The Ethnologue is one of the most satisfying and evocative global snapshots I’ve ever come across. Compiled by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a global Bible-translation organization, the Ethnologue is an attempt to inventory and describe all extant (and many dying) languages around the world–in two fat, complete volumes. Open up to the “Language Family Index” and you can test your knowledge of the relationships between ethnic groups in your favorite part of the world. How about the various writing systems for Batak Toba, or the total number of languages in Papua New Guinea, or the population of Swahili speakers in the United States? I often find myself roaming through it, wandering imaginatively across the tangled pathways of evolutionary, political, and economic history that these 7,000 languages represent.

-- Jim Mason  

Barbara F. Grimes
1999 (14th Edition)
Vol I:Languages of the World, 858 pages
Vol II: Maps and Indexes, 727 pages
CD-ROM version, including both volumes
Summer Institute of Linguistics
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Road
Dallas, TX 75236
NOTE: 16th Edition is available from Amazon.

Available from Amazon

Much of the material is online in a very searchable format here

Sample Excerpts: