Thursday, June 09, 2005

Language GDP

Well, those of you who know me, know that I like numbers, spreadsheets, languages and different cultures. (I also like cooking, but that doesn't fit into this discussion - so stop pestering me about it.) So, I decided that it was high time someone calculated the Gross Domestic Product of languages. (In other words, the value of all final goods and services produced by a given language-speaking population in a year.) Sure, many organizations tabulate the GDP of countries - but I have yet to see the GDP of languages. Let me explain. The GDP of Austria is $255.9 Billion. This means that all of the hard-working individuals of Austria put their wits and muscles together and produce $255.9 billion worth of goods and services. So, what if I want to know the GDP of all the hard-working individuals in the world who speak German? German isn't spoken only in Austria. Nor do all Austrians speak German as a first language. (Immigrants and certain indiginous peoples might speak another language despite residing in Austria.) So I would need to look at all the German speakers in the world, find out their country of residence, and then find out the GDP per capita of each country, and then tabulate the total GDP of all German speakers. Sounds like fun doesn't it? So, I used data from the CIA's World Fact Book and Ethnologue to calculate the GDP of some select languages. (I am currently working on calculating the GDP for all living languages, but there are thousands and this will take me more than a few minutes!) So, for the time being I have calculated those languages closest to English. To save space I will only give the top 5 languages for each "tier". So, here goes:
Tier 1 - English
1. English - $11,291,933,693,300 (that's 11 trillion)
Tier 2 - Other English-based West Germanic languages
1. Scots - $6,150,000,000 (that's a measely 6 billion)
2. Yinglish - $69,700 (Ethnologue provided incomplete info on this one)
Tier 3 - Other Non-English West Germanic languages
1. Standard German - $2,580,612,099,300 (not bad, 2 trillion)
2. Dutch - $510,982,353,000 (510 billion)
3. Bavarian - $235,498,292,900 (235 billion)
4. Schwyzerdutsch - $195,632,028,700 (no, its not mispelled....wait.....)
5. Afrikaans - $65,733,884,900 (only 65 billion)
Tier 4 - Other Non-West Germanic languages
1. Swedish - $247,955,311,200 (247 billion)
2. Danish - $170,708,356,700
3. Icelandic - $7,686,694,400
4. Scanian - $2,272,032,200
5. Faroese - $998,800,000
Tier 5 - Other Non-Germanic Indo-European languages
1. Spanish - $3,762,633,011,100 (3.7 trillion!!)
2. French - $1,861,666,444,400
3. Italian - $1,652,319,502,300
4. Portuguese - $1,574,630,156,100
5. Russian - $1,490,827,344,900

So, there it is. Tier 6 will be all Non-Indo-European languages, but there's a ton so I haven't finished yet. It's important to keep in mind that this isn't necessarily a direct reflection of a language's total population. For instance, there are by far more Russian speakers than French speakers (more than double), but since most of them are in poorer countries the GDP is lower. So when you calculate the language GDP it ends up being pretty low.

Well, enjoy. I'll post the full list as soon as I figure out how.