the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world











Updated 2008 July 5


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List of linguistic zones of Earth


The political divisions of the world are real, but not desirable. The Stewardship Project advocates the eventual existence of a single world state, governed by a single standard of justice under which all individuals are accorded the same rights, and a greater degree of freedom than any one state provides today.

The national divisions of the world exist strictly in the minds of individuals, who group themselves according to tradition based on many factors, most of which are nonsensical or foolish or even detrimental. The sooner individuals cease to think of themselves in these arbitrary divisions, the sooner there will be a peaceful and rational world.

But language does divide, and will divide for the near future, and while this is unfortunate, it is an obstacle to be overcome only through the voluntary participation of each individual, and which can be overcome only through much effort across many generations. While that process moves slowly forward, the realities of communication demand a recognition of the various dialects of spoken, written, and signed speech. And if there could be a unified world state, it would still require an acknowledgement of dialects for the purpose of administration. What follows are the names, in native form, of the dialect zones of the world, with the native name of the dialect, and the English name. It must be understood that the geographical names are often not precise equivalents for their modern conventional translations.

In keeping with historical tradition, little consideration is given to the current application of a name. The boundaries of modern France, for instance, represent only the current limits of the state dominated by the nation of France, and not the extent of the nation itself; there has never been a country of France with fixed extent. FRANCE refers in this context to the extent of standard FRANÇAIS. In this case and others, the native name of the dialect has been used to determine the name of the zone: FRANÇAIS-FRANCE, தமிழ் - தமிழ் நாடு TAMIZ-TAMIZTU, KISWAHILI-USWAHILINI, DEUTSCH-DEUTSCHLAND, বাংলা-বাংলাদেশ BĀ~LĀ-BĀŊLĀDEŚ, CATALÀ-CATALUNYA. In the case of বাংলাদেশ BĀ~LĀDĒŚ, the name has traditionally applied to the entire zone বাংলা BĀ~LĀ, not merely to the region commonly known as বাংলাদেশ BĀ~LĀDĒŚ. But in the case of CATALUNYA, the common use of this designation is much more limited than the zone CATALÀ.

Geographical continuity has been treated somewhat subjectively. KIBRIS was deemed close enough to TÜRKİYE to be included; but ΚΥΠΡΟΣ is listed separately from ΕΛΛΑΔΑ. КАЛИНИНГРАД is administratively part of РОССИЯ, and thus the physical separation has been disregarded.

The natural state of language is dialect continuum, in which language varies gradually over space. Related dialects are mutually intelligible if they are spoken in contiguous areas, less so as distance increases, and there is no clear point of discontinuity at which to draw a linguistic boundary. Language does not always exist in this state, though, as often dialects are selected from a point in the continuum, to serve as standard or colonial dialects. These, then lack the continuity with neighboring dialects, even if they are related; such continuity may conceivably develop later, but is less common. (*) before a name indicates that it is unattested, either as a native name or a geographical designation. Zones containing more than a million speakers have been listed, whether or not a native geographical designation is known to me. Smaller zones have been listed if the native geographical designation is known. The inclusion of zones which do not meet these two criteria has been haphazard and is not a statement of any kind. The exclusion of zones containing a million speakers is completely unintentional.

These are fluid cultural zones, existing wherever the users of a particular dialect are; and there will always be overlap, as one zone blends into a neighboring zone. The zones are listed in rough geographical order, winding north to south, and west to east.

Geographical names for regions in which a subset of the main dialect is used are listed directly under the main dialect. Within the main list, an alternate color is used for broader linguistic regions, where two or more dialects have sufficient intersection that a more inclusive, if more limited, medium of communication exists. At the end of the main list, two smaller lists are included, which present additional or in some cases revisionary information. The first, for obsolete dialects, presents for historical reference the names of regions whose defining dialect is now extinct. The second list is not of zones, but of dialects whose distribution is, on some level or other, global and not regional; at the top of this list is English, which is the most broadly distributed dialect, both as a vernacular and as a lingua franca, and whose regions defy traditional English geography, and will not need naming for an anglophone in any case. In some cases, geographical designations exist for these disperse dialects, but the areas so described are discontinuous.

Regarding the prakrits of India, there is no certain classification or status of the various dialects. There are four regions in northern India whose vernaculars are commonly called ‘Hindi’: राजस्थान JAST‛ĀN, मध्यदेश MAD‛JADĒŚ, उत्तरदेश UTTARDĒŚ, and बिहार BIHĀR (these do not correspond exactly to the political boundaries in India, though the dialects spoken in these regions were theoretically the basis for their boundaries). Their vernaculars are distinguished here as राजस्थानी JAST‛ĀNĪ, मध्यदेशी MAD‛JADĒŚĪ, उत्तरदेशी UTTARDĒŚĪ, and बिहारी BIHĀRĪ. اردو URDŪ is a मध्यदेशी MAD‛JADĒŚĪ subdialect whose development was influenced more by the Islamic cultures than the Indian culture. मध्यदेशी MAD‛JADĒŚĪ as developed under the Indian culture became the standard for the Indian state and is natively known as हिनदी HINDĪ. The region where it is spoken is now much broader than its home region of मध्यदेश MAD‛JADĒŚ, and is thus named by the हिन्दी-मध्यदेशी HINDĪ-MAD‛JADĒŚĪ name for India itself, भारत B‛ĀRAT. But there is intelligibility between اردو URDŪ and हिन्दी-मध्यदेशी HINDĪ-MAD‛JADĒŚĪ, and a dialect continuum covering all nearly all the prakrits, yielding an even broader zone, HINDUSTĀN, which is also ultimately a name for India as a whole.

MALAŴI is a historical/dynastic name among the aCheŵa; CHICHEŴA may be the original name of the dialect, though it is commonly referred to as CHINYANJA outside of the state of Malaŵi.

As always, additions and corrections are most welcome, and should be addressed to the Stewardship Project, project @



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