Types of Linguistic Maps: The Mapping of linguistic Features and Researcher Interactivity

This post is a open draft! It was originally started on April 23, 2011. Almost two years later it makes it's public debut. It might be updated at any time... But was last updated on December 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm.

A couple of years ago I had a chance meeting with a cartographer in North Dakota. It was interesting because he asked us (a group of linguists) What is a language or linguistic map? So, I grabbed a few examples and put them into a brief for him. This past January at the LSA meeting in Portland, Oregon, I had several interesting conversations with the folks at the LL-Map Project under Linguists’ List. It occurred to me that such a presentation of various kinds of language maps might be useful to a larger audience. So this will be a bit unpolished but should show a wide selection of language and linguistic based maps, and in the last section I will also talk a bit about interactive maps. I am not a cartographer but I am an avid user of maps, and web-based cartography tools. My experience ranges from collecting National Geographic maps since I was in the third grade to using aeronautical charts in flight school and to collaborating to create some maps for various uses in a language documentation project. The beauty and goal of any map is to reveal to the viewer a story. In the process of viewing the story to also help the viewer to make new associations and to interpret or relate complex data which is otherwise out of perspective and therefore also out of comprehension. In this sense cartographers, or map makers must also consider the usability of their maps, and the total user experience[ref 1]. There are several interesting articles about the user experience and design side of map making in the Winter 2012 Edition of ArcUser by ESRI. One, Less is more,[ref 2] talks about using colors which do not compete for the readers attention. Another, Make Maps People Want to Look At[ref 3] talks about how to frame maps, and how to use icons people can easily compare for meaning. One final mention from ESRI’s winter 2012 edition is an interview with Dr. Anja Hopfstock. As she and ESRI talk about infrastructure design for interoperability of data and usability of maps within the context of building infrastructure for sharing across the European Union.[ref 4]

There are two basic methods of graphing data in a map:

  • As a point
  • As a polygon

In this example from Cline et al. (2011)[ref 5] you can see both polygons and points. The points representing inhabited places and the polygons representing more generally the area in which the speakers live.

Map showing both polygons and points

Map showing both polygons and points

Data points might be used to cover regions. Polygons might then be used to abstract from a series of points for clarity on a map. That is, in essence a polygon is a series of points with the same value (and the square area between these points).

A second example of polygon use is from the Etnopedia article on the A Che[ref 6] people and language in mainland China. This map is presented in the browser as a polygon layer on top of Google Maps.

Map of the A Che speaking area near Kunming China

Map of the A Che speaking area near Kunming China as a polygon over Google Maps

In this case the polygon is created with a series of GIS points and the code below:

<googlemap version="0.9" lat="24.627045" lon="102.128906" type="terrain" zoom="8" width="500" height="350" scale="yes" overview="yes" controls="large">
2#ADCC0000 (#ADCC0000)
24.726875, 101.980591
24.642024, 101.942139
24.55212, 101.942139
24.497146, 101.958618
24.462151, 102.052002
24.58709, 102.128906
24.801695, 102.145386
24.861519, 102.068481
24.726875, 101.980591
</googlemap>

This brief focuses on graphing language, culture and linguistic data using polygons over real geographic terrain, though some maps with points will be included.
Several categories are not represented here:

  • Social network strength in speech communities
  • Social identity variation
  • Language attitude variation (see Waller (2009)[ref 7] for an example using choropleth maps)
  • Literacy levels
  • Bio-genetic markers, like x-y chromosome matching with language use (see Viereck (1998)[ref 8] for an interesting discussion on the case of Britain and blood types)
  • Socio-economic data with language use overlay
  • Political vs. Linguistic dialect identity

Several categories are represented here:

  • Ethnolinguistic Mapping
  • Language Area Mapping
  • Language Family Mapping
  • Anthropological Feature Mapping
  • Historical Mapping
  • Grammatical Feature Mapping
  • Lexical Variation Mapping
  • Phonological Features Mapping
  • Intelligibility Mapping
  • Script variation (Large scale but not on a per language bases.)
  • Religion and language maps
  • Population Density (as it relates to language use)
  • Mapping Poly-lingualism and Mapping Diglossia

Direct mapping of language dialects is not really helpful for several reasons:

  1. Dialects are, or can be defined using social or political features rather than “linguistic” features. (Consider that the debate on what is a variation, a dialect, or a language can be seen as a linguistic issue or as a social, and therefore also a political issue.)
  2. Direct mapping of dialects also presents a level of analysis without necessarily presenting the data. The assumption here is that presenting the data is, in general is more helpful, rather than presenting an analysis, though there may also be times when presenting an analysis is more appropriate, such as the summary of a work as Labov et al. (2006) do in presenting “the dialects of American English”.[ref 9]
    The Dialects of American English

    The Dialects of American English

    However, with this sort of map one will still need some context to determine what the differences are between the claimed dialects. I include a brief example here from Bushman 1989.[ref 10]

    Example of some of the differences between the Midland, North, and South Dialects of English in the U.S.

    Example of some of the differences between the Midland, North, and South Dialects of English in the U.S.

    The following map of the UK shows some specific isogloss lines showing where dialects,[ref 11] depending on what is defined as a dialect, occur based on indicated features on the map (an example of presenting data).

    Map of Dialects in the UK during the time Middle English was spoken

    Map of Dialects in the UK during the time Middle English was spoken

However, linguistically speaking, two dialects are distinguishable by 1 or more linguistic features. Dialects usually are distinguished on more than one feature difference. It is this combination of features which mark linguistic dialects. Again, these features could be social/ethnic, or linguistic, but if we look at only the linguistic features we would want to map things like:

  • Phonological processes
  • Grammaticalizations
  • Particle Usage
  • Discourse Features
  • Vowel qualities
  • Stress Patterns
  • Language Use Contexts
  • Syntax structures
  • Clause types
  • Suprasegmental phenomena
  • Affix types
  • Phoneme or phonetic inventories

If we map the features, then where there is a convergence of features the “natural” dialects will emerge. When there is a convergence of features but not a indigenously recognized dialect this gives us, as researchers, insight to the linguistic meta-knowledge of the speakers. That is what do they hear as a marker that someone is from a different dialect. Also by mapping will we not only know were there are dialectal differences, but also the factors dividing people into different dialects. Consider this first map of Germany[ref 12]. It shows what is commonly considered the dialects of German.

Map of German Dialects

Map of German Dialects

But from this map we can not tell why the dialect borders are the way they are or what the differences really are. But when we overlay the German political regions over the same information and also consider some information about case markings and phonological features we start to see some very distinct reasons why the dialect borders are the way they are.

Political Map of Germany

Political Map of Germany

Mapping of German demonstrative pronoun 'das' in the Black Forest area
The above map is from Kleiner Dialektatlas: Alemannisch und Schwäbisch in Baden-Württemberg.[ref 13]

Black forest dilect features map

Feature isoglosses in the Black Forest mapped to an index


The confluence of lines in the above map reflects a single line in the map from the whole of the German speaking areas in the Map above from König (2001).

Ethnolinguistic Mapping

Ethnolinguistic Map of Indonesia from 1972

Ethnolinguistic Map of Indonesia from 1972


Maps can plot the ethnolinguistic populations of people. Ethnic-groups are different than languages, ethnic-groups can associate differently than languages and language families. These differences can be generalized, contrasted and mapped independent of language. It is important to note that these features might also be congruent or incongruent with language differences. The above map of Indonesia is from the Library at the University of Texas Austin[ref 14] and is based on the 1961 census data.

The following maps show various perspectives on ethnolinguistic knowledge and are from the University of Texas Austin Library map collection on China. The represent 1967[ref 15] , and 1983[ref 16] .

Ethnolinguistic Map from China in 1967

Ethnolinguistic Map from China in 1967

Ethnolinguistic Map of China from 1983

Ethnolinguistic Map of China from 1983

Another Way to conceive of ethnolinguistic mapping is via a percentage of the population of a given area. Many areas around the world have more than one people group making up the society interacting in it.
Here is an example of a Choropleth Map depicting the percentage of the hispanic population in the United States.

Hispanic Population Map

Density Map of the Hispanic Population in the USA

Ethnic maps

http://www.freelang.net/families/maps/russia-ethnic-republics-94.png

http://www.freelang.net/families/maps/russia-ethnic-plurality-82.png

Language Area Mapping

Maps can show the range of the people speaking that language. (Their territorial lands.) Obviously the ground doesn’t speak a language, people speak a language. People can move and are mobile, so these types of maps may change frequently. This map of Papua New Guinea shows the language areas for the languages spoke there[ref 17] .

Languages of Papua New Guinea

Languages of Papua New Guinea

These maps look a lot like maps which show political boundaries (in the sense that they show distinct regions). Like the following one from Wikipedia[ref 18] .

Provinces in Papua New Guinea

Provinces in Papua New Guinea

This is also the kind of language maps found in the Ethnologue[ref 19] which is well known for its detailed language maps.[ref 20]

Western Central Mexico from the Ethnologue

Western Central Mexico from the Ethnologue

Language Family Mapping

The above map about showing the languages of Papua New Guinea does make an attempt to differentiate language family by changing the color used to show a relationship between the polygons. Colors or patterns are often used to show these kinds of relationships.

The map below[ref 21] shows variation in language family without actually looking at the individual languages.

Meso-American Native Languages Map

Meso-American Native Languages Map


Langauge Families in Mexico

Langauge Families in Mexico

Anthropological Feature Mapping


This map of language groups in the Baja comes from a book on burial practices.[ref 22] So we can map Anthropological features of people groups; groups which speak a language or a variety of languages. (Another Baja burial article with a map is Laylander (2011)[ref 23] )

Baja burial practices

Baja burial practices

Anthropological features of societies may bridge ethnic or language groups.

Historical Mapping

Maps can combine non-linguistic data with linguistic data.This map gives the positions and names of forests in the UK.

Map of UK forests and place names

Map of UK forests and place names


Because it is an “older” map, this map shows some of the old names of places in the UK[ref 24]. Place names have linguistic relevance and can show some interesting facets into a culture.
Blow up of UK forest map

Blow up of UK forest map


In this sense, historical mapping is be different than mapping of language change (and historical linguistics). Language change can be mapped like phonological mappings when the right features are selected.

One other example of historical language depiction is this map of German dialects from 1910.[ref 25]

German Dialects as of 1910

German Dialects as of 1910

Grammatical Feature Mapping

Maps can also display grammatical information. These following maps from Shrier (1965)[ref 26] demonstrate how the different conflations of Nominative Case, Accusative Case and Dative Case are active for various German dialects. Some dialects show case in their definite articles, some in inflectional morphology.

Feminine Definite and indefinite articles

Feminine Definite and indefinite articles


Extent of the N/AD Case System: Masculine items

Extent of the N/AD Case System: Masculine items

Lexical Variation Mapping

Maps can also display lexical variation for one semantic meaning. “Pop” and “Soda” refer to the same thing but different words are used[ref 27].

Pop and Soda Map

Pop and Soda Map

In these particular maps the color represents a portion of the population. So, colors is used to show gradient. In language nothing happens 100% of the time, but it might happen more often than the other way, or than not. These are also examples of a choropleth maps.

Here is an example of a choropleth map showing spanish speaker density in the United States.

Spanish speaker density in the U.S.

Spanish speaker density in the U.S.

However, often comparisons which are needed by viewers (readers) of map to derive meaning from maps, need two or more maps or maps which change in video or over time. So here is a second map, this maps showing the density of the hispanic population [ref 28] .

Hispanic Population Map

Density Map of the Hispanic Population in the USA. This is also another example of an ethnographic map.

This is an interesting way to plot speaker densities. It works in the USA because in the USA there are well defined (and small) geographical areas like counties and zip-codes. In a country where these kinds of geographical units are not well defined using them to show population density might not work as well.

Phonological Features Mapping

This first map by Renate Schrambke can be found in the Südwestdeutscher Sprachatlas.[ref 29] It demonstrates a system of symbols to represent the location of a survey and then also the phonetic detail value for that location on the survey.

Map Showing Phonetic variation for the Black Forest Area

Map Showing Phonetic variation for the Black Forest Area

This second map shows several isogloss lines which can be either lexical, or phonological or grammatical.

German swiss map combined 2

Grammatical, Lexical and Phonological isogloss lines for German in High Alemannic

This last map of several languages in the Philippines, I put together over a base layer pulled from the Ethnologue[ref 30] in 2006. The map does not try and display features because there is no data at a grand scale available, but rather pulls together and highlights (in red) the languages with a common phonological/phonetic/phonemic feature as described in Olson et al. (2010).[ref 31]

A Map showing the distribution of languages with the interdental approximant as described by Olson et al.

A Map showing the distribution of languages with the interdental approximant as described by Olson et al.

Intelligibility Mapping

“Mutual Intelligibility” is an issue which carries its own set of challenges. The basic idea for mapping mutual intelligibility is to graph how much, in terms of a percentage, what one speaker understands of another speaker’s speech. But the challenges for mutual intelligibility lie in how one defines the term and how one teases apart the analysis for intelligibility. It is the nitty-gritty questions like: What is Mutual Intelligibility? What is unintelligibility? Why is it unintelligible? Are the causes for not comprehending the speech linguistic factors or social factors? How is meaning negotiated face to face? How is meaning negotiated through a audio-aural message? We can map the results of intelligibility tests, but do these tests also identify the causes for a lack of intelligibility? This is where mapping linguistic features is probably more revealing than mapping intelligibility scores, because intelligibility is actually mapping an analysis rather than mapping data.

Nevertheless, one way intelligibility has been mapped by SIL in Mexico[ref 32] is the following:

Mutual Intelligibility Maps

Mutual Intelligibility Maps

In these maps we can see where there is a gradient of intelligibility. Each isogloss line after the inner most line represents 5% loss in intelligibility (the first line is 10%). But what we can not determine from these maps is why. Are there geographical factors contributing to isolation? Are there economical factors at play and to what extent?

intelligibility maps

Mutual Intelligibility map

Script variation

SIL’s Non-Roman Script Initiative has created this map showing various script usage around the world.

Font Faces of Scripts used around the world

Font Faces of Scripts used around the world

Religion and language maps

Religion is also know to have a role in language use and the creation of third place social environments. Being able to overlay religious facts with language use facts reveals interesting stories of language vitality, culture, and potential significant influences on the social make up of the language us setting.

Mapping Evangelical Christianity in Afganistan

Mapping Evangelical Christianity in Afganistan

Afganistan Bible translation status

Bible translation status in Afganistan by Language

Population Density

Other Resources:[ref 33]

Mapping Poly-lingualism and Mapping Diglossia

Kenya Dialect Map

Kenya Dialect Map

Interactive Mapping and several special kinds of Maps

Market heat maps

http://growinginclusivemarkets.org/media/heatmaps/market_heat_map_primer.pdf

Technical notes

http://growinginclusivemarkets.org/media/heatmaps/market_heat_map_technical_note.pdf

Cartography by Mark Rosenfelder (whose eyes still hurt)

http://www.zompist.com/Langmaps.html

http://www.zompist.com/ielang.gif

http://www.zompist.com/nonielng.gif

Chotopleth maps

http://www.gitta.info/ThematicCart/en/html/TypogrDesign_learningObject4.html

http://geographyfieldwork.com/DataPresentationMappingTechniques.htm

http://www.turboperl.com/dcmaps.html

This example is one where a user can create a Chotopleth map based on a variety of data sets from the U.S. government.

Dynamic Choropleth maps

Dynamic Choropleth maps

Linguistic Map of the Old World, 3800BCE

http://www.freelang.net/families/language_maps.php

California maps

http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~survey/languages/language-map.php

Language areas in Califorina

Language areas in Califorina

http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/languagefamilies.html

http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0206/language_ms1of2.html

http://www.india-reports.com/summary/map-languages-in.aspx#h

http://linguistics.buffalo.edu/people/faculty/dryer/dryer/family.maps

Interactive Cartography

http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/gpw/wps.jsp

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/interactive-map/?ar_a=1

LL-Map
Kaufman, Terrence, Stephanie Koerner, et al. 2007. Meso-America. Atlas of the World’s Languages, ed. by R. E. Asher and Christopher Moseley, 56. Oxford: Routledge.
Date Digitized: 17 June 2011

Map Description:
The areas pictured display locations where the Mayan subgroup languages were spoken when European explorers first encountered them. As specified by Asher and Moseley, the time of contact varied for each language; most of the coastal languages were first identified during the 16th and 17th centuries, although some languages in the interior of South America became known much later, during the 20th century (Asher, Moseley et al).

This original map was made by vectorizing data from the MultiTree language database and the Altas of the World’s Languages. http://llmap.org/maps/215136.html

———-
Linguistics 310 History of English
Syllabus

Spring 2009
Something:

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/wsas/academics/modern_languages/THEAMERICANSOCIETYOFGEOLINGUISTICS.htm

Geolinguistics: The Incorporation of Geographic Information Systems and Science.[ref 34] shows some interesting charts for clustering data and mapping the same data.

Geo-lingusitic vs. Socio-linguistic factors compared for a geo-linguistic atlas[ref 35]

http://www.springerlink.com/content/jr70v35l1w783t04/
http://www.continuitas.org/texts/alinei_geolinguistic.pdf
http://www.digitalhimalaya.com/projectteam/turin/downloads/geolinguistics_1.pdf
http://conference.osu.eu/globalization/publ/06-cerny.pdf
http://www.mappinglanguage.com/2011/04/19/content-based-generation-of-language-maps/
http://proceedings.esri.com/library/userconf/proc04/abstracts/a1071.html

http://www.mappinglanguage.com/
http://www.worldgeodatasets.com/language/huffman

Presenting language in maps[ref 36]

Researchers need the whole picture not just the Language Area

U.N. Human Poverty Index for Nepal

U.N. Human Poverty Index for Nepal


U.N. Chronic Malnourishment Below 5 years old

U.N. Chronic Malnourishment Below 5 years old


Topographical Map of Nepal

Topographical Map of Nepal


Map of Ethnic Groups in Nepal

Map of Ethnic Groups in Nepal


political zones in Nepal

Political zones in Nepal

http://www.freelang.net/families/maps/caucasus-ethnolinguistic-groups.png

http://www.freelang.net/families/maps/caucasus-ethnic-plurality.png

Some really cool resources

Articles

[ref 37]

Journals

Books



Bibliography

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  2. ESRI. 2012. Less is more. Winter 2012 Edition of ArcUser. http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0112/less-is-more.html. [Link] [PDF] [Accessed: 27 February 2012]
  3. Aileen Buckley. 2012. Make Maps People Want to Look At. Winter 2012 Edition of ArcUser. http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0112/make-maps-people-want-to-look-at.html. [Link] [PDF] [Accessed: 27 February 2012]
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  12. Werner König. 2001. dtv-Atlas Deutsche Sprache. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN: 3-423-03025-9
  13. Hubert Klausmann, Renate Schrambke, and Konrad Kunze. 1997. Kleiner Dialektatlas: Alemannisch und Schwäbisch in Baden-Württemberg. Bühl: Konkordia Verlag.
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  16. China – Ethnolinguistic Groups. 1983. Available from the online map collection at the Library at the University of Texas Austin. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/china_ethnolinguistic_83.jpg [Link] [Accessed: 29 January 2012]
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  18. slawojar 小山 – Polish Wikipedian. 25 April 2005. Province of Papua New Guinea numbered. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papua_new_guinea_provinces_(numbers).png. [Link] [Link to Main PNG article.] [Accessed: 14 February 2012]
  19. M. Paul Lewis, (ed.). 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 16th Edn. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.
  20. Collins Maps. 25 June 2010. The BCS John C. Bartholomew Award 2010 Winner. http://blog.collinsmaps.com/2010/06/bcs-john-c-bartholomew-award-2010.html . [Link] [Accessed: 27 February 2012] Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth Edition. Commended by the bestower s of the John C Bartholomew Award
  21. Nicholas Hopkins and Kathryn Josserand. 2005. está basado en mapas por R. Longacre en Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 5 (1967), y datos de Lyle Campbell en The Linguistics of Southeast Chiapas (1988). [Accessed: 29 January 2012] [Link]
  22. Citation needed. I am not sure where I got this map from.
  23. Don Laylander. 2011. Ancestors, Ghosts, and Enemies in Prehistoric Baja California. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. vol. 25.2: 169-186. [Permalink]
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  27. Alan McConchie. 2009. Generic names of soft drinks by county. http://www.popvssoda.com/. [Link]
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  31. Kenneth S. Olson, Jeff Mielke, Josephine Sanicas-Daguman, Carol Jean Pebley & Hugh J. Paterson III. 2010. The phonetic status of the (inter)dental approximant. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 40.02: 199-215. DOI: 10.1017/S0025100309990296
  32. Steven Egland, Doris Bartholomew, Saúl Cruz Ramos. 1978. La inteligibilidad interdialectal de las lenguas indígenas de México: Resultado de algunos sondeos, Instituto Lingüístico de Verano. Mexico City: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano. http://sil.org/mexico/sondeos/G038b-SondeosInteligibilidad.pdf [PDF] [Accessed: 29 January 2012]
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    Language Variation and Change. vol. 8.1: 13-39 DOI: 10.1017/S0954394500001058

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