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Language Dispersal, Diversification, and Contact$
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Mily Crevels and Pieter Muysken

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723813

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198723813.001.0001

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Geographical axis effects in large-scale linguistic distributions

Geographical axis effects in large-scale linguistic distributions

(p.58) 4 Geographical axis effects in large-scale linguistic distributions
Language Dispersal, Diversification, and Contact

Tom Güldemann

Harald Hammarström

Oxford University Press

Taking up Diamond’s (1999) geographical axis hypothesis regarding the different population histories of continental areas, Güldemann (2008, 2010) proposed that macro-areal aggregations of linguistic features are influenced by geographical factors. This chapter explores this idea by extending it to the whole world in testing whether the way linguistic features assemble over long time spans and large space is influenced by what we call “latitude spread potential” and “longitude spread constraint.” Regarding the former, the authors argue in particular that contact-induced feature distributions as well as genealogically defined language groups with a sufficient geographical extension tend to have a latitudinal orientation. Regarding the latter, the authors provide first results suggesting that linguistic diversity within language families tends to be higher along longitude axes. If replicated by more extensive and diverse testing, the authors’ findings promise to become important ingredients for a comprehensive theory of human history across space and time within linguistics and beyond.

Keywords:   linguistic diversity, geography, linguistic macro-areas, contact, language family, latitude spread potential, longitude spread constraint

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