RE: Geographical language data

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Tue May 29 2007 - 17:15:28 CDT

  • Next message: William J Poser: "atlas of world's languages"

    Martin Heijdra noted:

    > ----------------
    > Atlas of the World's Languages
    > Editor(s) - R.E. Asher, Christopher Moseley
    > List Price: $570.00
    > ISBN: 9780415310741
    > ISBN-10: 0415310741
    > Publisher: Routledge
    > Publication Date: 21/05/2007

    Great reference, and I'm looking forward to seeing the new edition.

    About this:

    > Personally, while this atlas is compiled by major scholars in the
    > field, I thought the decision (in 1993 at least) to have current
    > maps for most continent, but reconstructed ca. 1500 maps for the
    > Americas was weird and hardly defensible.

    I think it is not weird at all and is perfectly defensible.
    To do otherwise would be to completely lose the majority of
    useful information about geographical distribution of aboriginal
    languages of the Americas.

    Just one example with which I am familiar: the geographical
    area now covered by the state of California had, in pre-Columbian
    times, at least 100 distinct languages in 20 or so language
    families. Almost all of those languages went extinct in the
    course of the 20th century. There are now probably many more
    Mayan language speakers in Los Angeles (immigrants from
    Mesoamerica) than of *all* the aboriginal languages of
    California put together.

    If you put together a map of era-2000 languages in California,
    the actual aboriginal languages of California would be completely
    missing from the map, unless you extended it down to the level
    of dots for the houses of individual elders or coloring in the
    few-acre settlements in some isolated rancherias and reservations around
    the state. They are completely swamped by the dominant
    cultures' use of English and Spanish, and even swamped by the
    current language use of other immigrant communities. There
    are significant, currently viable language communities of
    Hmong speakers in Fresno, Pashto speakers in Fremont, Vietnamese
    speakers in Anaheim, Korean speakers in Los Angeles, and so
    on and on, in addition to the actual migrants of speakers
    of other Native American languages from the much larger
    language communities of Mesoamerica.

    Also, it is particularly difficult to do language mapping for
    immigrant Native American communities, because it is so enmeshed
    with the volatile politics of Hispanic immigration in the U.S.
    I'm hoping that the revised Atlas took a stab at that problem,
    but I don't think it at all detracts from the need to have
    as valid a representation as possible for the pre-Columbian
    distribution of the languages of the Americas.


    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue May 29 2007 - 17:17:26 CDT