OT: splitting (was RE: Principles of Operation

Peter Constable petercon at microsoft.com
Fri Jan 25 17:15:47 CET 2008

> From: ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at alvestrand.no] On Behalf Of John Cowan

> Ethnologue is notoriously a splitter (as opposed to a lumper) as
> language
> taxonomies go: that is, it sees languages where others see only
> dialects.

John, it seems to me you've made this comment several times in recent weeks, enough so that I start to feel it is overstated. I think it's fair to say Ethnologue is acknowledge to tend toward splitting in many cases where some might otherwise lump. I don't know that I would use the term "notorious", though, particularly when there are clear cases in which Ethnologue has been conservative about splitting. The recent changes wrt Zhuang reveal this: "Zhuang" is, indeed, several languages, but until now Ethnologue did not split when there wasn't adequate information available.

I don't know this for a fact, but it's my impression that much of the analysis in Ethnologue regarding European languages has come from European linguists. I think the small Ethnologue staff functions mainly in an editorial rather than analytic role. I'm sure there is some degree to which information is assess and judgments made, though I imagine that mainly to be attempting to apply consistent decision criteria.


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