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Articles in Linguistic Geography

More Great Maps from M. Izady at Gulf 2000

By Martin W. Lewis | March 5, 2012 | 13 Comments
Middle East Cultural Historical Regions Map by M. Izady

The fantastic map trove at Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 Project, generated by cartographer M. Izady, continues to expand. Many detailed maps of language, religion, ethnicity, and cultural-historical regions in the greater Middle East are found on the site.
Today’s GeoNote highlights Izady’s map of “Primary Cultural and Historical Zones.” This map makes an invaluable companion for historical sources covering the region. …

Rural Cosmopolitanism in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley

By Martin W. Lewis | February 23, 2012 | 2 Comments

An earlier GeoCurrents post described the food culture of a certain segment of the San Francisco Bay Area as exhibiting “cosmopolitan localism.” Such attitudes are not unique to urban areas in Northern California. In Mendocino County, cosmopolitanism takes on distinctly rural cast. In some of the most seemingly isolated areas, one can find pronounced cultural sophistication and global engagement.
Consider, for …

Introduction: Cultural Diversity and Political Division in Northern California

By Martin W. Lewis | February 13, 2012 | 2 Comments

For the next several weeks, GeoCurrents will examine California, particularly the northwestern quarter of the state.  Our interest in California derives from several sources. First, GeoCurrents strives for global coverage, and as a quick glance at the Master Map reveals, North America has received relatively little attention. Second, northern California is the home base of the website, and as such …

The Many Armenian Diasporas, Then and Now

By Martin W. Lewis | February 6, 2012 | 2 Comments
Wikipedia map of the recent Armenian Diaspora

Armenians have long been scattered over many countries, whether as permanent migrants or temporary sojourners. Today, only about a third of their population lives in Armenia, with the rest spread over a wide area, as can be seen on the map posted here. This pattern largely reflects the movements caused by deadly mass expulsions of the early 20th century that …

Dreams of a Circassian Homeland and the Sochi Olympics of 2014

By Martin W. Lewis | January 27, 2012 | 6 Comments
Map of the Circassian Republics in Russia

The resurgence of Circassian identity in recent years faces daunting obstacles. Many Circassians believe that the long-term sustainability of their community requires a return to the northwestern Caucasus, but both the Russian state and the other peoples of the region resist such designs. Circassians are thus focusing much of their efforts on global public opinion, building a protest movement in …

The Politics of Genocide Claims and the Circassian Diaspora

By Martin W. Lewis | January 24, 2012 | 47 Comments
Map of the Caucasian Language Families

Allegations of genocide are often politically charged. On January 23, 2012, the French parliament voted to criminalize the denial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. In Turkey, by contrast, it is illegal to assert that the same acts were genocidal. The Turkish government remains adamant, threatening to impose unspecified sanctions on …

Historical Clues and Modern Controversies in the Northeastern Caucasus: Udi and Ancient Albania

By Martin W. Lewis | January 23, 2012 | 32 Comments
Map of Hurrian Kingdoms, 2300 BCE

The Caucasus is rightly called a “mountain of languages.” Linguistic diversity reaches its extreme in the Russian republic of Dagestan and adjacent districts in northern Azerbaijan. The nearly three million inhabitants of Dagestan speak more than thirty languages, most of them limited to the republic. Such languages may seem inconsequential to outsiders, mere relict tongues of minor peoples. Yet a …

The Turkic-Speaking Greek Community of Georgia—and Its Demise

By Martin W. Lewis | January 19, 2012 | 27 Comments
Maps showing ethnic changes in Georgia

Readers who have carefully examined the maps of the Caucasus posted recently in GeoCurrents may have noted an area marked “Greek” in south-central Georgia. This Greek zone appears on most but not all ethno-linguistic maps of the region, sometimes as a single area, and sometimes as two. Depicting Greek communities here is historically accurate but increasingly anachronistic. Since 1991, the Greek …

From Sarmatia to Alania to Ossetia: The Land of the Iron People

By Martin W. Lewis | January 16, 2012 | 29 Comments
Map of the Sarmatian Tribes in Late Antiquity

The Caucasus is often noted as a place of cultural refuge, its steep slopes and hidden valleys preserving traditions and languages that were swept away in the less rugged landscapes to the north and south. Such a depiction generally seems fitting for the Ossetians, the apparent descendents of a nomadic group called the Sarmatians that dominated the grasslands of western …

Keystone of the Caucasus: Ignored Ossetia and Its Snow Revolution

By Martin W. Lewis | January 13, 2012 | 27 Comments
Map of the Caucasus, Showing North Ossetia-Alania and South Ossetia

If the arch of the Great Caucasus can be said to have a keystone, it would have to be Ossetia. This east-west range presents a formidable barrier to traffic between southern Russia and the Middle East, as it is pierced by few negotiable passes. By far the most important route across the mountains extends along the Darial Gorge through …

African Country Names in Indigenous Languages

By Martin W. Lewis | December 16, 2011 | 2 Comments
Mark Karan's Spread of Sango Map and Book Cover

After the recent GeoCurrents post on country names, Asya Pereltsvaig brought my attention to an interesting website called Endonym Map. The site features a single world map that shows the names of countries and dependent territories in their own official or national languages, as expressed in the script used for those languages. (A detail of the Endonym Map, showing most …

From Sogdian to Persian to Sart to Tajik & Uzbek: The Reformulation of Linguistic and Political Identity in Central Asia

By Martin W. Lewis | November 28, 2011 | 5 Comments
Wikipedia Maps of Three Turkic Language Sunfamilies

(Many thanks to Asya Pereltsvaig for her assistance with this post)
The Turkic-Persian historical synthesis found in Iranian Azerbaijan (discussed in the previous post) extends well beyond Iran’s borders. Through much of Central Asia, the dominant cultural framework is perhaps best described as a hybrid formation. In a fascinating book, Robert Canfield and his colleagues go so far as to designate …

Greater Turkey Vs. Greater Iran

By Martin W. Lewis | November 24, 2011 | 24 Comments
Map of Greater Turkey and Greater Azerbaijan

 Visions of a Greater Iran, discussed yesterday, come into conflict with other imaginings of geopolitical enlargement, particularly that of “Greater Turkey.” Harsh debates are posted under maps of hoped-for state expansion. The following exchange, accompanying a YouTube clip proselytizing for Greater Iran, typifies the more civil end of the argument spectrum:
 Azerigull: Long live Greater Iran, Empire of Iran. To all …

The Dream—or Nightmare—of “Greater Iran”

By Martin W. Lewis | November 22, 2011 | 24 Comments
Pasa Map of Iranian People

When the term “greater” is attached to a country name, it usually indicates that certain extreme nationalists want the boundaries of the state to expand. The Wikipedia article on “Greater Iran” is one exception, framing the issue on cultural and historical grounds without reference to geopolitical ambition. Still, links in the article lead to sites promoting “Pan-Iranism,” defined as “an …

The Complex and Contentious Issue of Afghan Identity

By Martin W. Lewis | November 19, 2011 | 26 Comments
Map showing different definitions of the term

“Afghanistan” is an oddly constructed place name. It is usually said to be a Persian word meaning “land of the Pashtuns.” The widely used suffix “stan” is Persian for “place of” or “land of,” cognate with the English “stead” (as in “homestead”) and ultimately with “stand.” “Afghan” is usually considered synonymous with “Pashtun.” From the Pashtun perspective, “Afghanistan” is an …

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