make a difference.

Cheers,
Yaroslav


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Re: A simple question on languages.

phoebe ayers-3
In reply to this post by Michael Noda
On Jan 26, 2008 3:25 AM, Michael Noda <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Jan 26, 2008 4:57 AM, Gerard Meijssen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Hoi,
> > The answer that I gave you is clear. There are currently over 7000 languages
> > supported in ISO-639-3. Most are eligible according to the policy for new
> > languages.
> > Thanks,
> >      GerardM
>
> The reply you gave may be clear, but it does not answer Mr Maxwell's question.
>
> That being said, I think the question as asked is insidiously
> difficult to answer as asked.  So I will propose two derivative
> questions of my own (one with subquestions), which hopefully may be
> easier to answer:
>
> 1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
> population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?
>
> 2a) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> the six official languages of the United Nations (ar, en, es, fr, ru,
> zh)?
> 2b) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> ar, de, en, es, fr, pt, ru, zh?
> 2c-f) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one
> of a list of [15, 30, 100, 200] languages chosen so as to maximize the
> answer to this question?
>
>
> These seem like even simpler questions (except the last part of 2,
> which has a difficult optimization problem contained in it).  I hope
> someone can answer them.

These are all very good and interesting questions, as is Greg's
original question.

However, I suspect answering any of them will take some pretty serious
research, using off-line resources like the ones I suggested above;
data like this may or may not be easily accessible online (I could
think of some places to start -- UN programs, perhaps -- but one
doesn't know for sure what's out there to find without looking
closely.) Thus talking about how people "can not support their
positions with data like I've asked for" as Greg does above is a
little counterproductive, since this isn't likely to be the sort of
thing that anyone could instantly come up with, and there aren't
likely to be simple answers.

This would make a fantastic collaborative research project, though;
maybe a quick wiki page on meta with questions, possible sources, and
any data found would be helpful if people are interested in pursuing
it.

-- phoebe

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Re: A simple question on languages.

Andrew Gray
In reply to this post by phoebe ayers-3
On 25/01/2008, phoebe ayers <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Finally, I'd be surprised if the Ethnologue doesn't address this --
> but I don't have one handy to check.
> http://www.ethnologue.com/print.asp
> (though, given its relative importance in what we do, the Foundation
> should definitely have one on hand -- and I'd be happy to buy one to
> start off a new SF office library :) )

I tried answering Greg's question using Ethnologue, but stalled somewhat.

Basically, my theory was that you could get a rough-and-ready answer
by working on a country-by-country level, taking known population and
literacy rates, and then distributing the various languages spoken in
the country amongst the population, assuming literacy is roughly
evenly spread and sharing out second languages amongst the
first-language speakers, rather than adding together "all the people
who speak some level of French AND all the people who speak some level
of English AND all the people who speak some level of Spanish"...
because you get a lot of overlap there.

The problem is, this breaks down very quickly for second languages -
Ethnologue just gives country-by-country details for first-language
speakers, which isn't much help.

--
- Andrew Gray
  [hidden email]

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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
In reply to this post by Dan Rosenthal
Okay, but it still stands.

On 25/01/2008, Dan Rosenthal <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Don't forget though that English does not have to be one of the
> languages of the bilingualism. I'm sure there is a fair population who
> speaks say Yiddish and Russian, or  French and German, or Cantonese
> and Mandarin, etc.
>
> -Dan
> On Jan 25, 2008, at 10:20 AM, Mark Williamson wrote:
>
> > Speaking "at least a little bit of English" is far from functional
> > bilingualism. You being able to buy toiletries is not the same as them
> > being able to read a press release.
> >
> > Mark
> >
> > On 25/01/2008, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >> On 25/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >>> Okay, still, that stands. A lot less people are bilingual than you
> >>> seem to think.
> >>
> >> What are you basing that on? Speaking more than one language isn't
> >> particularly common in English-speaking countries, but elsewhere,
> >> it's
> >> pretty much standard in my experience. I've done a fair bit of
> >> travelling and speak only English and a little German, and I've have
> >> rarely had much difficulty - an enormous number of people in the
> >> world
> >> speak at least a little English. People whose native language is only
> >> spoken by a small group will very often (probably almost always,
> >> but I
> >> don't have the evidence to back that up) also know the language that
> >> is more widely spoken in their country.
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> foundation-l mailing list
> >> [hidden email]
> >> Unsubscribe: http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
> >>
> >
> >
> > --
> > Refije dirije lanmè yo paske nou posede pwòp bato.
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > foundation-l mailing list
> > [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: http://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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>


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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
In reply to this post by Michael Noda
> 1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
> population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?

It's much easier to answer that question if you take out the
qualifiers of "monolingual" and "literate".

93.88% of the world's population speaks the 347 most-spoken languages,
according to the Ethnologue.

That includes all languages with over 1 million speakers. If you try
to shorten the list by very much, the percentage decreases
dramatically - 79.46% of the world's population with the 83 languages
over 10 million; 40.21% with only 8 languages. To reach 99%, you need
to dip into languages with between 10,000 and 100,000 speakers. Even
counting just languages over 100,000 speakers, that is still over 1200
languages. Even if we reduce this into the absolute minimum number
needed to reach those people, it is still going to be a relatively
large number, likely over 500 languages (and possibly over 1000).

> 2a) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> the six official languages of the United Nations (ar, en, es, fr, ru,
> zh)?

Removing again the qualifier "literate" (Arabic speakers, for example,
have a far lower literacy rate than Spanish speakers). According to
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=arb over 100
_million_ Arabs do not have spoken (and thus obviously not literate)
proficiency in Modern Standard Arabic, the unifying variety usually
used for writing in the Arab world; however that means that spoken MSA
will still reach over 100 million others around the world. Leaving
aside the question of Arabic; English, Spanish, French, Russian, and
(Standard) Chinese would reach about 40% of the world population. Note
that I did NOT do the work to remove people from that who are
bilingual in two of those languages, who would have been counted
twice. The question I think we need to ask with that though is, who is
in the other 60%? Much of Asia outside of China, and most of Africa
outside of the highly educated in former English and French colonies.
Also, we're leaving out the huge country of Brazil as well as most of
Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Indonesia (although literate Brazilians
can arguably be reached by Spanish).

> 2b) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> ar, de, en, es, fr, pt, ru, zh?
By including Portuguese, you add quite a bit; by adding de:, you add
somewhat less, most of them Europeans and a portion (though not a
majority I don't think) are capable in French or English.

> 2c-f) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one
> of a list of [15, 30, 100, 200] languages chosen so as to maximize the
> answer to this question?

I answered this earlier except it was about speakers rather than
readers and didn't take bilingualism into account. By the way, people
seem to be vastly overestimating bilingualism worldwide. In 1990,
there were over 7,000 Navajos, for example, with a totally inadequate
command of the English language. Navajo is not alone in this regard,
there are hundreds of languages of a similar size worldwide with
hordes of functionally monolingual speakers.

Whether or not one speaks one of the "major languages" of the world
often depends on one's economic power (although the reverse is also
often very true, it's a bit of a Catch-22). What about people from
tribes in India who may be trilingual in, say, Tamil, Tulu, and a
tribal language, but do not speak any English or Hindi? These people
do exist, and they exist in large numbers. The idea that everybody
speaks English, or that the entire world (or even the entire literate
world) can be reached with only 8 languages is very provincial and
wrong.

--
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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
(sorry in advance for sending 3 messages in a row)

Also, if you are thinking that these Navajos are all gone, you're
incorrect. There may be less of them, but they very much still exist.

Mark

On 27/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:

> > 1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
> > population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?
>
> It's much easier to answer that question if you take out the
> qualifiers of "monolingual" and "literate".
>
> 93.88% of the world's population speaks the 347 most-spoken languages,
> according to the Ethnologue.
>
> That includes all languages with over 1 million speakers. If you try
> to shorten the list by very much, the percentage decreases
> dramatically - 79.46% of the world's population with the 83 languages
> over 10 million; 40.21% with only 8 languages. To reach 99%, you need
> to dip into languages with between 10,000 and 100,000 speakers. Even
> counting just languages over 100,000 speakers, that is still over 1200
> languages. Even if we reduce this into the absolute minimum number
> needed to reach those people, it is still going to be a relatively
> large number, likely over 500 languages (and possibly over 1000).
>
> > 2a) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> > the six official languages of the United Nations (ar, en, es, fr, ru,
> > zh)?
>
> Removing again the qualifier "literate" (Arabic speakers, for example,
> have a far lower literacy rate than Spanish speakers). According to
> http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=arb over 100
> _million_ Arabs do not have spoken (and thus obviously not literate)
> proficiency in Modern Standard Arabic, the unifying variety usually
> used for writing in the Arab world; however that means that spoken MSA
> will still reach over 100 million others around the world. Leaving
> aside the question of Arabic; English, Spanish, French, Russian, and
> (Standard) Chinese would reach about 40% of the world population. Note
> that I did NOT do the work to remove people from that who are
> bilingual in two of those languages, who would have been counted
> twice. The question I think we need to ask with that though is, who is
> in the other 60%? Much of Asia outside of China, and most of Africa
> outside of the highly educated in former English and French colonies.
> Also, we're leaving out the huge country of Brazil as well as most of
> Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Indonesia (although literate Brazilians
> can arguably be reached by Spanish).
>
> > 2b) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one of
> > ar, de, en, es, fr, pt, ru, zh?
> By including Portuguese, you add quite a bit; by adding de:, you add
> somewhat less, most of them Europeans and a portion (though not a
> majority I don't think) are capable in French or English.
>
> > 2c-f) What proportion of the world's literate population can read one
> > of a list of [15, 30, 100, 200] languages chosen so as to maximize the
> > answer to this question?
>
> I answered this earlier except it was about speakers rather than
> readers and didn't take bilingualism into account. By the way, people
> seem to be vastly overestimating bilingualism worldwide. In 1990,
> there were over 7,000 Navajos, for example, with a totally inadequate
> command of the English language. Navajo is not alone in this regard,
> there are hundreds of languages of a similar size worldwide with
> hordes of functionally monolingual speakers.
>
> Whether or not one speaks one of the "major languages" of the world
> often depends on one's economic power (although the reverse is also
> often very true, it's a bit of a Catch-22). What about people from
> tribes in India who may be trilingual in, say, Tamil, Tulu, and a
> tribal language, but do not speak any English or Hindi? These people
> do exist, and they exist in large numbers. The idea that everybody
> speaks English, or that the entire world (or even the entire literate
> world) can be reached with only 8 languages is very provincial and
> wrong.
>
> --
> Refije dirije lanmè yo paske nou posede pwòp bato.
>


--
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Re: A simple question on languages.

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by M. Williamson
On 28/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > 1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
> > population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?
>
> It's much easier to answer that question if you take out the
> qualifiers of "monolingual" and "literate".

But then it's a completely different question.

> 93.88% of the world's population speaks the 347 most-spoken languages,
> according to the Ethnologue.
>
> That includes all languages with over 1 million speakers. If you try
> to shorten the list by very much, the percentage decreases
> dramatically - 79.46% of the world's population with the 83 languages
> over 10 million; 40.21% with only 8 languages. To reach 99%, you need
> to dip into languages with between 10,000 and 100,000 speakers. Even
> counting just languages over 100,000 speakers, that is still over 1200
> languages. Even if we reduce this into the absolute minimum number
> needed to reach those people, it is still going to be a relatively
> large number, likely over 500 languages (and possibly over 1000).

Are those native speakers, or speakers in general?

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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
On 28/01/2008, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On 28/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > 1) How many languages have a monolingual literate or speaking
> > > population of 2,000 or more speakers or writers?
> >
> > It's much easier to answer that question if you take out the
> > qualifiers of "monolingual" and "literate".
>
> But then it's a completely different question.

It is. But it's much easier to answer. The numbers just don't exist
for an answer to your total question. Literacy rates can change
rapidly as well in certain areas due to community-based efforts. If
all 100000 speakers of a language become literate within 5 years, that
adds another language we have to "contend" with.

> > 93.88% of the world's population speaks the 347 most-spoken languages,
> > according to the Ethnologue.
> >
> > That includes all languages with over 1 million speakers. If you try
> > to shorten the list by very much, the percentage decreases
> > dramatically - 79.46% of the world's population with the 83 languages
> > over 10 million; 40.21% with only 8 languages. To reach 99%, you need
> > to dip into languages with between 10,000 and 100,000 speakers. Even
> > counting just languages over 100,000 speakers, that is still over 1200
> > languages. Even if we reduce this into the absolute minimum number
> > needed to reach those people, it is still going to be a relatively
> > large number, likely over 500 languages (and possibly over 1000).
>
> Are those native speakers, or speakers in general?

Native speakers. However, as I noted previously, using the 6 languages
of the United Nations, INCLUDING second-language speakers, your reach
will still be under 50%. I didn't check out the statistics for
second-language speakers for, say, the top 20 languages, but as one
can imagine, there is a strong correlation between the number of
native speakers a language has and the number of second-language
speakers (with notable outliers such as French and Japanese, on
opposite sides). Thus, outside of the top 15 or so languages, the
number of people who speak the language as their second language is
usually going to be insignificant compared to the number of native
speakers. I guarantee you that even incorporating all bilinguals,
you're not going to be able to reach greater than 75% with less than
50 languages, and quite likely many more.

Remember, we're talking about FUNCTIONAL bilingualism -- someone being
able to understand or even get the gist of a press release written in
plain language, NOT someone knowing how to cater to customers at their
restaurant in a different language. That is a very limited type of
bilingualism, where it is limited to use in one domain. People who
seem to "speak English" because they know what "I'll give you $5 for
that statue over there" will often not know much English outside of
what their business requires.

Mark

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Re: A simple question on languages.

Thomas Dalton
> > But then it's a completely different question.
>
> It is. But it's much easier to answer.

I wish they'd accept that argument in my exams... ;)

> Native speakers. However, as I noted previously, using the 6 languages
> of the United Nations, INCLUDING second-language speakers, your reach
> will still be under 50%. I didn't check out the statistics for
> second-language speakers for, say, the top 20 languages, but as one
> can imagine, there is a strong correlation between the number of
> native speakers a language has and the number of second-language
> speakers (with notable outliers such as French and Japanese, on
> opposite sides). Thus, outside of the top 15 or so languages, the
> number of people who speak the language as their second language is
> usually going to be insignificant compared to the number of native
> speakers. I guarantee you that even incorporating all bilinguals,
> you're not going to be able to reach greater than 75% with less than
> 50 languages, and quite likely many more.

I agree. In addition to the correlation you mention, the number of new
speakers you get with each new language you add diminishes because
there is an increased chance that you've already counted them as a
speaker of a language you've already considered.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
On 28/01/2008, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > But then it's a completely different question.
> >
> > It is. But it's much easier to answer.
>
> I wish they'd accept that argument in my exams... ;)

Well, the other one would take long enough for me to answer that I
don't care to spend the time on it - I don't know that it would be
worth it, and the answer would still be pretty inexact. Finding
literacy rates for countries and regions is one thing; finding them
for languages, including second-language users, is difficult to
impossible for many larger languages spoken across national borders.

> > Native speakers. However, as I noted previously, using the 6 languages
> > of the United Nations, INCLUDING second-language speakers, your reach
> > will still be under 50%. I didn't check out the statistics for
> > second-language speakers for, say, the top 20 languages, but as one
> > can imagine, there is a strong correlation between the number of
> > native speakers a language has and the number of second-language
> > speakers (with notable outliers such as French and Japanese, on
> > opposite sides). Thus, outside of the top 15 or so languages, the
> > number of people who speak the language as their second language is
> > usually going to be insignificant compared to the number of native
> > speakers. I guarantee you that even incorporating all bilinguals,
> > you're not going to be able to reach greater than 75% with less than
> > 50 languages, and quite likely many more.
>
> I agree. In addition to the correlation you mention, the number of new
> speakers you get with each new language you add diminishes because
> there is an increased chance that you've already counted them as a
> speaker of a language you've already considered.

To some extent. However, long-term maintenance of bilingualism at all
levels of a society is rare, and in those situations where it can be
found, one language can still be said to be "dying", for example Welsh
and English. The idea is that for a language to be "healthy", it will
need to have a large portion of functionally monolingual people. This
has not been proven definitively, but there is much literature on the
subject. Many linguists today believe that when everyone is fully
bilingual in a vehicular language (dominant language), the smaller
language is doomed.

Mark

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Re: A simple question on languages.

David Gerard-2
On 29/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:

> To some extent. However, long-term maintenance of bilingualism at all
> levels of a society is rare, and in those situations where it can be
> found, one language can still be said to be "dying", for example Welsh
> and English.


I'd certainly disagree in the case of Welsh. The official promotion of
it in schools means a generation of Welsh kids is growing up speaking
it as well as they do English.


> The idea is that for a language to be "healthy", it will
> need to have a large portion of functionally monolingual people. This
> has not been proven definitively, but there is much literature on the
> subject. Many linguists today believe that when everyone is fully
> bilingual in a vehicular language (dominant language), the smaller
> language is doomed.


- d.

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Re: A simple question on languages.

geni
On 29/01/2008, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 29/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > To some extent. However, long-term maintenance of bilingualism at all
> > levels of a society is rare, and in those situations where it can be
> > found, one language can still be said to be "dying", for example Welsh
> > and English.
>
>
> I'd certainly disagree in the case of Welsh. The official promotion of
> it in schools means a generation of Welsh kids is growing up speaking
> it as well as they do English.

And yet despite the amounts spent most well default to English. Remove
the props and welsh would have only very limited use within a couple
of decades.
--
geni

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Re: A simple question on languages.

M. Williamson
Exactly. No matter how much a language is supported, universal
bilingualism generally results in language shift.

If 20% of a society remains monolingual, that may be sufficient to
ensure that the other 80% remains bilingual, depending on the social
position of that 20% and how they are distributed geographically.

Language shift is something that can be observed in many countries -
Bhutan is seeing many of its children failing Dzongkha classes and
preferring English consistently, for example, despite the official
support given to the language.

As long as Wales is part of the United Kingdom, maintaining a
bilingual population will be a challenge.

Mark

On 29/01/2008, geni <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 29/01/2008, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > On 29/01/2008, Mark Williamson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> > > To some extent. However, long-term maintenance of bilingualism at all
> > > levels of a society is rare, and in those situations where it can be
> > > found, one language can still be said to be "dying", for example Welsh
> > > and English.
> >
> >
> > I'd certainly disagree in the case of Welsh. The official promotion of
> > it in schools means a generation of Welsh kids is growing up speaking
> > it as well as they do English.
>
> And yet despite the amounts spent most well default to English. Remove
> the props and welsh would have only very limited use within a couple
> of decades.
> --
> geni
>
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