Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Languages Still Being Found

Students often ask how many languages there are in the world, which is a trickier question to answer than you might guess at first. Several problems with identifying the number of languages revolve around varying definitions of language (as opposed to dialect) and language death; however, a more exciting issue with counting the number of languages is that linguists still haven't identified them all. A recent discovery of Koro, a language spoken in rural India, made the news last week, with stories about it in The New York Times and on CNN. Finding a new language is rather exciting and reminds us linguists that we still have more to discover about language.


  1. This happens all the time with signed languages. For example in 2008 Nunavut SL was discovered when a defendant in court turned out to be monolingual in this then-unknown language.

    Many areas of the world have never been investigated, and we just don't know what SL exist there.

  2. Thanks for your comment!

    The Philadelphia legal system is currently having issues dealing with a man who is being charged with being a mule for drug dealers; he was born deaf but never learned sign language, so his language is made purely of "home signs" or gestures that are meaningful only to him and those close to him. They are not sure how to proceed with his case because they cannot communicate effectively with him. So not only are new full-fledged signed languages being found, but more people who have to rely on gestural communication are being found, too. It is all very interesting indeed.