How many speakers are there?

Ethnologue statistics on Jewish language vitality

How many people speak Judeo-Tajik (Bukharian)? Judeo-Greek? Yiddish? Ethnologue provides statistics about contemporary language use. They use a scale to determine stages of vitality/endangerment:

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Ethnologue only provides information for language varieties they consider separate languages, rather than dialects, although they recognize that determination as complicated and controversial. So Jewish Malayalam and Jewish English are not included, even though they may, at times be so different from non-Jewish varieties of Malayalam and English as to be unintelligible. For languages included in the list, statistics are complicated by the difficulty of determining who is a speaker. Does one have to speak the language fluently to be counted? In many Jewish communities, individuals have acquired a standard version of the local language but maintain elements of their ancestors' distinctly Jewish variety. Would we consider contemporary Jews in Italy and Greece to be speakers of Judeo-Italian and Judeo-Greek? Finally, we do not have up-to-date research on every Jewish language listed on Ethnologue. Because of these complications, the statistics here should be taken as provisional.

We have compiled Ethnologue's statistics for Jewish languages, as of March 2020, with an additional column by Sarah Bunin Benor regarding postvernacular activity (Shandler's term for engagement with a language even without proficiency), such as communities gathering to celebrate the language and artists creating music, theater, or film. If you have suggestions for revising these statistics or can contribute information about additional languages, please contact Ethnologue.

To cite this page: Benor, Sarah Bunin. 2020. "How Many Speakers Are There? Ethnologue Statistics on Jewish Language Vitality." Jewish Language Website. https://www.jewishlanguages.org/stats.

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Editor: Sarah Bunin Benor      Last update: 2020-03-31

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