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Creation of language maps

General remarks

First of all I'd like to define two closed terms used often interchangeably – linguistic maps and language maps.


Linguistic maps demonstrate the spread of some linguistic phenomena (words, phonemes, reflexes, grammatical features, etc.), by means of dots, isoglosses, or areas


Language maps proper demonstrate the spread of languages, or of their dialects, grouped by:


Those two different types of maps are connected with different branches of the Language geography. Linguistic maps serve for the linguistic geography which deals with regional linguistic variations within languages. And language maps proper are tool of the geography of languages which deals with the distribution of languages through space (and history).


Usually most of works connected to language mapping deal to Linguistic maps, and more often to dialectological maps. That is why we discuss below in more details the second type of maps – language ones.


Creation of language maps

When creating language maps, a variety of sources is used, including textual and cartographic ones. It is possible to list the following types of sources:



There are several ways to present a gathered information with maps:

Languages of Vojvodina: larger administrative units

Languages of Vojvodina: smaller administrative units

Source: Census of Serbia, 2002.


Source: Koryakov 2009b.


Ideally, the language maps are created from large scale to small scale. At the first step, all settlements with language information are plotted on a map, then areas are drawn around them. Further, those areas are generalized according to the scaling down.

Maps with especially small scales can show only whole language families or branches:

Source: Koryakov 2005.


Applications of language maps

Language maps can serve variuos purposes, they are often used as a visualization enhancing language descriptions and encourage linguists to pay close attention to many specific aspects of language description.


Visual illustrations for language descriptions

The first statement could be illustrated with map showing complexity and altitudinal interlacing of languages of Eastern Caucasus:

Source: Koryakov 2009a, p. 12


Temporal dynamics can be shown through shrinking of the Vodic language area during the 20th century:

Source: Koryakov 2007.


Production of following map provoked the editors of the Indo-Aryan volume to substantially correct and expand linguo-geographical information

Source: Koryakov 2011.


Language phenomena resistent to mapping:


See, for instance, the complex linguistic situation in Istria and adjacent areas of Italy:

and gradual decay of French dialects:

Source: Koryakov Yu.B. Atlas of the Languages of the World. Romance languages. Moscow, 2001.


See also: