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In May 2012 Wikipedia was available in 285 language version. A proportional chart shows a very large contrast between projects with more than hundred thousand articles and those with less than hundred. Such a chart is nearly unreadable. Using a logarithmic scale had evidenced in 2010 that each project contains about 94% of the article number of the next bigger. As of 2010 exceptions were :
- between 1st and 2nd (German WP article number is 33% of English)
- between 3th and 4th (Polish WP article number is 74% of French)
- between 10th and 11th (Swedish WP article number is 65% of Russian)
- steps become bigger with projects with less than 50 articles.
In 2012 other irregular steps have appeared (between Portuguese and Chinese).
Chart showing all Wikipedias article number by language, last updated on 10/12/2019. On mouse over you will know language and relative article number.
One can distinguish
- the English WP with the largest article number, about three times more than the second (German)
- the three following (German, French and Dutch) with more than one million articles
- the leading group (pl, it, ja, es, pt ru) with more than half a million articles
- 250 other projects are coming after with average regular steps about 94% from 360,000 to 50
- last come a dozen of projects with less than 50 articles (some of them are closed).
One can explain the rank of English WP as follows:
- Wikipedia started in English
- Native English speakers are numerous in the world
- English speaking countries are found between the richest in the world: there are numerous people that can access the Internet
- Very many non-native English speakers are using English and contributing to English Wikipedia
- English is seen by numerous people in the world as THE international language, to be used to communicate with people not speaking their own language, and where one can find the most valorous cultural and scientific documentation.
Summarising, although English is the mother language of less than 4% of the world's population, in practice it functions as THE international online Encyclopedia.
German and French
German and French speakers also are numerous and mostly are living in relatively rich countries. These languages also have an international recognition.
The leading group
These are languages with numerous speakers, mostly in rich countries (it, ja, es, nl), if not economically rich, then culturally and scientifically (pl, ru). Several of them have an international spread (es, pt, nl, ru).
The next 250
Here are found many languages from all over the world (Asia, Europe, Americas, Africa, Pacific) with a enormous variation of number of speakers (from nearly nobody to hundreds of millions), including state, official, not official, regional, constructed and extinct languages. Wikipedia can exist in a language if there are voluntaries (eventually with any financial support). The level of sophistication of the projects varies: some projects are very carefully built but others are still in a poor state.
Until the 30th place in the ranking (more than hundred thousand articles) there are mostly languages spoken by many people, in rich or rather rich countries, official in at least one country except Catalan, Esperanto and Volapuk. One can explain these exceptions so:
- Catalan is spoken by a large population in a rich region (as big as some independent states) being the official language there (and also in the little Andorra).
- Esperanto is a remarkable phenomenon with its strong multinational very active community
- Volapuk WP, as known, has artificially grown by software bot mass edit of stubs about cities all over the world. Closure of Volapuk WP was discussed. Volapuk is spoken by very few people (some dozens). The Volapuk WP community is very inactive. It is big only in appearance.
The last ones
These are starting projects with few active contributors. Some didn't grow after starting. Closure of some of them is discussed because they are easy victims for spammers. In Incubator projects are prepared which will appear in Wikipedia when mature enough.