Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Maps and Atlases

The World Atlas of Language Structures! A Book a Linguist would LOVE

One day last year, I went home to visit my parents. My father had a book in his hand; he was beaming. "Merrie," he said, "you have to see this book. It's by John MacDonald." Honestly, I don't remember the author's name nor the name of the book. "It's called 'The Historical Atlas of the World 1625-1895.' You have to read it. Every word is a gem!"

"Oh." I said, thrilled. Someone in the world had found out about historical atlases! It's something that I fear only librarians know about. But Barnes & Noble had put one on its remaindered shelf and my father had found it for $10. Excellent! "That's great. I always try to get students to read those. Atlases are wonderful. In them time and space are superimposed so that folks can see where and when history took place."

My Dad was persistent. It was that particular book that was special. "This John MacDonald. Every word is important. You have to read it. I'm going back to find more of them!"

Well, let me tell you all. We have a fantastic NEW atlas in. If you're a linguist, it's probably the most fun you may ever have with an atlas: The World Atlas of Language Structures (LIBRARY WEST: -- Reference (3rd Floor) -- P143 .W67 2005 [In-Library Use]

It'll take you ages to look through the whole thing. There are articles about the typology of languages -- what grammatical and phonological features occur in which languages. Then the languages are literally mapped out.

And for those of us interested in signed languages, there are even two maps of 21 signed languages -- they are mapped by negative incorporation and question particles. Very cool!

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