One major issue with most modern maps of languages is that they often consist of just a single point for each language – this is the approach that WALS and glottolog take. This works pretty well for global-scale analyses, but simple points are quite uninformative for region scale studies of languages. Points also have a hard time spatially describing languages that have disjoint distributions, like English, or languages that overlap spatially. […]
One reason that most language geographers go for the one-point-per-language approach is that using a simple point is simple, while mapping languages across regions and areas is very difficult. An expert must decide where exactly one language ends and another begins. The problem with relying on experts, however, is that no expert has uniform experience across an entire region, and thus will have to rely on other accounts of which language is prevalent where. […]
I believe that, thanks to greater computational efficiency offered by modern computers and new datasets available from social media, it is increasingly possible to develop better maps of language distributions using geotagged text data rather than an expert’s opinion. In this blog, I’ll cover two projects I’ve done to map languages—one using data from Twitter in the Philippines, and another using computationally-intensive algorithms to classify toponyms in West Africa.
By law, I am required to share every xkcd comic about maps. Today’s makes great fun of pop versus soda maps—the maps showing where in the U.S. carbonated beverages are referred to as pop versus where they’re referred to as soda. Randall takes things to their ludicrous extremes, as he is, by law, required to do.
The map accompanying the Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada is a map of Indigenous Canada: as iPolitics’s Anna Desmarais reports, “Dotting the map are the names of Indigenous languages, including Cree and Dene, and the geographical location where each language is spoken. The size of the word, officials said, depends on how big the Indigenous population is in a given region.” Meanwhile, the names and borders of provinces and territories are apparently absent, and the only cities that appear on the map are the ones with substantial Indigenous populations. It sounds marvellous. [WMS]
A guide to Mi’kmaw place names in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas was unveiled last year. It’s “an interactive map showing more than 700 place names throughout Nova Scotia, and includes pronunciation, etymology, and other features, such as video interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders.” Flash required (really?). [CBC News]
Linguist Jack Grieve studies regional variations in languages using quantitative methods. A year ago he posted a number of maps of the United States showing regional variation in swear word usage, based on a corpus of nearly nine billion geocoded tweets. Stan Carey of the Strong Language blog has more on the maps:
Hell, damn and bitch are especially popular in the south and southeast. Douche is relatively common in northern states. Bastard is beloved in Maine and New Hampshire, and those states—together with a band across southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas—are the areas of particular motherfucker favour. Crap is more popular inland, fuck along the coasts. Fuckboy—a rising star—is also mainly a coastal thing, so far.
Researchers are mapping the shift in Swiss German dialect usage via an iOS app. The app asks users to take a 16-question survey based on maps from a language atlas that mapped Swiss German usage circa 1950. The app predicts the user’s actual home dialect location based on those maps; differences between that prediction and the user’s actual home dialect location reveal how Swiss German has changed over time. They ended up getting responses from 60,000 speakers. PLOS ONE article. [via]
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