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Foreword to Volume 1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2014

William Labov
University of Pennsylvania
Dennis R. Preston
Oklahoma State University Editors, Journal of Linguistic Geography
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

With this first volume we are pleased to announce the appearance of the digital Journal of Linguistic Geography. Our goal is to open the flow of linguistic analysis using digital formats most congenial to the internet in a field that has long been blocked by technical factors.

In no other field is the gap between the gathering of data and the analysis so great. The stacks of our libraries are filled with magnificently conceived and executed atlases of linguistic geography. File cabinets throughout the world are filled with papers that have never appeared in print, faced with the problem of reducing maps to miniature black-and-white versions that convey only a small part of the information in the original.

Many linguistic atlas maps are extended across a hundred centimeters of the printed page, with detail that is lost in the versions compressed in print journals. There will be no limit on the size of maps submitted to the Journal of Linguistic Geography; they will be able to be viewed in their entirety by panning and zooming operations that are second nature to users of the internet.

Color is as fundamental as size in cartography. For reasons that are not yet clear to us, the eye recognizes patterns of color far more readily than patterns of shapes. A red square isolated in a field of blue squares will be perceived instantly, while an isolated black square in a field of black circles on a white page may not be recognized at all. But in digital publication, color is no more difficult or expensive than black-and-white.

Even more crucial to analytical reading is the relation between map and text. In printed journals, this often requires a back-and-forth paging operation that challenges memory, and often leads to the reader accepting (or rejecting) the author's statement without making a point-by-point inspection. In the Journal of Linguistic Geography, maps and figures can float above the text, and allow the reader to make a direct comparison between what is said about the map and what it shows.

A further advantage of the Journal of Linguistic Geography format is the option of embedding and playing sound samples in the digital page. Such sound samples will not replace IPA notation, but rather serve to refine and encourage the use of phonetic notation.

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Bartłomiej Plichta is the Technical Editor for the Journal of Linguistic Geography. All authors will consult with him after review, and decide with him what graphic and audio formats will be used.

Reading this first volume will also show that the technical innovations presented in the Journal of Linguistic Geography are not confined to modes of display. New developments in the mathematical analysis of spatial patterns are strongly represented, and authors will be encouraged to present them in a form best suited for replication and confirmation. This may include the submission of substantial appendices, since the space limitations of print journals do not apply.

You most likely are reading this document on a screen. You may have formed the habit of first printing documents on paper since you find reading print is easier. If so, the Journal of Linguistic Geography papers will help you break this habit: These are documents that you don't want to print out!

So much for form. But what about content?

To put it simply, linguistic geography is concerned with the spatial differentiation of linguistic forms. This is a matter of remarkable interest. Teachers of introductory linguistics find that students are fascinated with the fact there are regions nearby where speakers use ‘X’ to refer to what is (“rightly”) called ‘Y.’ This fascination with the facts of the matter impedes rather than encourages the development of our field as a branch of linguistic science. Our journal hopes to mobilize those facts in pursuit of a better understanding of the nature of language structure and language change. Our interest is focused on those connections within language that reflect the impact of a given change on other members of the system. A submission that traces distribution of isolated forms or sounds will receive our full attention when it is woven into the fabric of relations that turn words into language.

That is not to say that we disprefer studies of the lexicon. Rather we encourage authors to display the use of a form against the background of competing and complimentary forms. Thus we would hope to see (in Weinreich's terms) both semasiological maps alternating with onomasiological maps, showing what meanings are found for a given form as well as what forms are found for a given meaning.

Fields of structural relationships are most clearly delineated in phonology, and we would be surprised not to receive submissions dealing with the geography of chain shifts, splits and mergers. However we have already received studies of the geography of morphological systems and hope to be dealing with the geography of the full range of linguistic structures.

We invite studies of the perception of speech as well as production. We are interested in both how linguistic varieties across and within regions are heard and processed and how nonlinguists perceive the spatial distribution of varieties, particularly when such studies shed light on the linguistic and social characteristics of language variation and change.

Thus the fact that we are named the Journal of Linguistic Geography is not without significance. But the linguistics we appeal to is not confined to the internal relations of linguistic forms. It is a linguistics outwardly defined to include the social, historical and economic contexts in which language is formed and used. Thus we expect to find maps reflecting population growth and movement, out- and in-migration, political trends and voting records as well as highway and railroad networks.

We are happy to announce that The International Conference on Methods in Dialectology has named the Journal of Linguistic Geography as one of its official publications. Its next meeting will be in Groningen, The Netherlands, August 11-15, 2014.

In this first volume we also would like to introduce you to our Editorial Board, a group of distinguished linguists from throughout the world whose own work often illustrates the sort of research we hope to feature in the Journal of Linguistic Geography. To that end, we have added after each Board member's name a reference to one of their exemplary articles as a guide to the scope and quality of work we will feature in this journal.

Editorial Board

Willem F. H. Adelaar (Universiteit Leiden)

Cajamarca Quechua and the Huari State. 2012. In P. Heggarty & D. Beresford-Jones (eds), Archaeology and language in the Andes. A cross-disciplinary exploration of prehistory. Proceedings of the British Academy 173:197–217. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Balthasar Bickel (Universität Zürich)

Distributional typology: Statistical inquiries into the dynamics of linguistic diversity. In press. In B. Heine & H. Narrog (eds), The Oxford handbook of linguistic analysis, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at

Walter Bisang (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz)

Dialectology and typology — an integrative perspective. 2004. In B. Kortmann (ed.), Dialectology meets typology: Dialect grammar from a crosslinguistic perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 11–45.

David Britain (Universität Bern)

‘Big bright lights’ versus ‘green and pleasant land’? The unhelpful dichotomy of ‘urban’ v ‘rural’ in dialectology. 2009. In E. Al-Wer & R. de Jong (eds), Arabic dialectology. Leiden: Brill, 223–248.

J. K. Chambers (University of Toronto)

Geolinguistics of literacy. 2010. In A. Lameli, R. Kehrein, & S. Rabanus (eds), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, Vol. 2: Language mapping (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 30.2). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton, 627–643, Map 3201.

Michael Cysouw (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Quantitative explorations of the world-wide distribution of rare characteristics, or: The exceptionality of north-western European languages. 2011. In H. Simon & H. Wiese (eds), Expecting the unexpected. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 411–431. Available at

Hans Goebl (Universität Salzburg)

Dialectometry: Theoretical prerequisites, practical problems, and concrete applications (mainly with examples drawn from the ,,Atlas linguistique de la France”, 1902-1910). 2010. Dialectologia (Special issue I) 63–77. Available at

Ton Goeman (Meertens Institute)

The landscape of Dutch past participle suffixes: Eastern and other dialects. 2009. In A. N. Lenz, C. Gooskens, & S. Reker (eds), Low Saxon dialects across borders-Niedersaechsische Dialekte ueber Grenzen hinweg. ZDL Beihefte 138. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 217–244.

Tom Güldemann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Sprachraum and geography: Linguistic macro-areas in Africa. 2010. In A. Lameli, R. Kehrein, & S. Rabanus (eds), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, Vol. 2: Language mapping (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 30.2). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton, 561-585, Maps 2901–2914.

David Heap (University of Western Ontario)

Morphosyntactic theory needs Iberian linguistic geography (and vice-versa). 2008. Dialectologia 1:45-64. Available at

Fumio Inoue (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

Classification of dialects by image: English and Japanese. 1999. In D. Preston (ed.), Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Vol.1 (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 147–159.

Ernst Håkon Jahr (Agder University)

Social dialect influence in language change: The halting of a sound change in Oslo Norwegian. In J. Fisiak (ed.), Historical dialectology: Regional and social. Berlin/New York/Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 329–335.

Brian Joseph (Ohio State University)

Lexical diffusion and the regular transmission of language change in its socio-historical context. 2011. In J. M. Hernández-Campoy (ed.), The handbook of historical sociolinguistics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 408–426.

Miklós Kontra (University of Szeged)

Changing mental maps and morphology: Divergence caused by international border changes. 2003. In D. Britain & J. Cheshire (eds), Social dialectology: In honour of Peter Trudgill. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 173–190.

William Kretzschmar, Jr. (University of Georgia)

Language variation and complex systems. 2010. American Speech 85:263–286.

Yolanda Lastra (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México)

Apuntes sobre la dialectología del otomí. 2004. In P. M. Butragueño (ed.), Estudios sobre cambio lingüístico. México: El Colegio de México, 33–52.

Jean Léo Léonard (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3)

Léonard, J. L., V. Dell'Aquila, & A. Gaillard-Corvaglia. 2012. The ALMaz (Atlas Lingüístico Mazateco): From geolinguistic data processing to typological traits. STUF - Language Typology and Universals: 65,1:78–94.

April McMahon (Aberystwyth University)

Maguire, W., A. McMahon, P. Heggarty, & D. Dediu. 2010. The past, present and future of English dialects: Quantifying convergence, divergence and dynamic equilibrium. Language Variation and Change 22,1:1–36.

Francisco Moreno-Fernández (Universidad de Alcalá)

Análisis cuantitativo de campos léxicos. 1999. In J. M. Blecua, G. Claverìa, C. Sánchez, & J. Torruella. (eds), Filología e informática. Barcelona: Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, 357–388.

John Nerbonne (University of Groningen)

Wieling, M., J. Nerbonne, & H. Baayen. Quantitative social dialectology: Explaining linguistic variation geographically and socially. 2011. PLoS ONE 6,9: e23613. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023613. Available at

Marjatta Palander (University of Eastern Finland)

Palander, M., L. L. Opas-Hänninen, & F. Tweedie. 2003. Neighbours or enemies: Competing variants causing differences in transitional dialects. Computers and the humanities 37:359–372.

Jürgen Erich Schmidt (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

Language and space: The linguistic dynamics approach. 2010. In P. Auer & J. E. Schmidt (eds), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, Vol. 1: Theories and methods (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 30.1). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton, 201–225.

Tullio Telmon (Università degli Studi di Torino)

La geografia linguistica: Una scienza ambigua o una scienza duplice? 2010. Rivista Italiana di Dialettologia 33:17–25.

M. R. Kalaya Tingsabadh (Chulalongkorn University)

Teerarojanarat, S. & K. Tingsabadh. 2011. A GIS-based approach for dialect boundary studies. Dialectologia 6:55–75. ISSN: 2013-2247. Available at

Peter Trudgill (Agder University)

Linguistic change and diffusion: Description and explanation in sociolinguistic dialect geography. 1973. Language in Society 3:215–46.

Tom Wikle (Oklahoma State University)

Bailey, G., T. Wikle, J. Tillery, & L. Sand. 1993. Some patterns of linguistic diffusion. Language Variation and Change 5,3:359–390.

Manfred Woidich (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Rural dialects of Egyptian Arabic: An overview. 1996. Égypte/Monde arabe, Première série, n° 27-28 Les langues en Égypte, 3e & 4e trim. Le Caire, 325–354. Available at

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