Langscape: An interactive map of the world’s languages


There are usually considered to be somewhere between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world, and almost all of them are found as little green dots on this particular website, Langscape.
So this is a pretty impressive project that basically places each of the world’s languages into a dot somewhere on this world map.
Now, of course, languages cannot really be centered on one particular point, and so they simply try to find, you know, whatever is the most suitable place for this dot.
It’s often not necessarily exactly connected with where the language is spoken, especially if it’s one of the larger languages that’s spoken over a wider area.
But it can be quite interesting, and especially for the less common languages, because, of course, we can learn a lot about the world’s major languages, the top hundred or so that are spoken by many millions.
But almost all the languages below about the top hundred are spoken by very small numbers of people, often in very local areas.
And it’s really hard to find a lot of information about them.
So this is one nice way to put them together.
Now the default form of the map includes these major and official languages.
So you can see these country borders here, and we see some major official languages of these countries.
But I like to see the world without this tiling into countries, and just see this satellite picture of the world.
And you can get different map bases as well.
And then when you zoom in you can simply take a look at what’s going on in that area.
So the first place that comes to mind that I would like to see is what’s often called the cradle of languages, or the world’s language hotbed, which is the island of New Guinea.
And so here, I mean, see if we can find it underneath all the green dots.
Here is the island of New Guinea, completely covered in green dots.
It has the most linguistic diversity of any area of the world.
And these, simply, you know, too many languages to even represent.
So now you can see all the different corners of this land.
And as we zoom in, we start to see some resolution and some individual names.
So now we’re going into the highlands, just randomly zooming into the highlands of New Guinea.
And now we’re finally down to a local area, you can see, of only a few kilometres.
And here we can zoom into just a few languages.
Even within this small area, many choices.
And then you can simply pick any one of these languages and get some information about it.
So let’s take this particular language.
Let’s see.
It’s taking some time to load the the satellite image there, but here we have the Angal language, and it gives the coordinates that have been chosen to be sort of like the heartland or like the centre point of this language.
Somewhat arbitrary there, but they try to make it as close as possible to, you know, where the core of the speakers are.
So when you click on any one of these languages you then get this.
You basically get links to wherever you can, you know, whatever information is available.
And so here, these links up here are on the same page.
So you see the miscellaneous language data.
And then there’s external links going to external websites.
So here we see, for this particular Angal language, you can see the families that it’s considered part of.
Now, it’s considered here part of Indo-Pacific, but they warn you that the higher families are not necessarily agreed upon.
Well, Indo-Pacific is a giant family, very loose family, definitely not universally accepted that it’s even a single family, but that’s the general region of languages.
And the Trans-New Guinea or the across New Guinea language family, that would be the largest family that might be accepted, although there’s still debate there.
And then you get into the sub-branches, Engan, and Angal-Kewa.
So this would be the more local language group that it’s part of.
You get other names of the language, as often many languages have many different names, of course.
And interesting that you see that here it’s being officially called Angal, but it’s also called East Angal.
So there must be another language, that perhaps is called West Angal, as well, and also goes by another name.
And Mendi.
So often, just as with names for people, there can be a name of a language that its own speakers give it, and there could be a different name that other speakers give it as well.
You get links to more information about this language.
So this is, you know, here we have the Ethnologue link.
Ethnologue has a database of the world’s languages.
And here it’s being listed as a mid-sized, stable language.
This tells you how endangered the language is considered to be.
So, you know, as far as the world’s languages go, even though I just picked this random language in the middle of New Guinea, it’s still considered a fairly sizeable and stable language compared to many that are out there.
And I’m curious to see- oh, well, they want me to pay Ethnologue.
OK, so Ethnologue is going to restrict access to some of their information.
It’s a very high-quality database, but they’re only giving you a little hint for free.
However, that’s where Wikipedia once again comes in.
A very useful resource.
Obviously with all the caveats that cannot be 100% certain, of course, of a lot of the information, but that goes for all kinds of information that we find.
For most topics, I find Wikipedia to be an excellent introduction point.
And so here we get some general information.
So we see that it is considered an Engan, it’s part of the Engan group.
And it’s called a language complex, the idea that it’s not necessarily a single language.
When you have many closely-related languages near to each other, it’s often very difficult to impossible to even separate clear language boundaries.
So this idea of language complex includes many very, very closely-related languages.
And here we get the information that I was looking for, which is the number of speakers, native speakers.
So even though that’s small by global standards, it’s still a very healthy local population speaking this language.
That’s why it’s considered to be stable, not endangered.
And so also interesting details: a pandanus language, which is a very interesting piece of anthropology, an avoidance language where the it’s it’s a special form of the language that is used to carry out certain cultural rituals.
So really getting into all kinds of areas of anthropology here, just from the entry point of this language.
And you can find out about the larger family, the Engan family.
Here they are in New Guinea.
So this is what happened from just zooming in.
This came from just zooming into a random point on the world map.
And the entire map of the world is available here at Langscape.
So if you’re interested in a particular part of the world, or just interested to get a picture of what the world’s linguistic diversity looks like, this can be a very fun resource to work with.

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