Linguistics Language Geography
by
Hannah J. Haynie
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0202

Introduction

Unlike a unified, interdisciplinary field, language geography has largely been a decentralized area of study, carried out by individuals with interdisciplinary interests rather than through collaborations between linguists, geographers, and others with an interest in language and space. While appeals for interdisciplinary dialogue went largely unheeded during the 20th century, a recent shift in theoretical perspectives and methodological capabilities has revitalized the study of language geography as a truly interdisciplinary field. With the popularity and accessibility of mapping and spatial analysis tools in the contemporary digital age and the growing availability of georeferenced linguistic data and language map data sets, linguistic geography is experiencing a renaissance. Though traditional approaches to language geography remain important to the field, a new body of research is developing that involves sophisticated treatments of both language and geography to understand questions about the development of languages; the relationships between language, society, and environment; and broader human history.

Reference Works

Due to the relative infancy of a unified tradition of linguistic geography and the diversity of motivations and goals in linguistic geography research, no textbooks yet exist that focus specifically on this area of study. There are, however, a growing number of comprehensive edited volumes in this field. One of the earliest reference works to appear on language geography and dynamics is Breton 1991. This short book is now outdated; however, its first section is the closest thing to a textbook that has been written about language geography to date. Williams 1988, an edited volume that arose from the same geolinguistics movement, attempts to situate language geography as a subfield of human geography, with a focus on language in its social and political contexts. More recently, the multivolume handbook Language and Space (Vol. 1, Theories and Methods and Vol. 2, Language Mapping) has brought together a wide range of perspectives and projects in linguistic geography, as well as discussion of the associated methods and cartographic issues. Auer, et al. 2013 provides good perspective on the state of the field, including contributions pertaining to both language in physical space and language in interactional space.

  • Auer, Peter, Martin Hilpert, Anja Stukenbrock, and Benedikt Szmrescanyi, eds. 2013. Space in language and linguistics: Geographical, interactional, and cognitive perspectives. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

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    This collection provides a broad coverage of the field, including spatial variation within and across languages, several sections on interactional space, and typology. Though this breadth prevents it from treating any topic in enough depth to serve as a self-contained handbook, it represents one of the most up-to-date and interdisciplinary efforts to bring together work in geographically oriented linguistics.

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    • Auer, Peter, and Jürgen Erich Schmidt, eds. 2009. Language and space. Vol. 1, Theories and methods. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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      The contributions included in this volume include summaries of analytical traditions in linguistics, the dynamics of language geography within and across languages, data and methodological issues, and illustrative case studies. Language Mapping serves as a companion volume to this work.

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      • Breton, Roland J.-L. 1991. Geolinguistics: Language dynamics and ethnolinguistic geography. Ottawa, ON: Univ. of Ottawa Press.

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        This reference work on language geography provides an overview of dialectology, language and ethnicity, language dynamics, and very basic methods in language mapping. Part 1 provides a serviceable, if outdated, introduction to the field. Part 2 focuses on national and majority languages, which ignores much of the linguistic diversity that drives current research in the field.

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        • Lameli, Alfred, Roland Kehrein, and Stefan Rabanus, eds. 2010. Language and space. Vol. 2, Language mapping. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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          This companion volume to Theories and Methods is published in two parts: the first discusses mapping in linguistics, and the second provides maps associated with these discussions. The information contained in this volume provides a very useful introduction to mapping and cartography for the linguist, as well as an introduction to language-specific issues for nonlinguist geographers.

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          • Williams, Colin H., ed. 1988. Language in geographic context. Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.

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            This volume conceives of language geography as a branch of human geography, with all of the associated interdisciplinary extensions. Contributions to this volume discuss language in its social and political contexts, as well as methodological issues related to the study of language geography.

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            Journals

            To date the only dedicated journal for this area of study is Journal of Linguistic Geography. Relevant research also frequently appears in journals dedicated to dialectology, historical linguistics, typology, general linguistics, and general science.

            Language Atlases, Mapping Projects, and Language Geography Databases

            Language atlases have been used to provide basic information about the locations of languages, as in Asher and Moseley 2007, which map the territories occupied by the world’s languages with input from regional expert linguists. They have also been developed as tools for investigating linguistic phenomena in their broader spatial, cultural, and linguistic contexts, as in the European atlas series introduced in Weijnen 1975. Moseley 2010 uses the format as a tool for raising awareness regarding language endangerment, mapping locations and basic information for approximately 2,500 endangered languages. Dryer and Haspelmath 2013; Michaelis, et al. 2013; and Moran, et al. 2014 are data sets that link information about languages’ structural and phonological attributes to geographic locations and provide web interfaces for interactive mapping. The digital age has also ushered in projects like LL-Map, a web mapping tool for visualizing language maps contributed by independent scholars. World Language Mapping System (WLMS) is a proprietary geographic information system (GIS) data set with language range polygons for the languages catalogued in Ethnologue. The convenience of this data set has led to its use in many global-scale language geography studies. However, a growing number of reliable, open-source regional linguistic GIS data sets and language location coordinate databases have become available in recent years that provide alternatives to for-profit geographic data sources. For example, approximate point locations of languages are provided in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates for languoids in Hammarström, et al. 2016.

            • Asher, Ronald E., and Christopher Moseley, eds. 2007. Atlas of the world’s languages. London: Routledge.

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              This atlas maps the extents of the world’s languages and provides additional ecological and population density maps. The atlas is divided into ten sections, each containing maps developed by expert linguists for individual regions. For some areas both contemporary and historical language distributions are mapped.

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              • Dryer, Matthew S., and Martin Haspelmath, eds. 2013. The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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                World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) Online provides an interactive mapping interface for displaying information about typological characteristics of the world’s languages, as well as chapters that describe each feature in detail. Structural linguistic feature data from 2,679 languages is available, along with latitude and longitude coordinates, ISO code, genealogical classification, and countries where spoken.

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                • Hammarström, Harald, Robert Forkel, Martin Haspelmath, and Sebastian Bank. 2016. Glottolog 2.7. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

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                  Glottolog is a basic resource for cataloguing the world’s languages. It includes latitude and longitude coordinates for approximate language locations, as well as ISO 639-3 identifiers, bibliographic references, and familial classification information for each entry. This resource is used to link data to languages and locations across resources that use the Cross-Linguistic Linked Data (CLLD) standards.

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                  • LL-Map.

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                    LL-Map is a map annotation project affiliated with Linguist List, Indiana University and Stockholm University. It is intended to provide a web-GIS platform for collaborative language map creation and annotation by linguists, anthropologists, and other scholars from a broad cross-section of the academic community.

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                    • Michaelis, Susanne Maria, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath, and Magnus Huber, eds. 2013. The atlas of pidgin and creole language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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                      Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (APiCS) is an online database that contains information on the grammars of pidgin and creole languages. Its online tools are organized around a map interface, and structural data for seventy-six pidgin and creole varieties are linked to latitude and longitude coordinates, Glottolog identifiers, and information on lexifier and other contributing languages.

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                      • Moran, Steven, Daniel McCloy, and Richard Wright, eds. 2014. PHOIBLE online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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                        This database contains phonological inventory data from 1,672 languages, along with associated latitude and longitude coordinates, genealogical classifications (consistent with WALS), countries where spoken, and macro-area classification.

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                        • Moseley, Christopher, ed. 2010. The UNESCO atlas of the world’s languages in danger. 3d ed. Paris: UNESCO.

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                          This atlas provides information such as level of endangerment and countries where spoken for approximately 2,500 of the world’s endangered languages. An online version provides additional latitude and longitude coordinates, ISO codes, and speaker population information.

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                          • Weijnen, Antonius A., ed. 1975. Atlas linguarum Europae: Introduction. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum.

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                            The continent scale of the atlas introduced in this volume captures variation within languages as well as phenomena that reflect interactions between languages across the continent of Europe. Focusing primarily on lexical variation, the atlas provides word forms, place names, etymological information, and associated interpretive text for approximately 2,500 geographic points across twenty language families.

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                            • World Language Mapping System.

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                              WLMS is a purchasable data set of point and polygon layers representing the current locations of the languages of the Summer Institute of Linguistics’ Ethnologue. This data set has been used in many scholarly works on linguistic geography questions at a global scale, although open-source regional-scale alternatives exist for many parts of the world.

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                              Microscale Spatial Patterns and Processes in Language

                              Geography has been recognized as an important factor in dialect variation from the earliest days of dialectology. Mapping linguistic data and analyzing the spatial distributions of linguistic material have been central to dialect studies even as the theories and methods that inform dialect studies have undergone a dramatic evolution. Both the qualitative methods of traditional dialectology and newer quantitative methods commonly referred to as “dialectometry” rely on spatial patterns in language. This is nowhere more obvious than in the dialect atlas. Microscale patterns in language variation are also evident in urban environments, and the study of spatial patterns in this variation by linguists, cultural geographers, and policymakers is commonly included in the fields of “urban geolinguistics” and “language ecology.”

                              Traditional Dialect Geography

                              Though impressionistic descriptions of dialect variation can be found throughout the history of literature and language description, traditional dialect geography surfaced as a systematic area of study only in the late 19th century, with Georg Wenker’s German dialect survey. Wrede 1926, the first atlas volume published from Wenker’s surveys, began a tradition of dialect atlas creation. Gilliéron and Edmont 1902–1910 refined the dialect mapping procedure through the use of careful data collection techniques. The tradition of dialect atlas compilation begun by these early works has continued into the 20th and 21st centuries (see also Dialect Atlases). The analysis of spatial patterns in traditional, qualitative dialect geography relies on the interpretation of isoglosses and the density of the bundles they form. Good discussion of isogloss mapping can be found in Bloomfield 1933. The evolution of the field from using only simple diffusion or “wave” models to considering the alternative of more complicated “gravity” models was inspired by Trudgill 1974. This trend of viewing the geographic component of dialect diversification in a more sophisticated way is taken even further in Britain 2004. A good general textbook on dialectology, including dialect geography, is Chambers and Trudgill 1980.

                              • Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                The chapters “Dialect Geography” and “Dialect Borrowing” in this more general book on language and language change provide one of the earliest and clearest descriptions of traditional dialectology methods and the interpretation of dialect maps. Importantly, it points to the density of communication between speakers as the relevant factor in the emergence of spatial patterns in dialect features.

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                                • Britain, David. 2004. Space and spatial diffusion. In The handbook of language variation and change. Edited by Jack K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, and Natalie Schilling-Estes, 603–637. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                  Britain’s summary of spatial variation and diffusion of change in language proposes that geography is best characterized in terms of “spatiality,” and advocates the inclusion of social and perceptual notions of space in dialect geography, rather than simply conceiving of it in terms of Euclidean space.

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                                  • Chambers, Jack K., and Peter Trudgill. 1980. Dialectology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                    This general text on dialectology discusses both social and geographic patterns in language variation and language change. Its treatment of dialect geography, spatial patterns in dialect features, and the spatial diffusion of linguistic material within languages are thorough and concise.

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                                    • Gilliéron, Jules, and Edmond Edmont, eds. 1902–1910. Atlas linguistique de la France. 35 vols. Paris: H. Champion.

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                                      French language. This atlas established the basic methodology used for dialect data collection through the contemporary era: namely, the use of personal interviews conducted in the field by highly trained researchers and the use of phonetic transcriptions to capture details regarding variation in pronunciation of words and sounds.

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                                      • Trudgill, Peter. 1974. Linguistic change and diffusion: Description and explanation in sociolinguistic dialect geography. Language in Society 3.2: 215–246.

                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0047404500004358Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This article advocated for the use of a “gravity” model adapted from human geography to understand the diffusion of dialect material. Taking into account population sizes as well as distance, the gravity model became an important, more socially oriented competitor to the traditional “wave” model’s assumption of isotropic spatial diffusion.

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                                        • Wrede, Ferdinand, ed. 1926. Deutscher Sprachatlas: Auf Grund des von Georg Wenker begründeten Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reiches und mit Einschluss von Lexumburg. Vol. 1. Marburg, Germany: N. G. Elwert.

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                                          German language. This atlas was based on the first systematic dialect survey, involving a questionnaire of short sentences for translation into local vernaculars, sent to about fifty thousand schoolteachers across Germany. The Deutscher Sprachatlas project continues to be managed by scholars at Philipps-Universität Marburg. Some of the Wenker data has now been published online.

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                                          Dialectometry and Quantitative Studies

                                          The quantitative revolution that created the subfield of dialectometry began with Séguy’s rejection of neatly bounded dialect areas demarcated by isogloss bundles and the establishment of a continuous relationship between geographic distance and linguistic similarity (Séguy 1971). Important contributions of the Salzburg school of dialectometry since that time are summarized in Goebl 2006. Nerbonne 2010 examines the use of geography to operationalize social contact, identifying a general sublinear relationship between linguistic and spatial distance. Alternative conceptions of geography to simple Euclidean space are explored in other papers. Gooskens 2004 finds an impact of environmental barriers on dialect contact. Wieling, et al. 2011 introduces demographic factors to the study of dialect geography, demonstrating the implementation of a more complex model of social geography. Nerbonne, et al. 2011 describes the Gabmap web resource developed by Groningen scholars, providing online tools for dialectometry and mapping. Contemporary technologies have also inspired scholars outside of the main schools of dialectometry to take an interest in the geography of dialect variation. Eisenstein, et al. 2014, for example, examines the geographical diffusion of lexical items through online social networks. Hoch and Hayes 2010 summarizes the use of geographic information systems (GIS) in spatially oriented linguistics to date and advocates better integration of GIS analysis into linguistics.

                                          • Eisenstein, Jacob, Brendan O’Connor, Noah A. Smith, and Eric P. Xing. 2014. Diffusion of lexical change in social media. PLoS One 9.11: e113114.

                                            DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113114Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            This paper uses the massive corpus of Twitter social network posts to examine the geography of diffusion of innovative lexical items in a digital medium. Both spatial distance and demographic factors are found to impact diffusion of changes; however, demographics are found to play a larger role in online language change.

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                                            • Goebl, Hans. 2006. Recent advances in Salzburg dialectometry. Literary and Linguistics Computing 21.4: 411–435.

                                              DOI: 10.1093/llc/fql042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              An overview of approximately two decades of methodological innovation in the Salzburg school. Among other techniques, Goebl describes the use of similarity matrices to quantify linguistic relatedness, the use of clustering algorithms, and the cartographic representation of dialect patterns derived using these tools.

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                                              • Gooskens, Charlotte. 2004. Norwegian dialect distances geographically explained. In Language variation in Europe: Papers from the Second International Conference on Language Variation in Europe, ICLAVE 2 Uppsala University, Sweden, June 12–14, 2003. Edited by Britt-Louise Gunnarson, Lena Bergström, Gerd Eklund, et al., 195–206. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet.

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                                                A relatively low correlation between linguistic and spatial distance in Norwegian dialects is demonstrated to reflect the inability of Euclidean distance to capture contact patterns in the presence of geographic barriers. Historical travel times are demonstrated to be better predictors of linguistic variation than other measures of distance.

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                                                • Hoch, Shawn, and James J. Hayes. 2010. Geolinguistics: The incorporation of geographic information systems and science. Geographical Bulletin 51:23–36.

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                                                  This article summarizes the GIS analysis utilized in dialectology and linguistic geography to date, noting poor communication between geolinguistics and GIS science and advocating for closer ties between these areas of research.

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                                                  • Nerbonne, John. 2010. Measuring the diffusion of linguistic change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365:3821–3828.

                                                    DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0048Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    This article examines the relationship between linguistic and spatial distances in several dialect networks in light of the sublinear relationship established by Séguy. Geography is found to account for 16–37 percent of the variation in the sample data sets. Simulations are used to test standard models of diffusion.

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                                                    • Nerbonne, John, Rinke Colen, Charlotte Gooskens, Peter Kleiweg, and Therese Leinonen. 2011. Gabmap—a web application for dialectology. Dialectologia: Revista Electrònica 2:65–89.

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                                                      This article introduces the Gabmap suite of web tools for dialectometry and dialect mapping. The web application can be accessed directly online.

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                                                      • Séguy, Jean. 1971. La relation entre la distance spatiale et la distance lexicale. Revue de Linguistique Romane 35.138: 335–357.

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                                                        French language. This article rejected isogloss bundles as the primary tool for identifying spatial patterns in favor of correlating measures of linguistic similarity between regional varieties with the associated spatial distances. The relationship between space and language established by this paper was later christened Seguy’s Curve in Nerbonne 2010.

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                                                        • Wieling, Martijn, John Nerbonne, and R. Harald Baayen. 2011. Quantitative social dialectology: Explaining linguistic variation geographically and socially. PLoS One 6.9: e23613.

                                                          DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023613Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Generalized additive models and mixed effects modeling are used to investigate the simultaneous contributions of demographic factors and spatial distance to Dutch dialect variation. The more complex statistical models employed in this paper allow for a finer-grained analysis of linguistic changes and the social and geographic conditions that have influenced their diffusion.

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                                                          Dialect Atlases

                                                          The dialect atlas tradition is well illustrated by developments in the mapping of English varieties. The Linguistic Atlas of New England, The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest, the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS), and the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States are regional atlases that have developed directly or indirectly from Hans Kurath’s early-20th-century Linguistic Atlas of the United States and Canada (LAUSC) initiative, now incorporated into the Linguistic Atlas Project (LAP) and partially available in electronic form. These volumes focus on regionally important lexical and phonetic features. British dialects of English are surveyed in Orton, et al. 1978. Zelinsky and Williams 1988 provides further discussion of 20th-century language mapping projects in North America and the United Kingdom. Labov, et al. 2006 provides a survey of phonetics and phonology in North American English and a continent-wide analysis of North American English dialects. Kortmann and Lunkenheimer 2013 provides a global survey of morphosyntactic variation in varieties of English with an interactive web interface, reflecting trends toward the inclusion of structural features in dialectology and the popularity of digital dialect mapping. These trends are also reflected in non-English dialect atlases, such as the morphosyntactically focused Dynamic Syntactic Atlas of the Dutch Dialects (DynaSAND).

                                                          • Allen, Harold B., ed. 1973–1976. The linguistic atlas of the Upper Midwest. 3 vols. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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                                                            Part of the LAUSC project, this atlas covers the Upper Midwest of the United States from Minnesota and the Dakotas to Iowa and Nebraska. The maps in this atlas provide summaries of patterns rather than full phonetic detail for individual consultants, though editorial commentary is provided to aid the interpretation of maps.

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                                                            • Barbiers, Sjef, Hans Bennis, Gunther de Vogalaer, Magda Devos, and Magreet van der Ham. 2006. Dynamic Syntactic Atlas of the Dutch Dialects. Amsterdam: Meertens Institute.

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                                                              DynaSAND maps information on syntactic variables in Dutch dialects of the Netherlands. Its online interface makes it possible to select and map data based on syntactic features of interest, or alternatively by tagged word classes, lemmas, or specific test sentences.

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                                                              • Kortmann, Bernd, and Kerstin Lunkenheimer, eds. 2013. The Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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                                                                Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English (eWAVE) focuses on morphosyntactic variation among global varieties of English, including English-based pidgins and creoles. This open-access web resource allows for interactive sorting and filtering of data, while a companion atlas in book format provides additional detail on features, varieties, and world regions.

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                                                                • Kurath, Hans, ed. 1939–1943. Linguistic atlas of New England. 6 vols. Providence, RI: Brown Univ. for the American Council of Learned Societies.

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                                                                  The first of the LAUSC component atlases to be published, this atlas focuses on lexical variation. The atlas mirrors the detail and geographic scope of the European dialect atlas tradition (see Traditional Dialect Geography). A handbook for the atlas was published separately.

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                                                                  • Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. 2006. Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology, and sound change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1515/9783110167467Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    This atlas provides a continent-scale view of language variation in North America. Focused on phonetic and phonological variation, the editorial text summarizes patterns and discusses sound change in American English dialects.

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                                                                    • Linguistic Atlas Project.

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                                                                      Under the direction of William A. Kretzschmar Jr., the Linguistic Atlas Project carries on the mission of the LAUSC to map and analyze variation in North American English. Several of the component atlas projects, including LAMSAS, are being transitioned to digital formats, and some materials are available on the project website.

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                                                                      • McDavid, Raven I., Jr., and Raymond K. O’Cain, eds. 1980. Linguistic atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic states. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                        Two fascicles of the original atlas were published in hard copy; subsequently, LAMSAS has been moved online as part of the LAP project. This atlas covers the Mid-Atlantic region from New York and New Jersey to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The southern states it covers span from Delaware and Maryland to eastern Georgia and northeastern Florida.

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                                                                        • Orton, Harold, Stewart Sanderson, and John Widdowson, eds. 1978. The linguistic atlas of England. London: Croom Helm.

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                                                                          An atlas of the lexical, phonological, morphological, and syntactic dialect data collected by the English Dialect Survey under the direction of Orton Dieth and Eugen Dieth. The data collection for this atlas focused on speech patterns associated with older, rural speakers.

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                                                                          • Pederson, Lee, Susan L. McDaniel, and Carol M. Adams, eds. 1986–1993. Linguistic atlas of the Gulf states. 7 vols. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press.

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                                                                            This LAUSC project focused on the region spanning the southern border of the eastern United States from Florida to eastern Texas. Including data from a broader demographic sample of speakers than the classic dialect survey model, this atlas engages particularly with the intersection of social and regional variation. Materials from the associated dialect survey were also published in microfiche form.

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                                                                            • Zelinsky, Wilbur, and Colin H. Williams 1988. The mapping of language in North America and the British Isles. Progress in Human Geography 12.3: 337–368.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/030913258801200302Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              This article provides an overview of mapping projects in North America and the United Kingdom, with an emphasis on English-language dialect atlas projects in the titular regions. Although it is somewhat out of date, it includes more detail on early mapping projects and atlases than can be provided here.

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                                                                              Urban Geolinguistics

                                                                              While linguistic variation in urban settings is often viewed by linguists through a social lens rather than a spatial one, the “geolinguistics” field of geography introduced spatial considerations into the dialogue about urban sociolinguistics in the 1980s and 1990s. Geographically oriented works on language in urban environments tend to focus on multilingual spaces, as illustrated in Williams and van der Merwe 1996, as well as minority languages and lects, as in Cenoz and Gorter 2006. Angle 1981 introduces the concept of “language ecology” to describe context-rich sociolinguistic study of linguistically diverse urban centers. Census data is commonly used to link languages to locations in this area of research, as demonstrated in Veselinova and Booza 2009. Several chapters in Williams 1991 discuss the effects of policy on language and the impact of language on communication, identity, and political power, highlighting important links between the study of urban language diversity and practical policy matters.

                                                                              • Angle, John. 1981. The ecology of language maintenance: Data from nine U.S. metropolitan areas. Urban Affairs Quarterly 17.2: 219–231.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/004208168101700207Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                This paper uses US Census and Current Population Survey data to investigate urban language ecology, specifically the impact of the distribution of minority languages in physical and social spaces on language maintenance.

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                                                                                • Cenoz, Jasone, and Durk Gorter. 2006. Linguistic landscape and minority languages. International Journal of Multilingualism 3.1: 67–80.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/14790710608668386Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Using data on the linguistic content of signage to represent the linguistic landscape, this paper focuses on the impact of language policy on language use. A comparison of minority languages, state languages, and international languages is used to investigate policy and practice across two case-study cities in the Netherlands and Spain.

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                                                                                  • Veselinova, Ljuba, and J. C. Booza. 2009. Studying the multilingual city: A GIS-based approach. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 30.2: 145–165.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/01434630802582476Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    This paper uses census data in a geographic information system (GIS) analysis of multilingualism in the Detroit metropolitan area. Information about languages spoken in the home is used to map linguistic patterns in the city, which are discussed in light of educational and socioeconomic factors.

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                                                                                    • Williams, Colin H., ed. 1991. Linguistic minorities, society and territory. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

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                                                                                      This volume collects a number of geolinguistic studies focused on Western Europe and Canada, providing a cohesive set of case studies on the relationships between minority languages and social, political, and economic factors such as demography, development, and policy.

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                                                                                      • Williams, Colin H., and Izak van der Merwe. 1996. Mapping the multilingual city: A research agenda for urban geolinguistics. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 17.1: 49–66.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/01434639608666259Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        In this article the authors both argue for the importance of GIS as a tool for urban linguistic study and present a case study focused on Cape Town, South Africa. The case study examines patterns in several of the city’s languages, including contact, centers of language use and changes in the locations of those centers over time, and links between these patterns and the use of instructional languages in schools.

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                                                                                        Geography and Macroscale Language Evolution

                                                                                        Although linguistic geography is not as deeply integrated into historical linguistics as it is in dialectology, the interaction between contact and descent and the modeling of prehistoric language expansions have long been matters of concern for historical linguistics. With the advent of computational methods for phylogenetics, phylogeography, and spatial analysis, linguists and scholars of language prehistory have gained new traction on these questions.

                                                                                        Genealogy and Geography

                                                                                        The relative contributions of genealogical descent and geographic convergence to language relationships are hotly debated, as demonstrated in Aikhenvald and Dixon 2006, but the problem of distinguishing genealogical and geographic influences on language relationships still looms. Because languages that are closely related tend to occur in geographically proximal locations, spatial autocorrelation in linguistic properties can be due to inheritance. This is illustrated by the case study in Cavalli-Sforza and Wang 1986, which demonstrates a spatial signal in levels of shared cognates among related languages. Spatial autocorrelation in linguistic properties can also result from areal diffusion of linguistic material. Thus the problem of distinguishing areal and genealogical contributions to language relationships is not just a matter of distinguishing inherited features from borrowed features, but also one of interpreting the spatial patterns that occur in linguistic features and resemblances. This debate regarding the interpretation of spatial autocorrelation is exemplified in Dunn, et al. 2008 and Donohue, et al. 2011. Cysouw 2013 addresses the question of how to assess relative contributions of genealogy and areal diffusion to the structure of languages more directly.

                                                                                        • Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y., and Robert M. W. Dixon, eds. 2006. Areal diffusion and genetic inheritance: Problems in comparative linguistics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                          This edited volume addresses the applicability of the family tree model to the world’s language families and the contribution of areal diffusion to language relatedness. Some contributions to the volume propose that in at least some parts of the world, areal diffusion renders the family tree model unsuitable. Others argue for the utility of genealogical classification.

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                                                                                          • Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, and William S.-Y. Wang. 1986. Spatial distance and lexical replacement. Language 62.1: 38–55.

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                                                                                            By comparing levels of shared cognates for items of varying levels of stability to the geographic distance between languages, the authors find a generally logarithmic relationship between distance and cognacy, though differences between subsets of their sample suggest other factors (e.g., social or environmental variables) affect this relationship.

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                                                                                            • Cysouw, Michael. 2013. Disentangling geography from genealogy. In Space in language and linguistics: Geographical, interactional, and cognitive perspectives. Edited by Peter Auer, Martin Hilpert, Anja Stukenbrock, and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi, 21–37. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                              This paper engages directly with the question of how genealogy and geography affect structural features of language. For a case study in Eurasia, genealogy is found to be the primary contributor to typological similarity, and the author argues that residual similarity not explained by genealogy should be used to assess geographic convergence.

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                                                                                              • Donohue, Mark, Simon Musgrave, Bronwen Whiting, and Søren Wichmann. 2011. Typological feature analysis models linguistic geography. Language 87.2: 369–383.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1353/lan.2011.0033Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                This response to Dunn, et al. 2008 proposes that the relationships identified through phylogenetic analysis of structural features in Island Melanesia reflect geographic processes of diffusion. The spatial autocorrelation in that study is interpreted in this article as direct evidence of the diffusion of grammatical material, incompatible with a genealogical explanation.

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                                                                                                • Dunn, Michael, Stephen C. Levinson, Eva Lindström, Ger Reesink, and Angela Terrill. 2008. Structural phylogeny in historical linguistics: Methodological explorations applied in Island Melanesia. Language 84.4: 710–759.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1353/lan.0.0069Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This paper finds reasonably strong spatial autocorrelation in the structural profiles of Papuan languages and Oceanic languages, but a far weaker spatial signal in pairs comprised of one Papuan language and one Oceanic language. The relatively high spatial autocorrelation within the Papuan languages is interpreted as a reflection of phylogenetic (versus purely diffusional) processes.

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                                                                                                  Language Spread and Proto-Language Homelands: Traditional Approaches

                                                                                                  The relationship between phylogeny and geography has often been explored in attempts to identify the homelands of protolanguages and map linguistic subgrouping onto trajectories of language family expansion. Linguistic paleontology uses mappings between reconstructed etyma and the environmental or social conditions required to explain their semantic content to identify homelands and migration patterns. Sapir 1936 demonstrates this language-internal method for reconstructing historical geography in the Athabaskan language family. The “center of gravity” method is a heuristic approach to identifying homelands whose foundational principle is that the area of highest linguistic diversity within a family is the most likely center of its dispersal. Wichmann, et al. 2010 operationalizes this using quantitative measures of linguistic diversity and spatial distance in order to identify possible homelands for language families of the world. Blust 1984–1985 examines Austronesian expansion using both linguistic paleontology and the “center of gravity” theory. Other approaches to modeling prehistoric language movements incorporate environmental factors (Nichols 1997), comparisons between geographic information system (GIS) models and linguistic diversity maps (Dahl, et al. 2011), or archaeological data (Hill 2001) in addition to considering language-specific facts. An important debate within this area of study is where and when the Indo-European family originated and how it spread into its current geographic distribution. Gimbutas 1956 presents an argument for an origin in the Eurasian steppe, relying on both linguistic paleontology arguments and archaeological information. Renfrew 1987 presents a prominent competing hypothesis: Indo-European arose from a point of origin in Anatolia at an earlier point in prehistory. Another important debate in this area concerns the link between the spread of language and the spread of agriculture, proposed in Diamond and Bellwood 2003.

                                                                                                  • Blust, Robert. 1984–1985. The Austronesian homeland: A linguistic perspective. Asian Perspectives 26.1: 45–67.

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                                                                                                    This article reviews the lexical evidence for various Austronesian homeland proposals using principles of linguistic paleontology and examines the geographic distribution of subgroups to identify secondary centers of expansion, mapping out a timeline and trajectory for the family’s spread.

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                                                                                                    • Dahl, Östen, J. Christopher Gillam, David G. Anderson, José Iriarte, and Silvia M. Copé. 2011. Linguistic diversity zones and cartographic modeling: GIS as a method for understanding the prehistory of lowland South America. In Ethnicity in ancient Amazonia: Reconstructing past identities from archaeology, linguistics, and ethnohistory. Edited by Alf Hornborg and Jonathan D. Hill, 211–224. Boulder, CO: Univ. Press of Colorado.

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                                                                                                      This chapter discusses patterns in the linguistic diversity of South America and their implications for understanding linguistic prehistory. A comparison of diversity patterns with modeled least-cost paths along which population movement may have occurred supports a tentative conclusion that areas of high language diversity may have been settled early in this region’s population history.

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                                                                                                      • Diamond, Jared, and Peter Bellwood. 2003. Farmers and their languages: The first expansions. Science 300.5619: 597–603.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1126/science.1078208Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This paper proposes that the language expansions responsible for spreading several of the world’s large language families occurred as a result of the rise and spread of agricultural food production.

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                                                                                                        • Gimbutas, Marija. 1956. The prehistory of Eastern Europe: Part 1, Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Copper Age cultures in Russia and the Baltic area. American School of Prehistoric Research, Harvard Univ. Bulletin 20. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum.

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                                                                                                          This monograph brought together archaeological and linguistic evidence from a variety of sources to propose that the Indo-European people originated in the Pontic steppe region around 4,000 BCE and spread as their warrior culture, equipped with horses, expanded militaristically.

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                                                                                                          • Hill, Jane H. 2001. Proto-Uto-Aztecan: A community of cultivators in central Mexico? American Anthropologist 103.4: 913–934.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1525/aa.2001.103.4.913Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Whereas earlier theories traced the Uto-Aztecan language family to origins among forager communities near what is now Arizona, New Mexico, and adjacent parts of Mexico, Hill uses both linguistic and archaeological evidence to tie proto-Uto-Aztecan to maize cultivation and traces its spread to a Mesoamerican source.

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                                                                                                            • Nichols, Johanna. 1997. Modeling ancient population structure and population movement in linguistics and archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:359–384.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.359Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              In addition to discussing “spread zones,” through which language expansion tends to happen rapidly and at large geographic scales, Nichols discusses the impact of economic factors and geographic features (e.g., mountains, coastlines, forests) on language spread.

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                                                                                                              • Renfrew, Colin. 1987. Archaeology and language: The puzzle of Indo-European origins. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                This book reevaluates the archaeological and linguistic evidence for the Indo-European homeland, proposing that the Indo-European family spread from Anatolia from around 7,000 BCE in a wave of demic diffusion associated with the spread of agriculture.

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                                                                                                                • Sapir, Edward. 1936. Internal linguistic evidence suggestive of the northern origin of the Navaho. American Anthropologist 38.2: 224–235.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/aa.1936.38.2.02a00040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Sapir applies linguistic paleontology to determine that despite its modern location in the US Southwest, the Navajo language has a northern origin nearer to the center of the Athabaskan language family. The lexical items he examines are mostly related to material culture and environmental adaptation.

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                                                                                                                  • Wichmann, Søren, André Müller, and Viveka Velupillai. 2010. Homelands of the world’s language families. Diachronica 27.2: 247–276.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1075/dia.27.2.05wicSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    By applying the “center of gravity” model algorithmically, using computed measures of linguistic difference and spatial distance, this paper identifies potential homelands for all Ethnologue language families. The authors further point out patterns in the spatial distribution of proposed homelands that suggest specific ecological pressures on prehistoric language geography.

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                                                                                                                    Language Expansion and Homeland Questions in Phylogenetics

                                                                                                                    Advances in the computational methods available for phylogenetic analysis have opened the door for new approaches to the question of how language families have spread and where they have come from. Early in this era, this primarily involved plotting phylogenies to geography, as in Gray, et al. 2009, or mapping geography onto trees, as in Gray and Jordan 2000, to evaluate hypotheses of language expansion. Mappings between phylogeny and geography have also been used to evaluate hypotheses regarding the mechanisms of language spread, such as the language-farming dispersal hypothesis (Holden 2002). More recent work has treated geographic location in terms of continuous latitude and longitude traits whose evolution is estimated using a Brownian motion model (Currie, et al. 2013) or has used techniques that simultaneously infer phylogenies and spatial dispersal (Bouckaert, et al. 2012). Walker and Ribeiro 2011 employs both character-based and simultaneous-inference approaches to phylogeography, using a discrete model of geographic regions to evaluate potential homelands identified by a continuous phylogeographic model.

                                                                                                                    • Bouckaert, Remco, Philippe Lemey, Michael Dunn, et al. 2012. Mapping the origins and expansion of the Indo-European language family. Science 337.6097: 957–960.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1126/science.1219669Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      This paper implements Bayesian phylogeographic methods to model the descent and spread of Indo-European languages. The results are largely consistent with the Anatolian agriculturalist spread hypothesis, locating an origin on the Anatolian Peninsula 8,000–9,500 years ago.

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                                                                                                                      • Currie, Thomas E., Andrew Meade, Myrtille Guillon, and Ruth Mace. 2013. Cultural phylogeography of the Bantu languages of sub-Saharan Africa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280.1762: 20130695.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0695Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        This paper addresses controversy regarding Bantu spread by using phylogeographic methods to map the spread of Bantu subgroups and evaluate patterns in the geography of Bantu expansion. The findings show a pattern in which languages expand over greater territories with greater distance from the equator.

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                                                                                                                        • Gray, Russell D., Alexei J. Drummond, and Simon J. Greenhill. 2009. Language phylogenies reveal expansion pulses and pauses in Pacific settlement. Science 323.5913: 479–483.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1126/science.1166858Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          This paper builds on the work in Gray and Jordan 2000. Importantly, it links patterns in language phylogenies to processes of geographic expansion. The authors map an inferred phylogeny to geography to identify where and when pulses and pauses in language spread occurred.

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                                                                                                                          • Gray, Russell D., and Fiona M. Jordan. 2000. Language trees support the express-train sequence of Austronesian expansion. Nature 405:1052–1055.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1038/35016575Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            This paper represents an early implementation of phylogenetic methods in historical linguistics and examines theories of Austronesian spread. The authors map geography onto the phylogeny by treating it as a character, encoded by a set of categorical location character-states, and find that the “express-train” model fits well with the inferred phylogeny.

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                                                                                                                            • Holden, Clare Janaki. 2002. Bantu language trees reflect the spread of farming across sub-Saharan Africa: A maximum-parsimony analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 269:793–799.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2002.1955Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              This study examines clades reconstructed in maximum parsimony trees for the Bantu language family in light of archaeological evidence, concluding that the geography of Bantu language evolution is consistent with a joint spread of farming and Bantu languages across sub-Saharan Africa.

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                                                                                                                              • Walker, Robert S., and Lincoln A. Ribeiro. 2011. Bayesian phylogeography of the Arawak expansion in lowland South America. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:2562–2567.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2579Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                This paper uses Bayesian phylogeographic modeling to infer the phylogeny and homeland of South America’s Arawak family. Two potential homelands were identified, on the Atlantic coast and in western Amazonia, with stronger support for the western location provided by tracing a geographic region character on the phylogeny.

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                                                                                                                                Genes, Language, and Geography

                                                                                                                                Cavalli-Sforza, et al. 1988 identifies parallels between language evolution and human genetic evolution and proposes that the development of language helps to explain the origins and rapid geographic expansion of modern humans. Jay, et al. 2011 investigates the ability of geography and linguistic classifications to predict genetic variation in indigenous American populations. Balanovsky, et al. 2011 and Roewer, et al. 2013 describe stark contrasts in gene and language coevolution patterns in the Caucasus and South America, respectively, suggesting that environmental conditions may have a marked effect on language/gene coevolution. An even finer-scale analysis is presented in Lansing, et al. 2007, which probes the details of language-gene-geography relationships at the community level. Dediu and Ladd 2007 examines the generalization that correlations between linguistic variables and allele frequencies are typically epiphenomenal of the shared geographies and histories of languages and populations.

                                                                                                                                • Balanovsky, Oleg, Khadizhat Dibirova, Anna Dybo, et al. 2011. Parallel evolution of genes and languages in the Caucasus region. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28.10: 2905–2920.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msr126Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  This study shows remarkably high levels of correlation between haplotype frequency and language in the rugged Caucasus region, suggesting that rugged terrain and the associated geographic isolation of populations have limited the opportunities for language and genes to diverge (e.g., through genetic admixture and language shift).

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                                                                                                                                  • Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, Alberto Piazza, Paolo Menozzi, and Joanna Mountain. 1988. Reconstruction of human evolution: Bringing together genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 85.16: 6002–6006.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.85.16.6002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    This early paper on the relationship between genes, language, and geography in human origins finds substantial global parallels between human genetic evolution and language phylogenies.

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                                                                                                                                    • Dediu, Dan, and D. Robert Ladd. 2007. Linguistic tone is related to the population frequency of the adaptive haplogroups of two brain size genes, ASPM and Microcephalin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104.26: 10944–10949.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0610848104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      This paper looks at the relationships between phonemic tone and haplogroup frequencies for two genes, controlling for geography and linguistic affinity. Whereas spurious associations between genes and linguistic phenomena may be expected based on parallels in geography and history in the evolution of these traits, this study finds evidence for direct, independent language-gene links.

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                                                                                                                                      • Jay, Flora, Olivier François, and Michael G. B. Blum. 2011. Predictions of Native American population structure using linguistic covariates in a hidden regression framework. PLoS One 6.1: e16227.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016227Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        This article uses geographic and linguistic information about indigenous American populations to predict genetic variation, finding that the inclusion of linguistic data significantly improves the model. These methods are used to compare Greenbergian and Ethnologue language classifications, finding that Greenberg’s super-family levels of classification do not improve the prediction of genetic variation.

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                                                                                                                                        • Lansing, J. Stephen, Murray P. Cox, Sean S. Downey, et al. 2007. Coevolution of languages and genes on the island of Sumba, eastern Indonesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104.41: 16022–16026.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0704451104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          This paper investigates the relationship between language and genes in an island case study involving contact among unrelated languages. This work looks at fine-scale relationships between language, genetics, and geography in a controlled manner, proposing a model of the island’s population history that accounts for the language-gene-geography relationships while taking into account admixture.

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                                                                                                                                          • Roewer, Lutz, Michael Nothnagel, Leonor Gusmão, et al. 2013. Continent-wide decoupling of Y-chromosomal genetic variation from language and geography in native South Americans. PLoS Genetics 9.4: e1003460.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This paper finds very little evidence for correlation between genetic groups and linguistic or geographic affiliation, with the exception of a single geographic region. These findings are interpreted as support for rapid geographic expansion upon entry to South America, followed by divergence in small, isolated communities, with a later population incursion from Asia.

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                                                                                                                                            Geography and Typology

                                                                                                                                            Geography has played a central role in typological investigations of language diversity, with a large body of research in this area focused on explaining heterogeneous patterns in the world’s language diversity in relation to properties of the physical environment and social organization. Although linguistic areas are also inherently spatial in nature, the application of geographically sophisticated theories and techniques to the study of feature diffusion in linguistic areas has lagged behind diversity studies.

                                                                                                                                            Spatial Patterns in Linguistic Diversity

                                                                                                                                            The field of typology underwent a transformation in the 1990s, turning from the study of universal trends in linguistic traits to patterns in linguistic diversity. This new interest in spatial patterns of linguistic diversity paved the way for a now-burgeoning area of language geography that focuses on understanding the distribution of languages in space. Nichols 1992 and Nettle 1999 brought geography into focus early in this era with hypotheses regarding the impacts of environmental factors on the development of spatial patterns in linguistic diversity. A link between latitude and language richness, now fairly well established, was first investigated in Mace and Pagel 1995. Gavin and Stepp 2014 reevaluates this trend and discusses differences in the strength of latitudinal gradients in language and biological diversity. More complex models of environmental impacts on language diversity have been tested in recent contributions to the field. Gavin and Sibanda 2012 examines a number of predictors of language richness in a Pacific island case study. Currie and Mace 2009 investigates both ecological and cultural factors affecting language diversity, finding a strong relationship between political complexity and language area. Currie and Mace 2012 looks further into differences in the development of linguistic diversity in forager and agriculturalist societies. Gavin, et al. 2017 moves from correlational studies to simulation models to test hypotheses regarding the impact of environmental conditions on the development of linguistic diversity. Other scholars embed investigations of environmental determinants of linguistic diversity into research on other processes and phenomena. Holman, et al. 2007 looks at ecological factors in a larger discussion of correlations between structural linguistic differences and geographic distance. Codding and Jones 2013 relates California’s linguistic diversity to ecological productivity by modeling settlement with respect to habitat suitability. Gavin, et al. 2013 surveys the geographic study of linguistic diversity to date and lays out a proposal for the direction of the field, including theoretical and methodological recommendations.

                                                                                                                                            • Codding, Brian F., and Terry L. Jones. 2013. Environmental productivity predicts migration, demographic, and linguistic patterns in prehistoric California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110.36: 14569–14573.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302008110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              The exceptional linguistic diversity of California is explained in this paper by a model that uses landscape productivity to predict the settlement patterns associated with migration events. The relationship between language density and ecology established by this model is further supported by a correlation between environmental productivity and population density of ethnolinguistic groups.

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                                                                                                                                              • Currie, Thomas E., and Ruth Mace. 2009. Political complexity predicts the spread of ethnolinguistic groups. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106.18: 7339–7344.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0804698106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                This paper uses geographical information systems (GIS) to evaluate a large number of hypotheses regarding ecological impacts on language diversity. In addition to finding the expected latitude gradient in language richness, several weak but significant associations are identified. Political complexity is also found to be a strong predictor of language area.

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                                                                                                                                                • Currie, Thomas E., and Ruth Mace. 2012. The evolution of ethnolinguistic diversity. Advances in Complex Systems 15:1150006.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1142/S0219525911003372Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  The results of this GIS study of language diversity show differences in the links between environment and linguistic diversity among forager groups as compared to agricultural groups.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Gavin, Michael C., Carlos A. Botero, Claire Bowern, et al. 2013. Toward a mechanistic understanding of linguistic diversity. BioScience 63.7: 524–535.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1525/bio.2013.63.7.6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    As a review of the state of the field and a proposal for the direction of future research, this paper is concerned with the theory of linguistic diversity and its environmental and social determinants, as well as the methodological considerations associated with this area of study.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Gavin, Michael C., Thiago F. Rangel, Claire Bowern, et al. 2017. Process-based modelling shows how climate and demography shape language diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/geb.12563Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Rather than employing a correlation-based approach to understanding why languages are distributed in dense clusters in some regions and more sparsely in others, this study uses a process-based simulation model to investigate the distribution of Australia’s indigenous languages. A key finding is that language richness in Australia is well predicted by climate variables.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Gavin, Michael C., and Nokuthaba Sibanda. 2012. The island biogeography of languages. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21.10: 958–967.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00744.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        This paper uses space as well as phylogeny, time of settlement, and several ecological variables to predict language richness. Results show that island area and isolation account for a large amount of variation in linguistic diversity and that other variables, such as environmental productivity, may impact language only in scale-dependent ways.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Gavin, Michael C., and John Richard Stepp. 2014. Rapoport’s rule revisited: Geographical distributions of human languages. PLoS One 9.9: e107623.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107623Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          This paper examines the link between latitude and linguistic diversity at a global scale, finding an inverse relationship between language richness and latitude, and a correspondingly positive relationship between language area and latitude. Discussion suggests that boundary formation and limited overlap in language ranges creates a stronger latitude-diversity link in language than is found in biological species.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Holman, Eric W., Christian Schulze, Dietrich Stauffer, and Søren Wichmann. 2007. On the relation between structural diversity and geographical distance among languages: Observations and computer simulations. Linguistic Typology 11.2: 393–421.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1515/LINGTY.2007.027Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            This paper examines structural diversity as a function of geography, identifying patterns in spatial autocorrelation between related and unrelated languages and dissecting these patterns according to some ecological factors that are hypothesized to influence language diversity.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Mace, Ruth, and Mark Pagel. 1995. A latitudinal gradient in the density of human languages in North America. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 261:117–121.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1995.0125Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              The link between latitude and linguistic diversity (languages per area) is demonstrated in North America, and further investigation reveals that ecological habitat diversity is also correlated with linguistic diversity, independent of the inverse relationship between latitude and language diversity.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Nettle, Daniel. 1999. Linguistic diversity. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                Within this complex discussion of linguistic diversity is a concrete geographic proposal: ecological risk, which is largely determined by climate, drives the social organization through which linguistic diversity is created.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226580593.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Geography took on a more central role in the field of typology with the publication of this book, which looks at global patterns in areal typology using a controlled language sample. In examining linguistic diversity, this book proposes geographic areas called “spread zones” and “residual zones” that are shaped by ecological factors and behave very differently with regard to the development of linguistic diversity.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Linguistic Areas

                                                                                                                                                                  Linguistic areas or Sprachbunds are a well-accepted but poorly defined phenomenon within language, in which languages within a conscribed geographical region converge in grammatical characteristics. Much of the debate regarding language contact and linguistic areas lies outside of the focus of linguistic geography. However, important geographic questions remain in the study of linguistic areas, namely: How is the spatial extent of a linguistic area determined, and what sort of borders do these areas have? These questions make an appearance in several of the contributions in Hieda, et al. 2011. Bickel and Nichols 2006 engages with the question of identifying linguistic areas more directly, looking for feature overlaps that are independent of genealogy or chance. Michael, et al. 2014 proposes a methodology to identify zones of potential linguistic convergence based on linguist assessments of typological “core” areas. Though the boom in research that has recently been visited on geographical trends in language diversity and modeling language expansions has not yet been matched by a similar quantity of geographically sophisticated studies on linguistic areas, advances in this area are on the horizon. See also the Oxford Bibliographies in Linguistics article “Linguistic Areas.”

                                                                                                                                                                  • Bickel, Balthasar, and Johanna Nichols. 2006. Oceania, the Pacific Rim, and the theory of linguistic areas. Paper presented at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, 10–12 February 2006. In Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: Special Session on Languages and Linguistics of Oceania. Edited by Zhenya Antić, Charles B. Chang, Jissup Hong, Michael J. Houser, Maziar Toosarvandani, and Yao Yao, 3–15. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

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                                                                                                                                                                    This paper characterizes areality as a property of traits, not of languages, and looks for evidence of structural feature distribution overlap, controlling for genealogy and typological universals. Through this procedure, a Pacific Rim linguistic area is identified, encompassing the western coasts of the Americas, the coast of East Asia, Australia, New Guinea, and Oceania.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Hieda, Osamu, Christa König, and Hiroshi Nakagawa, eds. 2011. Geographical typology and linguistic areas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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                                                                                                                                                                      This volume includes a diversity of linguistic area studies, focusing largely on the grammatical features and processes of language change involved in linguistic areas. Geography plays an important role in some studies, including Matthew Dryer’s discussion of “Noun-Modifier Order in Africa” (pp. 287–311).

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Michael, Lev, Will Change, and Tammy Stark. 2014. Exploring areality in the Circum-Andean region using a Naive Bayes classifier. Language Dynamics and Change 4.1: 27–86.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1163/22105832-00401004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        This paper establishes a method for inferring the membership of potential linguistic areas, using a classification method to characterize resemblances between sets of languages and linguist-identified linguistic area “cores.” This core and periphery technique identifies geographic areas in which non-Andean languages show convergence with Andean languages.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Language in Its Physical and Social Environments

                                                                                                                                                                        One of the earliest statements on the relationship of language to its physical environment argues that the physical environment impacts language only through the individual behaviors and social forces that it shapes (Sapir 1912). Recently, however, a number of studies have appeared to link linguistic phenomena directly to environmental variables. Fought, et al. 2004 and Munroe, et al. 2009, for example, correlate sonority with climate. Everett, et al. 2015 finds effects of climate on the development of tone. Everett 2013 associates ejective consonants with proximity to high elevations. Greenhill 2016 introduces a target article and multiple responses that debate the concept of environmental pressures and selection in language evolution. Each of these studies establishes statistical links between linguistic traits and properties of the physical environment, and supports the treatment of these correlations as evidence of causal relationships through appeals to physiological or acoustical literature. Similar global patterns have been investigated in the interactions between language and its social context, with several studies correlating linguistic variables with speaker population size. Lupyan and Dale 2010 links morphological complexity to population size, with an explanation that revolves around adult language acquisition. Hay and Bauer 2007 identifies a correlation between speaker population size and phoneme inventory size. Moran, et al. 2012, however, brings up the very important matter of nonindependence in language data, finding little evidence for the link between population and phoneme inventory size in a more carefully controlled study. The problems with data independence and sampling that plague this area of study are discussed in detail in Roberts and Winters 2013, which proposes several ways to improve the quality of research in this area. Correlational studies aimed at identifying relationships between environmental and linguistic variables have a place in investigating the relationship between language and geography, particularly when they are used to generate testable theories rather than to assert causal relationships. However, they require at least as much care in sampling, data curation, and methodological decisions as studies in other areas of linguistic geography.

                                                                                                                                                                        • Everett, Caleb. 2013. Evidence for direct geographic influences on linguistic sounds: The case of ejectives. PLoS One 8.6: e65275.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065275Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          The association between ejective consonants and languages’ proximity to high-elevation locations that is central to this study is claimed to represent a physiological effect of elevation and air pressure on speech production and a resulting trend in sound system development.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Everett, Caleb, Damián E. Blasi, and Seán G. Roberts. 2015. Climate, vocal folds, and tonal languages: Connecting the physiological and geographic dots. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112.5: 1322–1327.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1417413112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            This paper finds a correlation between complex linguistic tone systems and mean humidity and mean temperature. The claim that this represents a direct impact of environmental factors on the development of a linguistic trait is supported by a review of laryngology literature that shows effects of ambient air aridity on vocal fold vibration.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Fought, John G., Robert L. Munroe, Carmen R. Fought, and Erin M. Good. 2004. Sonority and climate in a world sample of languages: Findings and prospects. Cross-Cultural Research 38.1: 27–51.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/1069397103259439Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The relationship between mean sonority of lexical and text samples and climate identified in this study’s small sample of languages (n=60) is proposed to reflect greater frequency of long-distance verbal communication in warm climate societies.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Greenhill, Simon J. 2016. Overview: Debating the effect of environment on language. Journal of Language Evolution 1.1: 30–32.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/jole/lzv007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                This article serves as the introduction to a target article and series of responses that debate the nature of selection in language evolution and the potential for environmental factors to condition the evolution of particular linguistic features. The issue’s entire focus section on the evolution of tone and climatic aridity provides useful discussion of language-environment interactions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Hay, Jennifer, and Laurie Bauer. 2007. Phoneme inventory size and population size. Language 83.2: 388–400.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1353/lan.2007.0071Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  This paper finds a positive correlation between speaker population size and number of phonemes in both consonant and vowel inventories in a sample of 216 languages. The authors discuss potential explanations for this trend, but ultimately express some agnosticism regarding the source of the pattern.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Lupyan, Gary, and Rick Dale. 2010. Language structure is partly determined by social structure. PLoS One 5.1: e8559.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008559Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    This study finds a relationship between morphological complexity of languages and the size of speaker populations, with smaller populations associated with greater morphological complexity. To explain this, the authors appeal to the imperfect language acquisition of adults, which they hypothesize is more likely to occur in large populations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Moran, Steven, Daniel McCloy, and Richard Wright. 2012. Revisiting population size vs. phoneme inventory size. Language 88.4: 877–893.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/lan.2012.0087Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Using a larger language sample (n=1,010) and methods that account for genealogical relationships, this study revisits the population size–phoneme inventory size link reported in Hay and Bauer 2007. The results show smaller effects of population size on phoneme inventory size, and considerable variation in the strength and direction of the correlation across language families.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Munroe, Robert L., John G. Fought, and Ronald K. S. Macaulay. 2009. Warm climates and sonority classes: Not simply more vowels and fewer consonants. Cross-Cultural Research 43.2: 123–133.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1069397109331485Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This paper finds a link between sonorant consonants and warm climate zones in a small sample of languages (n=60). The authors propose that speech in warm climates is more likely to take place outdoors than in cold climates, and that this outdoor speech is likely to involve communication over greater distances than indoor speech.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Roberts, Seán, and James Winters. 2013. Linguistic diversity and traffic accidents: Lessons from statistical studies of cultural traits. PLoS One 8.8: e70902.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          This paper points out several problems inherent to large-scale studies of correlations between cultural and geographic factors, including Galton’s problem, sampling problems, and data consistency problems, illustrating the potential for spurious results by correlating tone languages with acacia tree distributions and linguistic diversity with traffic fatalities. The authors propose several solutions for these issues.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Sapir, Edward. 1912. Language and environment. American Anthropologist 14.2: 226–242.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1525/aa.1912.14.2.02a00020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            This early article on language and the physical environment draws on numerous pieces of anecdotal evidence to illustrate the proposed generalization that all environmental effects on language are mediated by social processes.

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