Geographic Concepts Vocabulary

In addition to appearing with definitions here, all of the vocabulary for this unit has been analyzed for geographic significance, as well as with examples in the main sections of this Wiki. The following chart is a vocabulary breakdown to be used as a structured study tool.

Geographic Concept
A set of sounds, combination of sounds, and symbols that are used for communication
The sum total of the knowledge, attitudes, and habitual behavior patterns shared and transmitted by the members of a society
Mutual intelligibility
The ability of two people to understand each other when speaking
Standard Language
The variant of a language that a country’s political and intellectual elite seek to promote as the norm for use in schools, government, the media, and other aspects of public life
Local or regional characteristics of a language; has distinctive grammar and vocabulary
Dialect Chains
A set of contiguous dialects in which the dialects nearest to each other at any place in the chain are most closely related
A geographic boundary within which a particular linguistic feature occurs
Language Families
Group of languages with a shared but fairly distant origin
Divisions within a language family where the commonalities are more definite and the origin is more recent
Sound Shift
Slight change in a word across languages within a subfamily or through a language family from the present backward to its origin
Linguistic hypothesis proposing the existence of an ancestral Indo-European language that is the hearth of the ancient Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit languages which hearth would link modern languages from Scandinavia to North Africa and from North America through parts of Asia to Australia
Backward Reconstruction
The tracking of sound shifts and hardening of consonants “backward” toward the original language
Extinct language
A language without any native speakers
Deep Reconstruction
Technique using the vocabulary of an extinct language to re-create the language that proceeded the extinct language
Language believed to be the ancestral language of Proto-Indo-European, as well as the Kartvelian languages of the southern Caucasus region, the Uralic-Altaic languages, the Dravidian languages of India, and the Afro-Asiatic language family
Language Divergence
A process suggested by German linguist August Schleider whereby new languages are formed when a language breaks into dialects due to a lack of spatial interaction among speakers of the same language and continued isolation eventually causes the division of the language into discrete new languages
Language Convergence
The collapsing of two languages into one resulting from the consistent spatial interaction of peoples with different languages; the opposite of language divergence.
Renfrew Hypothesis
Hypothesis developed by British scholar Colin Renfrew wherein he proposed that three areas in and near the first agricultural hearth, the Fertile Crescent, gave rise to three language families; The mentioned languages include Europe’s Indo-European languages, North African and Arabian languages, and the languages of present day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India
Conquest Theory
A major theory of how Proto-Indo-European diffused into Europe which holds that the early speakers spread westward on horseback, overpowering earlier inhabitants and beginning the diffusion and differentiation of Indo-European tongues
Dispersal Hypothesis
Hypothesis which holds that the Indo-European languages that arose from Proto-Indo-European were first carried eastward into Southwest Asia, next around the Caspian Sea, and then across the Russian-Ukraine plains and on into the Balkans
Romance Languages
Languages that lie in the areas that were once controlled by the Roman Empire but were not subsequently overwhelmed; Includes French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese
Germanic Languages
Languages that reflect the expansion of peoples out of Northern Europe to the west and south; Includes English, German, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish
Slavic Languages
Languages that developed as Slavic people migrated from a base in present-day Ukraine close to 2000 years ago. Includes Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, and Bulgarian
Lingua Franca
Refers to a “common language,” a language used among speakers of different languages for the purposes of trade and commerce.
Pidgin Language
When parts of two or more languages are combined in a simplified structure and vocabulary
Creole Language
A language that began as a pidgin language but was later adopted as the mother tongue by a people in place of the mother tongue
Monolingual States
Countries in which only one language is spoken
Multilingual States
Countries in which more than one language is spoken
Official Language
In multilingual countries the language selected, often by the educated and politically powerful elite, to promote internal cohesion; usually the language of the courts and government
Global Language
The language used most commonly around the world; defined on the basis of either the number of speakers of the language, or prevalence of use in commerce and trade
Uniqueness of an area
A place name

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Key Questions:
  1. What are languages, and what role do languages play in cultures?
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  3. How do languages diffuse?
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