Compendium of the World's Languages

Compendium of the World's Languages

by George L. Campbell, Gareth King

View All Available Formats & Editions

This third edition of Compendium of the World’s Languages has been thoroughly revised to provide up-to-date and accurate descriptions of a wide selection of natural language systems. All cultural and historical notes as well as statistical data have been checked, updated and in many cases expanded.

Presenting an even broader range of languages and


This third edition of Compendium of the World’s Languages has been thoroughly revised to provide up-to-date and accurate descriptions of a wide selection of natural language systems. All cultural and historical notes as well as statistical data have been checked, updated and in many cases expanded.

Presenting an even broader range of languages and language families, including new coverage of Australian aboriginal languages and expanded treatment of North American and African languages, this new edition offers a total of 342 entries over nearly 2000 pages.

Key features include:

  • Complete rewriting, systematization and regularisation of the phonology sections
  • Provision of IPA symbol grids arranged by articulatory feature and by alphabetic resemblance to facilitate use of the new phonology sections
  • Expansion of morphology descriptions for most major languages
  • Provision of new illustrative text samples
  • Addition of a glossary of technical terms and an expanded bibliography
  • Comparative tables of the numerals 1-10 in a representative range of languages, and also grouped by family

Drawing upon a wealth of recent developments and research in language typology and broadened availability of descriptive data, this new incarnation of George Campbell’s astounding Compendium brings a much-loved survey emphatically into the twenty-first century for a new generation of readers.

Scholarly, comprehensive and highly accessible, Compendium of the World’s Languages remains the ideal reference for all interested linguists and professionals alike.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for the third edition

‘This is an important reference book in Linguistics, particularly in the fields of typological and descriptive linguistics. It will also be of interest to scholars in the more than fifty individual languages covered, and especially to those who want to undertake fieldwork on these languages. All departments of Linguistics should have a copy of this book in their departmental library as well as in the general university reference library.’- Adams B. Bodomo, The University of Hong Kong

Praise for the first edition

'This book will be a lifelong delight.' - Anthony Burgess, The Observer

'This is a most notable achievement: it is particularly useful for the breadth of its coverage and the consistency of its will be an invaluable addition to academic and larger general reference collections.' - Reference Reviews

'Anyone who dips with pleasure into Katzner's Languages of the World or Comries's World's Major Languages will be able to lose themselves in Campbell for days on end.' - Language International

'This remarkable work sets a new standard for single-source linguistic profiles ... Campbell's excellent survey will be an invaluable vade mecum for the linguist, as well as forming a valuable addition to larger collections.' - Library Association Record

'Compendium of the World's Languages benefits from the frequent use it makes of appropriate historical material, which gives many obscure languages a place in time and space. One might buy the book for the information it contains, but it gives much pleasure also.' - Times Literary Supplement

'Turning over the pages is like turning a kaleidoscope. The fascination is endless.' - Expresso

'It teaches an implicit lesson - not that all languages were before Babel one language, but that man is a language-constructing animal who, wherever he is, constructs in much the same way - through phonemic opposition, through counting his fingers, through noting that some things move while other things just are. To me this book will be a lifelong delight.' - Anthony Burgess, Observer

'Many readers will succumb to the temptation to read among the other netries of languages that they didn't realize existed.' - The Years Work in English Studies

Library Journal
For this second edition of a major reference on literary language, first published in 1991, linguist/translator Campbell has added 18 new articles and expanded others, increasing the number of pages by 400. He describes the structure of over 300 languages and language families, directing his text to readers with at least a basic knowledge of linguistics. Organized alphabetically and ranging from two to ten pages, the articles present the standard outline from the first edition: introduction/headword, script, phonology, morphology and syntax, illustrative text, and bibliography. The morphology section examines major parts of speech and typical word order. To guide readers, Campbell provides a lengthy table that functions as both a table of contents and an index; typographical conventions indicate languages with their own articles and those that are covered in a language family's profile. For this edition, the bibliography has been reorganized by language to facilitate access, yet the listing is weakened by the inclusion of numerous older sources. While this work upholds the first edition's reputation for largely accurate content, general readers may prefer the more prosaic entries found in three other works: R.E. Asher's Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Pergamon, 1993), Andrew Dalby's Dictionary of Languages (LJ 5/1/99), and Bernard Comrie's World's Major Languages (LJ 9/15/87). Another new, less expensive resource is the forthcoming Facts About the World's Languages (H.W. Wilson, 2000), which will cover 175 languages. Noting the high price and the limitations mentioned above, this title is recommended for academic and large public libraries because of its valuable descriptions of language structures.--Marianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Because at present count, there are some 5,000 human languages, this second edition has been expanded beyond the first (1991) to include some two dozen new additions dealing with languages such as Comanche, Newari, Shona, Shotho, the Orkhon-Yenisei inscriptions, and the L<:u> language of southern Yunnan. Most of the first edition's entries have been rewritten and, in general, include background on the language (affiliation, location, number of speakers, etc.), script, phonology, morphology and syntax, a bit of illustrative text, and a bibliography. Prioritized for inclusion are the world's literary languages, but Campbell (formerly of the BBC World Service) has also included oral languages spoken by less than 10,000 people. Such major dead languages as Sanskrit, Classical Chinese, and Classical Greek and Latin also find a place alongside lesser-known, extinct tongues such as Etruscan and Tangut. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
Edition description:

Meet the Author

George L. Campbell worked for the BBC World Service and was a polyglot linguist and translator.

Gareth King is Series Advisor for the Routledge Colloquials Series and the author of numerous books on language and linguistics.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >