Östen Dahl and Ljuba Veselinova, Stockholm University

Language Map Server

According to current estimates, there are approximately 7000 languages spoken around the globe. However, the location of most them is known by specialists only, if anyone. GIS systems are slowly making their way among linguists, but an easily accessible language mapping system still does not exist. The Department of Linguistics at Stockholm University is using ArcIMS for the development of a Language Map Server already demonstrated at the 25th ESRI User Conference. Alaska and the Caucasus are the areas chosen to be mapped in this pilot application because of the great variety of languages spoken there and the availability of sufficient sources about them. We are targeting the smaller languages of the regions as their location(s) and dialectal variants tend be least known. We make use of community level mapping as opposed to large scale polygon mapping, which is typically used to represent the geographic distribution of languages. This model has a number of advantages over polygon based mapping, two of the most important ones being (i) clear representation of dialects, (ii) multiple classifications of dialectal variations can be demonstrated on one and the same map. We argue that a community based model is thus more adequate for a geographic model of human languages, the smaller (and endangered) ones in particular.

Pending funding and through cooperation with the LINGUIST List-LL-Map project, we plan to expand the system to cover other areas, the long term goal being to achieve global coverage of the geographic distribution of modern languages.