Explanation of Terminology
A Speech Variety is a collective name. In this site it may represent a language or a dialect, or it may be undetermined. Every speech variety is represented by a unique Speech Variety Code.
A language is defined in the Ethnologue based on the following criteria.
- Two related varieties are normally considered varieties of the same language if speakers of each variety have inherent understanding of the other variety at a functional level (that is, can understand based on knowledge of their own variety without needing to learn the other variety).
- Where spoken intelligibility between varieties is marginal, the existence of a common literature or a strong ethnolinguistic identity with a central variety that both can understand can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered varieties of the same language.
- Where there is enough intelligibility between varieties to enable communication, the existence of well established ethnolinguistic identities can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered to be different languages. Ethnologue 15th Edition page 8.
Each language is identified by a standardized three-letter code that has been defined and published as the ISO 639-3 International Standard. A description of each language is found in the Ethnologue.
A macrolanguage is a grouping of multiple, closely related individual languages that are deemed in some usage contexts to be a single language. Each macrolanguage is assigned an ISO 639-3 three-letter code as are the individual languages that comprise the macrolanguage. The names of individual languages that are the members of each macrolanguage are listed under each macrolanguage.
Macrolanguages are distinguished from other groupings of languages (e.g., all of the languages spoken in South America or all of the languages that use the Latin script or all of the Bantu languages) in that the individual languages that comprise a macrolanguage must be closely related, and there must be some domain in which they are commonly viewed as comprising a single language.
For a full explanation see www.sil.org/iso639-3/scope.asp#M.
A dialect is defined by the Registry Of Dialects (ROD) as a specific variety of a language that requires distinct media presentations (whether audio, video or print) in order to overcome barriers of understanding or acceptance. Determining factors may include differences in vocabulary, grammatical construction, idioms, and accents, as well as religious or social prejudices. Those speech varieties that qualify as dialects according to the above definition are identified with a ROD Code. In cases where a speech variety qualifies as a dialect, the ROD Code will be the same as the Speech Variety Code.
If you have information about any dialects that are not currently on the Registry Of Dialects, please submit a Request for Dialect Identifiers form.
Many names of speech varieties have been submitted to this site that purport to be either languages or dialects. However, they either do not fit the definitions given above; they may be an alternate name for another language or dialect; or they do not match with any known speech variety. In these cases, further research is needed. And they are given a Status of "Needs Verification". Once they have been clearly identified, they will be added to the Registry of Languages (ROL) or the Registry Of Dialects (ROD).
There are three categories
- Needs Verification: More research is needed to verify that this name represents a language or a dialect of a given language. It could turn out to be an alternate name of another speech form, or the name of a location where a given language or dialect is spoken.
- Verified: This speech form has been verified as a unique language or dialect.
- Extinct: This speech form has been reported as being extinct. We retain these names in the database because from time to time speakers of "extinct" languages are discovered!
The three-letter upper-case codes used by the Ethnologue prior to their adoption by the International Standards Organization (ISO) as 639-3 codes. As part of the adoption process, the codes were changed to lower-case and about 40 codes were renamed. For example, "CKE" was renamed "cek". Please contact us if you need help in switching over to the new codes.
The three-letter lower-case ISO 639-3 codes used by the Ethnologue in their 16th Edition. Because a new edition comes out approximately every four years a small percentage of these codes will different to the current ISO codes.
The current three-letter lower-case codes assigned by the International Standards Organization. These codes are updated annually.
An old dialect coding system of ROPAL Codes (from the Registry Of People And Languages) has not been supported for several years. These codes have been replaced by ROD Dialect Codes, Speech Variety Codes, and ISO language codes. Please contact us if you need help in switching over to the new codes.
The name assigned to a language or dialect by Global Recordings Network.