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The Mosaic of Languages. Chapter 5 The Human Mosaic. Why geographers study language . Provides the single most common variable by which cultural groups are identified Provides the main means by which learned customs and skills pass from one generation to the next

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The mosaic of languages l.jpg

The Mosaic of Languages

Chapter 5

The Human Mosaic


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Why geographers study language

  • Provides the single most common variable by which cultural groups are identified

  • Provides the main means by which learned customs and skills pass from one generation to the next

  • Facilitates cultural diffusion of innovations

  • Because languages vary spatially, they reinforce the sense of region and place

  • Study of language called linguistic geography and geolinguistics by geographers


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Terms used in the study of language

  • Language — tongues that cannot be mutually understood

  • Dialects — variantforms of a language that have not lost mutual comprehension

    • A speaker of English can understand the various dialect of the language

    • A dialect is distinctive enough in vocabulary and pronunciation to label its speaker

    • Some 6,000 languages and many more dialects are spoken today


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Terms used in the study of language

  • Pidgin language — results when different linguistic groups come into contact

    • Serves the purposes of commerce

    • Has a small vocabulary derived from the various contact groups

    • Official language of Papua, New Guinea is a largely English-derived pidgin language, which includes Spanish, German, and Papuan words


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Terms used in the study of language

  • Lingua franca — a language that spreads over a wide area where it is not the mother tongue

    • A language of communication and commerce

    • Swahili language has this status in much of East Africa



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Kenya

  • Kenya has two official languages: Swahili and English. These lingua franca facilitate communication among Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic language speakers.

  • Swahili developed along the coast of East Africa where


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Kenya

  • Bantu came in contact with Arabic spoken by Arab sea traders.

  • English became important during the British colonial period and is still associated with high status.


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Kenya

  • This shopping center caters to Maasai herders who speak a Nilotic language and Kikuyu farmers who speak a Bantu language.

  • Jambo means “hello” in Swahili.


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The Mosaic of Languages

  • Linguistic Culture Regions

  • Linguistic Diffusion

  • Linguistic Ecology

  • Culturo-Linguistic Integration

  • Linguistic Landscapes


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Language characteristics used to define linguistic culture regions

  • isoglosses — bordersof individual word usages or pronunciations

    • No two words, phrases, or pronunciations have exactly the same spatial distribution

    • Spatially isoglosses crisscross one another

    • Typically cluster together in “bundles”

    • Bundles serve as the most satisfactory dividing lines among dialects and languages


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Language characteristics used to define linguistic culture regions

  • Overlap of languages complicates drawing of linguistic borders

  • In any given area more than one tongue may be spoken — Ecuador

  • Language barriers are rarely sharp


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Language characteristics used to define linguistic culture regions

  • Geographers encounter a core/periphery pattern rather than a dividing line

    • Dominance of language diminishes away from the center of the region

    • Outlying zone of bilingualism

    • Linguistic “islands” often further complicate the drawing of language borders


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Language characteristics used to define linguistic culture regions

  • Dialect terms often overlap considerably, making it difficult to draw isoglossess

    • Linguistic geographers often disagree about how many dialects are present

    • Disagreement also occurs on where lines should be drawn

  • Boundaries are necessarily simplified and at best generalizations


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Language families regions

  • The Indo-European language family

    • Largest most wide-spread family

    • Spoken on all continents

    • Dominant in Europe, Russia, North and South America, Australia, and parts of southwestern Asia and India

    • Subfamilies—Romance, Slavic, Germanic, Indic, Celtic, and Iranic

    • Subfamilies are divided into individual languages

    • Seven Indo-European tongues are among the top 10 languages spoken in the world

    • By comparing vocabularies in various languages one can see the kinship


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Language families regions

  • The Afro-Asiatic family

    • Has two major divisions—Semitic and Hamitic

    • Semitic covers the area from Tigris-Euphrates valley westward through most of the north half of Africa to the Atlantic coast

      • Domain is large but consists of mostly sparsely populated deserts

      • Arabic is the most widespread Semitic language

      • Arabic has the most number of native speakers—about 186 million

      • Hebrew was a “dead” language used only in religious ceremonies

      • Today Hebrew is the official language of Israel

      • Amharic a third major Semitic tongues has 20 million speakers in the mountains of East Africa


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Language families regions

  • The Afro-Asiatic family

    • Has two major divisions—Semitic and Hamitic

    • Smaller number of people speak Hamitic languages

      • Share North and East Africa with Semitic speakers

      • Spoken by the Berbers of Morocco and Algeria

      • Spoken by the Tuaregs of the Sahara and Cushites of East Africa

      • Originated in Asia but today only spoken in Africa

      • Expansion of Arabic decreased the area and number of speakers


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Other major language families regions

  • Africa south of the Sahara Desert is dominated by the Niger-Congo family

    • Spoken by about 200 million people

    • Greater part of the Niger-Congo culture region belongs to the Bantu subgroup

    • Includes Swahili—the lingua franca of East Africa


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Other major language families regions

  • Altaic language family

    • Includes Turkic, Mongolic, and several other subgroups

    • Homeland lies largely in deserts, tundras, and coniferous forests of northern and central Asia

  • Uralic family

    • Finnish and Hungarian are the two most important tongues

    • Both have official status in their countries


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Other major language families regions

  • Austronesian language family

    • Most remarkable language family in terms of distribution

    • Speakers live mainly on tropical islands

    • Ranges from Madagascar, through Indonesia and the Pacific Islands, to Hawaii and Easter Island

    • Longitudinal span is more than half way around the world

    • Latitudinally, ranges from Hawaii and Taiwan in the north to New Zealand in the south

    • Largest single language in this family is Indonesian —5O million speakers

    • Most widespread language is Polynesian


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Other major language families regions

  • Sino-Tibetan language family

    • One of the major language families of the world

    • Extends throughout most of China and Southeast Asia

    • Han Chinese is spoken in a variety of dialects as a mother tongue by 836 million people

    • Han serves as the official form of speech in China


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Other major language families regions

  • Japanese/Korean language family

    • Another major Asian family with nearly 200 million speakers

    • Seems to have some kinship to both the Altaic and Austronesian


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Other major language families regions

  • Austro-Asiatic language family

    • Found in Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and spoken by some tribal people of Malaya and parts of India

    • Occupies a remnant peripheral domain

    • Has been encroached upon by Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, and Austronesian


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London, England regions

  • This display of newspapers illustrates the fact that London is an international city as well as a major migration destination.

  • In South Kensington, sizable foreign contribute complexity


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London, England regions

  • to the linguistic landscape.

  • Both Indo-European (e.g. French, Spanish and Swedish) and Afro-Asiatic (Arab) language families are represented here.


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Other major language families regions

  • Occupy refuge areas after retreat before rival groups

    • Khoisan — found in the Kalahari Desert of southwestern Africa, characterized by clicking sounds

    • Dravidian — spoken by numerous darker-skinned people of southern India and northern Sri Lanka

    • Others include — Papuan, Caucasic, Nilo-Saharan, Paleosiberian, Inukitut, and a variety of Amerindian

    • Basque — spoken on the borderland between Spain and France is unrelated to any other language in the world


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • Dialects reveal a vivid geography

  • American English is hardly uniform from region to region

  • At least three major dialects, corresponding to major culture regions, developed in the eastern United States by the time of the American Revolution

    • Northern

    • Midland

    • Southern


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • The three subcultures expanded westward and their dialects spread and fragmented

    • Retained much of their basic character even beyond the Mississippi River

    • Have distinctive vocabularies and pronunciations

    • Drawing dialect boundaries is often tricky


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • Today, many regional words are becoming old-fashioned, but new words display regional variations

  • The following words are all used to describe a controlled-access divided highway

    • Freeway — a California word

    • Turnpike and parkway — mainly northeastern and Midwestern words

    • Thruway, expressway, and interstate


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • Many African-Americans speak their own form of English — Black English

    • Once dismissed as inferior substandard English

    • Grew out of a pidgin that developed on early slave plantations

    • Today, spoken by about 80 percent of African-Americans

    • Used by ghetto dwellers who have not made their compromises with mainstream American culture

    • Many features separate it from standard speech, for example:

      • Lack of pronoun differentiation between genders

      • Use of undifferentiated pronouns


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • Many African-Americans speak their own form of English — Black English

    • Not recognized as part of the proper grammar of a separate linguistic group

    • Considered evidence of verbal inability or impoverishment

    • In the Southern dialect, African-Americans have made substantial contributions to speech

    • Southern dialect is becoming increasingly identified with African-Americans

    • Caucasians in the Southern region are shifting to Midland speech


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English dialects in the United States regions

  • American dialects suggest we are not becoming a more national culture by overwhelming regional cultures

    • Linguistic divergence is still under way

    • Dialects continue to mutate on a regional level

    • Local variations in grammar and pronunciation proliferate

    • The homogenizing influence of radio, television, and other mass media is being defied



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London, England regions

  • While English is spoken in many pats of the world, all English words are not mutually intelligible.

  • This London tube (subway) sign say that anyone performing there (eg singing or playing for money) is subject to a fine of subsection.

  • Are tubs, subway, and busking dialect words?


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The Mosaic of Languages regions

  • Linguistic Culture Regions

  • Linguistic Diffusion

  • Linguistic Ecology

  • Culturo-Linguistic Integration

  • Linguistic Landscapes


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Indo-European diffusion regions

  • Earliest speakers apparently lived in southern and southeastern Turkey (Anatolia) about eight or nine thousand years ago

    • Diffused west and north into Europe

    • Represented expansion of farming people at expense of hunters and gatherers

    • As people dispersed and lost contact, different variant forms of the language caused fragmentation of the family


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Indo-European diffusion regions

  • Later language diffusion occurred with the spread of great political empires, especially Latin, English, and Russian

  • Relocation and expansion diffusion were not mutually exclusive

    • Relocation diffusion by conquering elite implanted their language

    • Implanted language often gained wider acceptance by expansion diffusion

    • Conqueror’s language spread hierarchically

      • Spread of Latin with Roman conquests

      • Spanish in Latin America


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Austronesian diffusion regions

  • Presumed hearth in the interior of Southeast Asia 5,000 years ago

  • Initially spread southward into the Malay Peninsula

  • In a process lasting several thousand years, people sailed in tiny boats across the. uncharted vast seas to New Zealand, Easter Island, Hawaii, and Madagascar

  • Sailing and navigation was the key to Austronesian spread, not agriculture


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Austronesian diffusion regions

  • The remarkable diffusion of the Polynesian people

    • Form the eastern part of the Austronesian culture region

    • Occupy hundreds of Pacific islands in a triangular-shaped realm

    • New Zealand, Easter Island, and Hawaii form the three apexes of the realm

    • Made a watery leap of 2,500 miles from the South Pacific to Hawaii

      • Used outrigger canoes

      • Went against prevailing winds into a new hemisphere with different navigational stars

      • No humans had previously found the isolated Hawaiian Islands

      • Sailors had no way of knowing that land existed in the area


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Austronesian diffusion regions

  • Geographers John Webb and Gerard Ward studied the prehistoric Polynesian diffusion

    • Their method involved the development of a computer model building in data on:

      • Winds

      • Ocean currents

      • Vessel traits and capabilities

      • Island visibility

      • Duration of voyage, etc.

      • Both drift and navigated voyages were considered


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Austronesian diffusion regions

  • Over one hundred thousand voyage simulations were run through the computer

  • Their conclusions

    • Triangle was probably entered from the west—direction of the ancient Austronesian hearth area

    • “Island hopping”—migrated from one visible island to another

    • Core of eastern Polynesia likely reached by navigated voyages

    • Outer arc from Hawaii through Easter Island to New Zealand reached by intentionally navigated voyages


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Searching for the primordial tongue regions

  • Using controversial techniques, linguists seek the more elusive prehistoric tongues

  • Nostratic—ancestral speech of the Middle East 12,000 to 20,000 years ago

    • Ancestral to nine modern language families

    • A 500-word dictionary has been compiled

  • Contemporary with Nostratic were other ancient tongues including Dene-Caucasian


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Searching for the primordial tongue regions

  • Dene-Caucasian reputedly gave rise to Sino-Tibetan, Basque, and one form of early Native-American called Na-Dene

  • Scholars are attempting to find the original linguistic hearth area from which all modern languages have derived

  • It is believed the original language hearth arose in Africa perhaps 250,000 years ago and diffused from there


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The Mosaic of Languages regions

  • Linguistic Culture Regions

  • Linguistic Diffusion

  • Linguistic Ecology

  • Culturo-Linguistic Integration

  • Linguistic Landscapes


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The environment and vocabulary regions

  • How the environment affects vocabulary

  • Spanish language derived from Castile

    • Rich in words describing rough terrain (Table 5.3)

    • Distinguishes subtle differences in shape and configuration of mountains

  • Scottish Gaelic

    • Describes types of rough terrain

    • Common attribute spoken by hill people

  • Romanian tongue

    • Also from a region of rugged terrain

    • Words tend to be keyed to use of terrain for livestock herding


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The environment and vocabulary regions

  • English

    • Developed in wet coastal plains

    • Very poor in words describing mountainous terrain

    • Abounds with words describing flowing streams

    • Rural American South—river, creek, branch, fork, prong, run, bayou, and slough


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The environment and vocabulary regions

  • Vocabularies develop for features of the environment that involve livelihood

  • Detailed vocabularies are necessary to communicate sophisticated information relevant to the adaptive strategy


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The environment provides refuge regions

  • Inhospitable environments offer protection and isolation

  • Provide outnumbered linguistic groups refuge from aggressive neighbors

  • Linguistic refuge areas

    • Rugged bill and mountain areas

    • Excessively cold or dry climates

    • Impenetrable forests and remote islands

    • Extensive marshes and swamps

  • Unpleasant environments rarely attract conquerors

  • Mountains tend to isolate inhabitants of one valley from another


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Examples of linguistic refuge areas regions

  • Rugged Caucasus Mountains and nearby ranges in central Eurasia are populated by a large variety of peoples

  • Alps, Himalayas, and highlands of Mexico are linguistic shatter belts — areas where diverse languages are spoken

  • American Indian tongue Quechua clings to a refuge in the Andes Mountains of South America

  • In the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico, an archaic form of Spanish survives due to isolation that ended in the early 1900s


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Examples of linguistic refuge areas regions

  • The Dhofar, a mountain tribe in Oman, preserve Hamitic speech that otherwise has vanished from Asia

  • Tundra climates of the far north have sheltered certain Uralic, Altaic, and Inukitut (Eskimo) speakers

  • On Sea Islands, off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, some remnant of an African language, Gullah, still are spoken


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Switzerland regions

  • Switzerland has four recognized national languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansch.

  • Romansch, a language of Latin origin, is spoken by only 1.1% of the population.


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Switzerland regions

  • Nevertheless, it has survived in the alpine linguistic refuge of the upper Rhine and Inn Rivers and was given official recognition in 1938.


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Switzerland regions

  • This traditional Engadine (Inn valley) house is decorated by sgraffito whereby designs are scratched through a white limewash coating to expose the underlying grey plaster.


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Linguistic Ecology regions

  • Today environmental isolation is no longer the linguistic force it once was

  • Inhospitable lands and islands are reachable by airplanes

  • Marshes and forests are being drained and cleared by farmers

  • The world is interactive


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The environment guides migration regions

  • Migrants were often attracted to new lands that seemed environmentally similar to their homelands

    • They could pursue adaptive strategies known to them

    • Germanic Indo-Europeans chose familiar temperate zones in America, New Zealand, and Australia

    • Semitic peoples rarely spread outside arid and semiarid climates

    • Ancestors of modern Hungarians left grasslands of inner Eurasia for new homes in the grassy Alföld, one of the few prairie areas of Europe


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The environment guides migration regions

  • Environmental barriers and natural routeways guided linguistic groups along certain paths

  • Indo-Europeans traveled through low mountain passes to the Indian subcontinent, avoiding the Himalayas and barren Deccan Plateau

  • In India today, the Indo-European/Dravidian language boundary seems to approximate an ecological boundary


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The environment guides migration regions

  • Mountain barriers frequently serve as linguistic borders

    • In part of the Alps, speakers of German and Italian live on opposite sides of a major ridge

    • Portions of mountain rim along the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent form the border between Semitic and Indo-European tongues


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The environment guides migration regions

  • Linguistic borders that follow such physical features tend to be stable and endure for thousands of years

  • Language borders that cross plains and major routes of communication are frequently unstable — Germanic-Slavic boundary on the North European Plain


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The Mosaic of Languages regions

  • Linguistic Culture Regions

  • Linguistic Diffusion

  • Linguistic Ecology

  • Culturo-Linguistic Integration

  • Linguistic Landscapes


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Urumchi, China regions

  • Urumchi is the capital of Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region.

  • Uyghurs are one of China’s 55 minority groups.

  • Because this resource-rich area is also a strategically significant borderland,


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Urumchi, China regions

  • official policy has been one of Sinicization whereby Chinese have been encouraged to move to the region.

  • However, most of the Chinese are concentrated in the capital city where


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Urumchi, China regions

  • sinage is in two languages.

  • Ugyhur, written in Arabic script, belongs to the Altaic language family while Chinese, written in characters is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

  • Together, they produce an alien linguistic landscape for most visitors.


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Language is intertwined with all aspects of culture regions

  • Comparative social, demographic, political, and technological characteristics groups are needed to understand the linguistic map

  • Linguistic cultural integration can reflect the dominance of one group over another — a dominance based in culture


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Technology and linguistic dominance regions

  • Technological superiority is usually involved in allowing one group to gain dominance over another

  • Importance of the development of alphabets

    • Certain cultures became more complex and dominant

    • Written languages advanced at the expense of illiterate cultures

    • Were invariably the invention of agricultural societies

    • Greek, Latin, and Chinese, along with other tongues, enjoyed early advantages because of literacy


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Technology and linguistic dominance regions

  • Importance of the development of alphabets

    • Facilitated record keeping, allowing government to develop

    • With empire building, languages tend to spread with imperial expansion

    • Imperial expansion of European and U.S. power altered the linguistic patterns among millions of people

      • Superimposed Indo-European tongues in the tropics and subtropics

      • Areas most affected were Asia, Africa, and the Austronesian island world


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Technology and linguistic dominance regions

  • In South America, the expanding empires of Spain and Portugal clashed in the fifteenth century

    • Signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494

    • Spain received control over all colonial lands west of a certain meridian

    • Portugal gained control over lands east of the line

    • Brazil eventually became Portuguese speaking

    • In most of the rest of South America Spanish prevailed


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Technology and linguistic dominance regions

  • When imperial nations gave up their colonial empires, their languages remained

    • English is still spoken in much of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines, and certain areas of the Pacific islands

    • French persists in north, west and central Africa, Madagascar, and Polynesia

    • In most areas English and French function as languages of the educated elite and of government, commerce, and higher education

    • Often hold status as legal languages, serving has link languages

    • Help hold countries together where native languages are multiple and divisive


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Technology and linguistic dominance regions

  • Affect of transportation technology on geography of languages

    • Ships, railroads, and highways usually spread languages of cultural groups who build them

    • Sometimes spells doom for the speech of peoples whose lands are opened to outside contacts

    • Trans-Siberian Railroad spread Russian language eastward to Pacific Ocean

    • Presently highway construction into Brazil’s Amazonian interior threatens Indian languages


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The social morale model regions

  • Model built by geographer Charles Withers

  • Explains the process of language loss incurred by conquered cultural groups

    • Placed in a lower social class

    • Lose pride in their language and culture, eventually abandoning both

    • Education system based solely on socially dominant language produces bilingualism

    • Monoglots, or persons speaking one tongue decline


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The social morale model regions

  • If conquered group literate, they will usually start to become illiterate in their traditional language

    • Often no legal or religious status is accorded the conquered language

    • Old way of speech considered primitive and its use socially degrading

    • Denying the oppressed language access to broadcast facilities can hasten process of decline


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United States reveals decline of languages other than English

  • Native Americans subjected to linguistic assaults from dominant culture

  • Indian children taken from families and placed in boarding schools

  • Indian children were forbidden to speak their own languages

  • In 1910, one out of every four Americans could fluently speak some language other than English (14 percent could in 1990)

  • Only Spanish speakers have had long-term success in keeping their speech


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Morale is not always broken by conquest and subsequent discrimination

  • Greeks have suffered periods of rule by Romans and Turks

    • Have kept their language

    • Remained convinced their culture was superior

  • Chinese absorbed Mongol invaders and made Chinese out of them

  • Sometimes languages of conquered and conqueror blend


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The economic development model discrimination

  • Also developed by Charles Withers

  • Industrialization accompanied by urbanization breaks up social structure needed to perpetuate an indigenous language

  • Transition from subsistence farmer to factory laborer is destructive to minority tongues

  • Particularly destructive when factory language is not that of the farm


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The economic development model discrimination

  • Industrialization tends to draw population from rural linguistic refuge area leaving fewer speakers of minority languages behind —process called the clearance model

  • If industrial development occurs in refuge area, speakers of dominant language are drawn in producing a changeover model — native speakers are overwhelmed by intrusion of foreigners


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The economic development model discrimination

  • Plight of Welsh language in Great Britain

    • Illustrates Withers’ social morale, economic development, clearance, and changeover models

    • Now stands at the threshold of extinction

    • Speakers were long denigrated

    • British educational system promoted English

    • Urbanization and industrialization knocked holes in spatial fabric of Welsh

    • Massive rural emigration followed to English-speaking towns and factories


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The economic development model discrimination

  • Geographer Keith Buchanan referred to decline of Welsh and other Celtic languages as a “liquidation” by ruling English to produce a loyal, obedient work force for mines and factories

    • Recently the Welsh language has been granted educational and media privileges by British government

    • Social morale of its speakers is broken

    • Largely aged speakers survive

    • The day nears when inhabitants may not know what the names of towns, rivers, and mountains mean

    • The Welsh may not even be able to understand their family names


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The economic development model discrimination

  • The ongoing achievement of independence by various linguistic minority groups could rescue some languages previously endangered —examples of Estonia and Latvia


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Language and religion discrimination

  • Occasionally a language is linked to a particular religious faith heightening cultural identity

  • Example of Arabic

    • Spread from a core area on the Arabian peninsula with the Islamic faith

    • Without the evangelical fervor of the Muslims, Arabic would not have diffused so widely


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Language and religion discrimination

  • Other Semitic languages also correspond to particular religious groups

    • We can attribute the preservation and revival of Hebrew to the tenacity of the Jewish faith

    • Amharic speakers in Ethiopia are Coptics, or Eastern Christians


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Language and religion discrimination

Link between speech and faith can be seen within very small areas

Example of Pakistan — studied by German geographer Hermann Kneutzmann

Studied 17 languages in isolated mountain valleys in northernmost part of country

Over 90 percent of speakers of 12 of the languages belonged to one of four local Muslim sects

Language a mountain person speaks usually helps determine religious denomination


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Language and religion discrimination

  • Latin survived mainly as the ceremonial language of the Roman Catholic Church

  • In Iran, a non-Arabic Muslim land, Arabic is still used in religious ceremonies


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Language and religion discrimination

  • Religious books can shape languages by providing a standard form

    • Luther’s translation of the Bible led to standardization of German language

    • The Koran is the model for written Arabic

    • Early Welsh translation of a hymnal and the Bible helped the language survive

    • In Fiji, the Bible published in one of the 15 local dialects elevated it to the dominant native language


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Language and religion discrimination

  • Linkage of language and religion increase chance of nationalistic conflict

    • Greek/Christian - Turkish/Muslim problem in Cyprus

    • Armenian/Christian - Azeri/Muslim war

    • Battle against Nio-Saharan/Christian and animist tribal groups in Sudan


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The Mosaic of Languages discrimination

  • Linguistic Culture Regions

  • Linguistic Diffusion

  • Linguistic Ecology

  • Culturo-Linguistic Integration

  • Linguistic Landscapes


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Linguistic landscapes discrimination

  • 1. Cultural landscape bears the imprint of language in various ways

    • Example-road signs, billboards, graffiti, etc.

    • Can be a visual index to bilingualism or linguistic oppression of minorities

  • 2. Differences in alphabets render many foreign linguistic landscapes vividly alien



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Were? discrimination


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Messages discrimination

  • Both friendly and hostile messages are sent by linguistic landscapes

  • Often have political content—deal with power, domination, subjugation, or freedom (Figure 5.13)

  • Example of Turkey

    • Kurdish or Arabic speakers are not allowed any visual display of their languages

    • Linguistic landscape displays only Turkish

    • Linguistic minorities are visually reminded of their inferior position

  • Québec has tried to eliminate English-language signs


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Toponyms discrimination

  • Place-names

  • Often directly reflect spatial patterns of language, dialect, and ethnicity

  • Become part of the cultural landscape when they appear on signs and placards

  • Highway signs such as Huntsville, Harrisburg, Ohio River, Newfound Gap, etc. often provide a visible index to distribution of other cultural traits

  • Many place-names consist of two parts — the generic and the specific

    • The specific part of the names listed above (#4) would be: Hunts, Harris, Ohio, Newfound, and Hatteras

    • The generic parts, which tell what kind of place is being described are:

    • vile, burg, river, gap


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Wisconsin discrimination


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Wisconsin discrimination

  • This is a French toponym meaning “grassland of the dog.”

  • The French explorers Marquette and Joliet, following natural routeways from Montreal, reached this prairie site at the


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Wisconsin discrimination

  • confluence of the Mississipi and Wisconsin Rivers in 1673.

  • Alim, mean “dog” was the name of the local Indian chief.

  • “Prairie” is the generic and “du Chien” the


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Wisconsin discrimination

  • specific part of this placename.

  • Developed as a fur trading cener, it indeed became a rendezvous or meeting place, a notion incorporated in the civic boosterism of modern times.


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Toponyms discrimination

  • Generic toponyms are of greater value to cultural geographers than specific names

    • They appear again and again throughout a culture region

    • Every culture or subculture has its own distinctive set

    • Can be particularly valuable in tracing the spread of a culture

    • Often aid in reconstructing past culture regions


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Generic toponyms of the United States discrimination

  • New Englanders, speakers of the Northern dialect, frequently used the term center in the name of the town or hamlet near the center of township

  • Outlying settlements in New England frequently bear the prefix east, west, north, or south — the name of township being the suffix

  • Using these generic usages peculiar to New England we can locate colonies New Englanders founded as they migrated from their homelands

    • Westward through upstate New York, Ontario, and into the upper Midwest

    • Toponymic evidence can be found in Walworth County, Wisconsin


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Generic toponyms of the United States discrimination

  • Other generic place names identified with the Northern dialect—brook, notch, and corners

  • The trace of New England even reaches Seattle, Washington where “center” and “corner” are frequently used

  • Midland American areas can be identified by such terms as gap, cove, hollow, knob, and burgh

  • Southern speech is recognized by names as bayou, gully, and store (for rural hamlets)


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Toponyms and cultures of the past discrimination

  • Place-names may survive long after a culture has vanished, thereby preserving traces of the past

  • Australia abounds in Aborigine toponyms—even in areas where the native peoples have long since disappeared

  • Toponyms identifying physical geographical features seem to last permanently

  • Study of archaic names has greater value in the Eastern Hemisphere



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Toponyms and cultures of the past discrimination

  • Example of eastern Germany

    • Suffixes ow, in, and zig are common Slavic suffixes in village names

    • Suffix distribution accurately reveals the culture region peopled by Slavic tribes as late as A.D.800

    • Slavic languages have disappeared from most of eastern Germany

    • Suffix weiler, in names of German villages south of the Danube and west of the Rhine, reminds us of former Roman rule and Latin usage


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Toponyms and cultures of the past discrimination

  • Example of Spain and Portugal

  • Moorish rule for 700 years left many Arabic place-names

  • Prefix of guada on river names is a corruption of the Arabic wadi


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Toponyms and cultures of the past discrimination

  • Example of New Zealand

    • The Maori, a native Polynesian people, are today confined mainly to refuge areas

    • The smaller the town the larger the percentage of Maori place-names

    • Twenty percent of provinces have Maori names

    • Fifty-six percent of counties have Maori names

    • Nearly all streams, hills, and mountains retain Maori names

    • Implication—British settlement remains largely an urban phenomenon

  • Linguistic landscapes can help shape the character of places


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Toponyms and environmental modification discrimination

  • Generic place-names tell us about humankind’s past alteration of the environment

  • Germanic peoples cleared forests from England eastward into present-day Poland

    • Toponyms sometimes indicate how clearing was accomplished

    • Suffixes roth and reuth, as in Neuroth and Bayreuth, mean “rooted out” or “grubbed out”, and refer to the practice of digging out roots after cutting trees


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Toponyms and environmental modification discrimination

  • In England, ley or leigh, as in Woodley, means “clearing” or “open place” in the forest

  • In European place-names, brind, brunn, and brand, reveal clearing by using fire

  • In eastern woodlands of the United States, American Indians cleared considerable forest areas before the coming of Columbus

    • Abandoned grass-covered fields survived

    • Europeans recorded these places of deforestation by calling them prairie

  • Over 200 of these generic terms appear in wooded eastern Texas alone


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