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Summary Details

Query:   Sum: Parallel multilingual wordlists
Author:  Daniel Wedgwood
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Lexicography

Summary:   About a month ago I posted an enquiry (Linguist 14.1083) about the availability of parallel word lists (as opposed to lists of cognates) in different languages. I got the impression from some of the responses that there are others out there who would appreciate as much information on this as possible, so I'm including here not just a summary of responses but also some sources of data that I found by other means.

Many thanks to everyone who responded. Here is a summary of the responses:

Robin Thelwall kindly offered offprints and references relating to work done by himself and others containing lists for a number of Nilo-Saharan languages and ''various bits of Bantu''.

Radmila Djordjevic pointed out the existence of Berlitz multilingual European dictionaries, which are primarily aimed at tourists, but could be of use to linguists seeking parallel data for multiple languages.

Yuri Koryakov suggested looking at the very rich source of multilingual vocabulary data on Sergei Starostin's Babel Tower website:

This turns out to be organised generally around cognates, so Yuri was kind enough to send a number of 100-word Swadesh lists which he has in files in .dbf format.

Natalia Slaska sent pointers to a large number of useful resources. First, the website of the project that she is involved in, which will interest people who are working with word lists for historical linguistic purposes:

Second, an extremely useful set of references to printed works containing Swadesh lists for various languages. Many are from issues of IJAL from the 1950s and 60s. Space doesn't allow me to reproduce all the references here; I'd be happy to forward them to anyone who

To all these very useful suggestions, I would add the following resources: has a database of Swadesh lists for a wide variety of languages, but few of them are complete.

Dyen, Isidore, Joseph B Kruskal, and Paul Black (1992) An Indoeuropean Classification: A Lexicostatistical Experiment, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 82, part 5. Large data set (95 languages/dialects) available online at:

Also at is a collection of lists taken from various small online dictionaries - these are not identical lists, but many overlap to a worthwhile extent.

Jacques Guy's GLOTTO program comes with 200-word lists for 16 Indoeuropean languages. The meanings are not the Swadesh list, but mainly nouns taken from Bergman, Peter (1968) The Concise Dictionary of 26 Languages in Simultaneous Translation, Signet Books. For online
availability, see Guy's posting to the Linguist List, (Linguist 5.630).

1600-word lists for English, Italian, German, Dutch and the invented languages Esperanto, Novial and Tsolyani can be downloaded from
(Permission is requested by the website owner for use of these data in

200-word lists for 7 languages used in Kessler, B. (2001) The significance of word lists, Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information. are available as a well-annotated XML file from Brett Kessler's website:

Tryon, Darrel (1995) Comparative Austronesian Dictionary. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. is apparently a possible source of parallel word lists for Austronesian languages (I haven't yet seen a copy myself).

I've found many of these very useful; others should suit the research aims of other list-hunters.

Dan Wedgwood
Theoretical and Applied Linguistics,
University of Edinburgh

LL Issue: 14.1367
Date Posted: 13-May-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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