Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Proposal for a Mappa Linguarum

Instead of delving into a hump, I thought that today I'd show you this amazing map which demonstrates the imperial history of the Middle East:

I propose constructing a variation of this map which animates the diffusion of languages across the globe. Admittedly, if not done smartly the map would become a very convoluted display as multiple languages migrate simultaneously. But, if designed well, imagine seeing Proto-Indo-European's march out of Central Asia with all its splintering, language-novas (my term), and eventual extinctions (and that's just one language family...there are perhaps hundreds).

As I see it, given the nature of philology, this Mappa Linguarum would face two key obstacles:

(1) It's often impossible to determine where and when one language ends and another begins.

(2) We don't really know where and when Proto-Indo-European was spoken--we just have guesses. And we'll encounter this issue for any number of theorized pre-historical languages.

In regards to the first obstacle, I propose the map be four dimensional. It would have a functionality, similar to Google Map's AJAX construction, whereby one can zoom in on specific areas of the planet. Thus, we can view the entire earth and see the march of key language families over the eons, or we could zoom in, on say Orkney, and see the emergence and disappearance of Norn between the 10th and 19th centuries.

The second obstacle is more difficult to overcome. In order to illustrate each of the most-prevalent theories of language migration the Mappa Linguarum must exist in a number of variations. Or, for the sake of simplicity, we could attempt to formulate a single consensus.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw the idea out there. It's something I'd love to help create but I lack the technical know-how.

The Hump returns tomorrow...
:: posted by David, 8:03 AM


This is a very interesting idea. If you were in school, this would be a good thesis/ dissertation proposal. You could really work this into something big.
Blogger Loocite, at 10:31 AM  

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