The Language Index

The Place for Learning about the Languages of the World


The Language Index, until 2012 part of the Virtual Linguistics Campus, is the most extensive interactive and multimedial collection of languages and language data. All entries are supported by a standardized set of audio recordings. Thus, the information that can be retrieved interactively is more complex but exhibits more linguistic details than elsewhere. Currently, the Language Index hosts 1039 entries and comprises a multitude of linguistic options, from simple language lookup to detailed sound comparison. All entries can be accessed via the following interfaces:

  • The (main) Language Map
  • The Language List
  • The Map of Typological Parameters
  • The Map allowing Cognate Comparison

The idea of using audio data for the representation of languages was born in 1996, when J. Handke and F. Intemann published their CD-ROM "The Interactive Introduction to Linguistics". Even though the CD contained a mere 25 languages, it became the starting point for today's largest interactive structured audio database. The following table lists the milestones in the development of the VLC Language Index including the experience gained from the CD-ROMs that the LET developed for W. Labov's Atlas of North American English and Kortmann/Schneider's A Handbook of Varieties of English.

Year Product or Feature
1996 CD-ROM "The Interactive Introduction to Linguistics"
2001 CD-ROM data became part of the VLC
2002 Extension: Use of structured data sets for audio recording
2003 Language referencing via self-developed maps
2004 Publication of the CD-ROM "Varieties of English" (with Kortmann/Schneider)
2005 Publication of the CD-ROM "Atlas of NAE" (with Labov et al.)
2006 VLC Language Index database with developer's interface
2006 Use of Google Maps with Geodata Referencing (gMap 2.0)
2007 Integration of typological information
2007 Cognate-comparison feature
2008 Free access to the VLC Language Index for all VLC community members
2008 gMap 2.0 replaced with Google Maps API for Flash
2008 Integration of interactive vowel and consonantal charts
2008 Integration of Language Editor
2009 Extension of database (additional material, video, free passage)
2009 New options: vowel clouds, flexible sound retrieval
2010 Extended interactivity options, VLC Language Index on VLC homepage
2011 All MP3 files available for download, VLC file referencing system for research
2012 The Language Index becomes part of the CLARIN-D infrastructure

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