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URPP Language and Space SynMod Research Project

Research Desiderata

Some of the linguistic hypotheses on areal distribution of dialectological features which are still handed down in the handbooks are nearly a hundred years old. These hypotheses are in urgent need of a revision based on today’s knowledge of systemic and sociological linguistics and in particular one which utilizes the modern capability of computerized processing of big data. One particularly notable research gap is to be found in the field of dialect syntax, which was largely neglected by traditional dialectology. Since the field of geography, and GIScience in particular, have long had methods at their disposal for assessing the influence of different variables on the regional distribution of features, it is even more imperative to integrate these theories and methods into the linguistic analysis and to assess their suitability for linguistic interpretations.

While prior dialectology already established hypotheses based mainly on a historical interpretation of certain language area constellations (relic areas, boundaries, displacement etc., cf. Niebaum & Macha, 2006), to date there has been no quantitatively corroborated description of distribution. The concept of isogloss bundles (Nerbonne, 2009), which has periodically been discarded and which, on closer examination, is usually revealed to be a crude simplification, needs to be taken up yet again and reassessed through the application of modern conceptions of diffused boundaries and quantitative methods. In the view of geography and GIScience it is now possible to access a new area of application, which, due to the unique nature of language data, entails special methodological challenges. Large gaps in knowledge exist concerning the utilization of analytic methods from GIScience for linguistic research questions, especially in the field of differentiated studies of areal distribution ratios, and about the methods to be employed in the correlation of the course of geographic and linguistic, as well as interlinguistic borders.