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Quantifying geographical determinants of large-scale distributions of linguistic features


Hammarstroem,  Harald
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Center for Language Studies , External Organizations;

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Hammarstroem, H., & Güldemann, T. (2014). Quantifying geographical determinants of large-scale distributions of linguistic features. Language Dynamics and Change, 4, 87-115. doi:10.1163/22105832-00401002.

In the recent past the work on large-scale linguistic distributions across the globe has intensified considerably. Work on macro-areal relationships in Africa (Güldemann, 2010) suggests that the shape of convergence areas may be determined by climatic factors and geophysical features such as mountains, water bodies, coastlines, etc. Worldwide data is now available for geophysical features as well as linguistic features, including numeral systems and basic constituent order. We explore the possibility that the shape of areal aggregations of individual features in these two linguistic domains correlates with Köppen-Geiger climate zones. Furthermore, we test the hypothesis that the shape of such areal feature aggregations is determined by the contour of adjacent geophysical features like mountain ranges or coastlines. In these first basic tests, we do not find clear evidence that either Köppen-Geiger climate zones or the contours of geophysical features are major predictors for the linguistic data at hand