Archive for September, 2013

Mapping Language

Posted 10 September, 2013 13:04 by Karla Baker | Permalink

A small but significant part of Bartholomew’s printed output consisted of thematic mapping. Thematic maps are used to illustrate the distribution of phenomena, as opposed to the more common topographical map, which is an attempt to reproduce a landscape. Bartholomew’s Printing Record includes thematic maps which show average levels of sunshine, average levels of cloudiness, the distribution of cases of pulmonary tuberculosis and even the cost of posting letters throughout the world. This post is devoted to a different type of thematic map, to language, or linguistic maps.

linguistic Europe

According to ‘Cartographical Innovations’ (1987), an informative book edited by Helen Wallis and Arthur Robinson, the first set of linguistic maps that we would recognise as such date from 1741. Produced by Gottfried Hensel, the four maps of continents show the distribution of written languages. However, it wasn’t until the early part of the nineteenth century that this sort of mapping really took off. By the end of the century, and continuing into the twentieth century, Bartholomew began to produce linguistic maps of their own.

linguistic North America

Bartholomew printed the map of European languages (at the top of the page) on the 28 March, 1931 and the above map, ‘Linguistic Stocks of Indians North of Mexico’, on the 18 August, 1927. The latter is an extremely informative map, showing a particularly complex mix of languages along the west coast of the United States and into Canada.

linguistic North America cropped

Because of the specialist nature of maps like these they were typically destined for specialist publications. Some provided a diversion from the more traditional mapping in general atlases; others supplemented an almost overwhelming amount of information in school atlases whilst others still accompanied papers in specialist publications.

It’s perhaps fair to say that some took the subject more seriously than others. Bartholomew printed a small number of maps for what was known as the Serial Map Service, in the 1940s. They include the map of Central and South America below.

linguistic South America

The Serial Map Service titles are a visually appealing set of maps, but their charm only shines through under closer inspection.

linguistic Central America cropped

Whilst it might be charming, the ability of this map to convey the linguistic information it intended is perhaps debatable.

As well as showing linguistic information for whole continents, these maps could be used to convey the same information for individual countries equally well.

linguisitc india

Bartholomew printed this linguistic map of India on the 6 March, 1940. India also happens to be one of the few markets for which Bartholomew actively produced atlases in native dialect and language groups.

The final map in this sequence was produced by a particular favourite of this blog; the incomparable, the inimitable, Sir Harry H. Johnston. For those not up to speed with Sir Harry, his exploits have been previously recorded in The Empire Strikes Back and Explorations in Equatorial Africa.

linguistic Uganda

Johnston was a naturally gifted linguist and he made a genuine contribution to the field through his study of, and the subsequent publication of his book, the ‘Comparative Study of the Bantu and Semi-Bantu Languages’ (1919). This particular map was printed on the 28 April, 1902, for another book entitled ‘The Uganda Protectorate’. Uganda is part of the extensive area of Africa where Bantu languages and dialects are spoken. The sheer scale of Sir Harry’s work is very neatly demonstrated through both the map and its key.

linguistic Uganda cropped

Bartholomew printed a wide variety of linguistic maps. Some could be academically rigorous, whereas others appear to be for fun. Regardless, the mapping of language, of voices, subtly reminds us of one thing; language plays a fundamental role in giving us a sense of place.