Linguistic DiversitySee also: List of languages and List of languages by number of speakers
A "living language" is simply one which is in wide use as a primary form of communication by a specific group of living people. The exact number of known living languages varies from 6,000 to 7,000, depending on the precision of one's definition of "language", and in particular on how one defines the distinction between languages and dialects. As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6909 living human languages. The Ethnologue establishes linguistic groups based on studies of mutual intelligibility, and therefore often include more categories than more conservative classifications. For example the Danish language that most scholars consider a single language with several dialects, is classified as three distinct languages by the Ethnologue.
The Ethnologue is also sometimes criticized for using cumulative data gathered over many decades, meaning that exact speaker numbers are frequently out of date, and some languages classified as living may have already become extinct. According to the Ethnologue 389 (or nearly 6%) languages have more than a million speakers. These languages together account for 94% of the world’s population, whereas 94% of the world's languages account for the remaining 6% of the global population. To the right is a table of the world's 10 most spoken languages with population estimates from the Ethnologue (2009 figures).
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“The most striking aspect of linguistic competence is what we may call the creativity of language, that is, the speakers ability to produce new sentences, sentences that are immediately understood by other speakers although they bear no physical resemblance to sentences which are familiar.”
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