ap human geography textbook pdf chapter 6 : The name of this chapter is Language. We’ll find answer some of important key questions including-
- What are languages, and what role do languages play in cultures?
- Why are languages distributed the way they are?
- How do languages diffuse?
- What role does language play in making places?
ap human geography textbook pdf chapter 6
In stores throughout Brussels, Belgium, you can see the capital city’s bilingualism all around you-literally. From McDonald’s to health insurance offices (Fig. 6.1) to the metro, signs in Brussels are posted in duplicate, with one in Flemish (a variant of Dutch) and one in French.
Walking into a travel agency in Brussels one afternoon, I immediately noticed the signs in duplicate: two signs towered over the woman behind the counter; two signs advertised a new budget airline carrier that would be serving the Brussels airport; two signs labeled the restrooms; and two signs announced the travel agency’s hours of operation.
I debated for a minute whether to speak to the person behind the counter in French or Flemish. She was speaking Flemish with the person in front of me, but I decided to use French since my knowledge of that language is better. The student from Italy who stood behind me in line apparently had no such debate. She stepped up to the counter, asked her question in English, and received a reply in excellent English.
What are languages, and what role do languages play in cultures?
A scene in Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic movie Pulp Fiction shows Vincent and Jules in the front seat of the car talking about France. Vincent, trying to demonstrate his knowledge of French culture, turns to Jules and says, “You know what they call a…. a…. a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris?” Jules replies, “They don’t call it a quarter pounder with cheese?”
Vincent, ever the expert, explains in a few choice words that France uses the metric system and that the French would not know what a quarter pounder is. Then, he explains, “They call it a ‘royale’ with cheese.” Jules, surprised, asks, “That do they call a Big Mac?” Vincent explains, “Well a Big Mac is a Big Mac, but they call it ‘Le Big Mac’.”
This humorous exchange shows the juxtaposition of two opposing forces in our globalized world: globalization of culture and preservation of local and national culture. Are the two contradictory, or can we have globalization of restaurants, food, music, and culture while preserving local languages?
Language is a fundamental element of local and national culture. T he French government has worked diligently, even aggressively, to protect the French language, dating back to 1635 and the creation of the Académie Française, an institution charged with standardizing and protecting the French language. Since the 1970s, diffusion of globalized terms into France has posed an enormous challenge for the Académie Française.
Why are languages distributed the way they are?
The first step in mapping the distribution of world languages is to classify languages. Linguists and linguistic geographers classify languages in terms that are also used in biology and for the same reasons: Like species, some languages are related and others are not.
At the global scale, we classify languages into language families. Within a single language family, the languages have a shared but fairly distant origin. We break language families into subfamilies (divisions within a language family), where the
commonalities are more definite and their origin is more recent. Subfamilies consist of individual languages, whose spatial extent is smaller, and every individual language has its dialects, whose territorial extent is smaller still.
Although language families and subfamilies seem to be a logical way to classify languages, the classification of languages is subject to intense debate. Defining a language family is a daunting challenge: some linguists argue that there are not just a few, but many dozens of language families.
So when you study Figure 6.8, be aware that this is only one depiction of the world’s geography of languages today. This map shows the distribution of some 20 language families, among which the Indo-European language family has d1e widest distribution and claims the largest number of speakers.
That you see here, of course, results from a combination of contiguous as well as relocation diffusion: Indo-European languages spread from a western source in all directions into Eurasia, but colonialism also transplanted Indo-European languages to the Americas, Africa, and Australia.
Even when it comes to individual languages, complicated issues arise. English is the most widely spoken
Indo-European language, its speakers encircling the world with more than 300 million in North America, 70 million in Britain and Ireland, 25 million in Australia and New Zealand, and tens of millions more in South Africa, India, and elsewhere in the postcolonial world. Hundreds of millions of people speak versions of English as a second or third language. Our map cannot reflect this, but the Indo-European family has actually diffused even more than Figure 6.8 suggests.
How do languages diffuse?
Just a few thousand years ago most habitable parts of Earth were characterized by a tremendous diversity of languages. With the rise of empires, of larger-scale, more technologically sophisticated literate societies, some languages began to spread over larger areas. By 2000 years ago, languages such as Chinese and Latin had successfully diffused
over large regions.
The Han Empire in China and the Roman Empire in Europe and North Africa knit together large swaths of territory, encouraging the diffusion of one language over the regions. The most powerful and wealthiest people were the first to learn Chinese and Latin in these empires, as they had the most to lose by not learning the languages.
Local languages and illiteracy continued among the poor in the empires, and some blending of local with regional languages occurred. When the Roman Empire disintegrated, places within the region discontinued interaction, prompting a round of linguistic divergence.
In the late Middle Ages, the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and the rise of nation-states worked to spread literacy and stabilize certain languages through widely distributed written forms. Johann Gutenberg perfected the printing press, inventing the movable type printing press, the Gutenberg press, in Germany in 1440. In 1452, Gutenberg printed the first
Gutenberg Bible (the sacred text for Christians), which brought the scriptures out of churches and monasteries. The Gutenberg press diffused quickly in the century following-throughout Europe and beyond.
The printing press allowed for an unprecedented production of written texts, in languages besides Latin. Gutenberg’s press made it possible to print the Bible in one’s own language, such as French or German, rather than Latin, helping to standardize European languages. T he Luther Bible played this role for German, as did the King James Bible for English.
What role does language play in making places?
The culrural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan has studied the role and function o f language in the shaping of places. He researched the way people use language as a tool to give perceptual meaning to areas on the Earth’s surface, large and small. Each place has a unique location and constitutes
a reflection of human activities, ideas, and tangible, durable creations. Tuan argued that by simply naming a place, people in effect call that place into being, and thereby impart a certain character to it.
Geographers call place-names toponyms. Such names often refer to the social processes going on in a particular area, and these may determine whether a toponym is passed down or changed, how the people will interpret the history of a place, and how the people will see a place.
Tuan contrasts the examples of “Mount Prospect” and “Mount Misery” to help us understand that a name alone can color the character of a place and even the experiences of people in a place. If you planned to travel to “Mount Prospect,” your expectations and even your experiences might well be quite different than a trip to “Mount Misery.”
The global mosaic of languages reflects centuries of divergence, convergence, extinction, and diffusion. Linguists and linguistic geographers have the interesting work of w1covering, through deep reconstruction, the hearths of the world’s language families. Some languages, such as Basque, defy explanation. Other languages are the foci of countless studies, many of which come to differing conclusions about their ancient origins.
As certain languages, such as English and Chinese, gain speakers and become global languages, otl1er languages become extinct. Some languages come to serve as the lingua franca of a region or place. Governments choose official languages, and through public schools, educators entrench an official language in a place. Some countries, faced with the global diffusion of the English language, defend and promote their national language.
Whether requiring signs to be written a certain way or requiring a television station to broadcast some proportion of programming in the national language, governments can preserve language, choose a certain dialect as the standard, or repel the diffusion of other languages.
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