Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you will find answers to frequently asked questions and more indepth information about the World Christian Database.

Table of contents

Brief introduction to WLC

Quick start to using the World Language Classification.

Detailed explanation of WLC

Extract from the World Christian Encyclopedia describing the World Language Classification.


Detailed explanation of WCD sources and methodology.

Field definitions

Definitions for data fields in the database.


Standard and unusual terms related to the WCD.


Abbreviations related to the WCD.


Religions related to the WCD.

Brief introduction to WLC

1. Introduction

The World Language Classification, an integral component of the World Christian Database, is based on the schema worked out over 25 years by linguist David Dalby in his 2000 publication The Linguasphere: register of the world’s languages and speech communities (Linguasphere Press, Wales: Contributing Editors David B. Barrett, Michael Mann).

The classification indicates the proximity between any two languages by means of its coding system.

Each of the world’s people groups have been allocated a language code indicating their primary mother-tongue. Particular people groups may be identified as speaking a language (which has a 7-character code) or a dialect (which has an 8-character code).

2. Use of the classification

A. People group focus

To explore the language of a particular people group, the best place to start is to find the people in question and click on their language code. This will take you to a screen describing that single language in detail and giving options to look at the language in the context of its immediate cluster of languages and dialects.

B. 'Language' or 'cluster of languages' focus

The languages home page shows example queries for looking at lists of languages. The lists may be related by inter-intelligibility (as in lists of language clusters, languages and dialects), or may be a numeric listing (as in the world's top 20 languages).

Detailed explanation of WLC

The complete rationale and methodology of the classification is contained in the two volume work The Linguasphere: register of the world’s languages and speech communities (Linguasphere Press, Wales, 2000: Contributing Editors David B. Barrett, Michael Mann). A summary of the schema is given in the World Christian Encyclopedia (David B.Barrett, George T.Kurian and Todd M.Johnson, Oxford University Press, New York, 2001). An extract from the World Christian Encyclopedia is available here.


Data on 18 categories of religion, including non-religious, by country, province, and people.

Countries and regions

Data on all religions, Christian activities, and trends.


Membership data, year begun, and rates of change.

Cities & provinces

Population and religion data on all major cities & provinces.

Peoples & languages

Detailed information covering religion, culture, and geography.


A repository of historical data, including a chronology of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries.