Many languages are known by multiple names; for example, Hmong Njua is also known as Chuanqiandian Miao, Chuanchientien Miao, Sichuan-Guizhou-Yunnan Hmong, Tak Miao, Meo, Miao, Western Miao and Western Hmong.
This makes database searches very difficult, for data sources may choose to use any of these names. For automated information
retrieval, language names must thus be replaced by precise codes. The E-MELD
workshop concluded that the most nearly complete and consistent system of codes for extant languages is that of
the Ethnologue. The Ethnologue codes, however, were intended
only to include languages currently in use. Furthermore, though the Ethnologue categorized languages by family,
language classification was not a major focus - and there was no way to categorize data by family or to indicate
varying views of genetic relationships. This resulted in the codes being updated and expanded
in accordance with evolving linguistic thought, as part of a joint project involving LINGUIST List and Ethnologue.
E-MELD has complemented the Ethnologue codes with codes and descriptions for ancient,
extinct, and constructed
languages, and has devised a coding system for language families which incorporates genetic information
into its syntax.
Try the LINGUIST language search facility: Follow the URL below and insert a search term. All
matching languages will be returned. Alternatively, enter a family name and see a language family tree generated
from the most current data available. You can also find all data on our site linked to precise language codes.
In addition, we are designing a system that will show multiple trees for language families according to different classifications.
This system is currently in the development phases, but contains exciting prospects!