Ethnologue’s distribution of world languages

Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web-based publication that catalogues every known living language in the world. They carried out a survey on the distribution of world languages.

This project involves hundreds of linguists and researchers from around the world.

The most recent edition of the Ethnologue: Languages of the World estimates the current number of living languages to be 6,909. The global distribution of speakers is strikingly uneven, though.

Distribution of languages by number of speakers adapted from the Ethnologue: Languages of the World.
Number of living languagesTotal amount of speakersNumber of speakers per language
389 (6%)94% of the world’s populationOver 1 million
6,520 (94%)6% of the world’s populationUnder 1 million

At present, the world has over 7 billion inhabitants, but there are roughly 333,000 professional translators and interpreters in the global market. Moreover, the total number of living languages could be larger than Ethnologue estimates since the distinction between languages and dialects is always unclear.

Dialects are considered languages by scholars and speakers alike, of which might not be part of Ethnologue’s list.

Source: Ethnologue