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Articles in Linguistic Geography

Further Problems with the “Ethnolinguanymic State” Concept: The Case of Afghanistan

By Martin W. Lewis | November 17, 2011 | 28 Comments
Map of Underfit States

Last Saturday’s post on “ethnolinguanymic states” generated pointed criticisms, especially from Maju, whose frequent comments on GeoCurrents are much appreciated. I realized afterward that the main problem was a lack of clarity in the initial post. The ultimate point was not to argue that “ethnolinguanymic” countries (those whose names incorporate the names of their main language) should be regarded as …

Afghanistan and the Ethnolinguanymic State

By Martin W. Lewis | November 12, 2011 | 46 Comments
Map of Ethnolinguanymic States

A recent GeoCurrents post noted that Afghanistan is not a nation-state, lacking the requisite solidarity. Yet the very name of the country might lead one to expect a relatively high level of cohesion derived from a common ethnic background. To coin a term, Afghanistan is an “ethnolinguanymic state”—that is, a state named after a dominant ethnic group that speaks a …

Conflict in the Comoros

By Martin W. Lewis | October 28, 2011 | 4 Comments
Wikipedia Map of the Invasion of Anjouan in the Comoros

Although Mayotte is a troubled island, its difficulties are minor compared to those of the other islands in the Comoro Archipelago, which collectively form an independent state. By some accounts, the Comoros is the most coup-wracked country in the world, having suffered twenty military assaults on its government since independence in 1975. Its instability is almost matched by its poverty; …

Arabs and Persians; Shiites and Sunnis: More Complicated Than You Might Think

By Martin W. Lewis | October 25, 2011 | 17 Comments
Language Map of Persian/Arabic Gulf from Muturzikin

Uninformed voices in the United States commonly refer to Iran as an “Arab country”—a fundamental error committed even by outlets as respectable as Slate magazine. Few Americans grasp the lines of division between Arab and Persian (or Iranian) culture and society. Iranian-Americans emphasize the distinction; calling a person of Iranian heritage an Arab is likely

Oil and Arabic-Speakers in Iran’s Troubled Southwest

By Martin W. Lewis | October 22, 2011 | 9 Comments
Incorrect Map of Sunni/Shia Distribution in the Middle East

If Saudi Arabia faces a restive Shia minority in its main oil-producing area (see GeoCurrents Oct. 14, 2011), Iran has a similar challenge. Its foremost oil-producing zone—the southwestern province of Khuzestan (Ahwaz in Arabic)—is the heart of Iran’s dissatisfied Arabic-speaking minority. Fear of unrest in Khuzestan looms large in Iranian security deliberations. Not only does

The Linguistic Geography of the Wikipedia

By Martin W. Lewis | April 18, 2011 | 12 Comments

One of the highlights of the Association of American Geographers meeting last week in Seattle was the annual Geography Bowl. Student teams competed to answer all manner of geographical questions, including a few that were devilishly difficult. The most impressive answer may have come in the final round, when the two remaining teams were asked

Nationalism and Language in Egypt

By Martin W. Lewis | February 16, 2011 | 3 Comments

Those who doubt that the recent uprising in Egypt will lead to a stable democracy often cite the poor state of democratic governance in Iraq. Those optimistic about Egypt typically counter by contrasting democracy as imposed by a foreign conquest with democracy as derived from a popular uprising. Equally pertinent is Egypt’s

Mapping Language and Race in the Finnic World

By Martin W. Lewis | February 3, 2011 | 9 Comments

In skimming through old atlases, one might be surprised to find Finns racially classified as yellow-skinned Mongolians. Yet until fairly recently, that was the norm. Consider the 1962 map posted above, “Classification of Mankind By Color of Skin,” from the popular Bartholomew’s Advanced Atlas of Modern Geography. Here both Finns and Estonians

The Eastern Finnic Peoples in World History

By Martin W. Lewis | February 1, 2011 |

Geocurrents has focused for a week on the Finnic-speaking* peoples of Russia, and will continue to do so for two additional postings. This prolonged gaze is prompted by two things: my intrinsic interest in peoples who have maintained their languages and cultural practices despite hundreds of years of intense pressure to acculturate; and my conviction

Russian Xenophobia and the History of the Finnic-Speaking Peoples

By Martin W. Lewis | January 31, 2011 | 2 Comments

Hostility toward foreigners is a major problem in Russia today. Xenophobic attitudes are common across a broad segment of the population, and violent assaults by skinheads and self-styled neo-Nazis on individuals perceived as foreign are common. People from the Caucasus region, stereotypically linked with organized crime and Islamic extremism, are often singled out

Language, Regionalism, and Political Protest in Thailand

By Martin W. Lewis | April 28, 2010 | One Comment

The massive protests currently threatening the government of Thailand are generally described in the U.S. press in terms of class dynamics. The red-shirt demonstrators, followers of the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are said to represent Thailand’s peasantry. Poor and politically marginalized farmers had benefitted from the

Language and Voting In Romania

By Martin W. Lewis | January 6, 2010 | One Comment

As the previous post indicated, many Hungarian-populated areas lie outside of Hungary’s national borders. More than half of Hungary’s territory was stripped away in the post-WWI settlement, although most of the areas lost had non-Hungarian majorities. Hard-core Magyar (or Hungarian) nationalists who dream of reclaiming these lands often advertise their views by displaying maps of

Linguistic Geography and the Nuba Mountains

By Martin W. Lewis | December 31, 2009 |

The Ethnologue is one of the best sites on the web for information about languages and linguistic geography. In the Ethnologue map shown above, a red dot is placed at the geographical center of each of the 6,906 languages listed in the organization’s database. One of the more interesting patterns visible in

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