Articles in Europe
An earlier GeoCurrents post mentioned Finns among the nationalities deported by the Soviets before and during World War II. As it turns out, the situation in the Finnish borderlands is rather more complicated than that. The territory between St. Petersburg and Helsinki is home to a number of ethnic groups whose histories range from cultural and linguistic assimilation to population transfer to outright ethnic cleansing.
Several earlier GeoCurrents posts examined the history and geography of culinary vocabulary, particularly words for ‘cheese’, ‘onion’, and ‘tea’. It has become clear that the distribution of such words in European languages tells a story of both common descent and borrowing. But a completely different picture emerges if we examine words for ‘cucumber’ (see map on the left). Here, areal patterns are more conspicuous than those of language-family relationships.
An interesting article in this week’s Economist examines Britain’s north/south electoral divide. The south, baring London, habitually votes for the Conservative Party, whereas the north generally opts for Labour. The article, quoting John Hobson, traces the division back to the 1800s, when a “southern ‘Consumers England’ of leisurely suburbs” was opposed to “a northern ‘Producers England’ of mills and mines.” …
Like the Samaritans, the Karaites accept only the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) and the Book of Joshua, and their identity as Jews has been questioned on a number of occasions. Unlike the Samaritans, the Karaites celebrate Passover on the standard date, though their observance of the holiday is quite distinctive.
A recent GeoNote discussed the differences in voting patterns between French-, German-, and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland. Similarly, distinctions in regional cuisines are quite pronounced, leading Marianne Kaltenbach, the author of Cooking in Switzerland, to remark that “Switzerland’s cuisine is as varied as its landscape”.
In the Swiss referendum of 2013, voters overwhelming approved a measure to limit executive compensation. Despite the fact that opponents outspent proponents 40 fold, and despite warning that the move would “undermine the country’s investor-friendly image,” 68 percent of voters approved the initiative.
As specified by the Wikipedia, the measure will:
require an annual vote by shareholders for the president and other …
A three-part referendum held in Switzerland in early March received minimal press attention. Some media reports noted the passage of a measure to restrict executive compensation, but the family policy initiative was virtually ignored, as was the one on land-use planning. Today’s post briefly considers the family policy issue, whereas tomorrow’s will look at the executive compensation measure.
The Swiss election …
The recent doctoral dissertation by Russian geneticist Oleg Balanovsky contains a number of fascinating maps pertaining to the distribution of both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and other genetic markers across Eurasia. These maps reveal that the main genetic division divides Eurasia into western and eastern sub-regions; the boundary starts at the Caucasus and traverses through southern Urals, northern Kazakhstan, and southern Siberia, then follows the course of the Yenisey River.
While cheese-making processes reduce the amount of lactose found in cheeses, cheese production and consumption are still also a predominantly European practice. But how European peoples refer to cheese differs from language to language.
The president of the Czech Republic occupies a largely ceremonial position, with little real power. The country’s recent presidential election, however, was a hotly contested and closely watched contest, in part because it was the first time that the office was filled through a direct election. Also of significance was the issue of historical memory, focusing on Czech relations with …
Note to Readers: The invaluable website Electoral Geography 2.0: Mapped Politics has posted a number of interesting electoral maps over the past several months while GeoCurrents focused on linguistic issues. For the next week or two, we will examine several of these maps in detail, beginning with the portrayal of a seemingly minor but nonetheless intriguing election, the Austrian Conscription …
Examining the history and geography of just one word across languages can reveal fascinating and instructive patterns. In this post, we will take a closer look at the words for ‘onion’—as well as its relatives, leek, garlic, scallion, and shallot—in a number of European languages. The important lesson to draw from this is that the distribution of cognates for any single meaning (and by extension a relatively small set of such meanings, such as a Swadesh list) may tell an interesting story, but it is often one of both common descent and borrowing.
According to a short article by Sindya N. Bhanoo in the New York Times, titled “Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India”, a research article recently published in Current Biology “appears to confirm that the Roma came from a single group that left northwestern India about 1,500 years ago”. In actuality, the article in Current Biology makes no such claims.
In previous posts, I have argued that the constructions identified by Faarlund and Emonds as Scandinavian imports developed internally to English, although the presence of large numbers of Norse-speaking Vikings, especially in northern England, played an important role in precipitating some of these changes. Thus, Faarlund’s statement that “it is highly irregular to borrow the syntax and structure from one language and use it in another language” is erroneous. In fact, languages in close contact over a long period often do swap grammar as well as words.
In the previous post, we concluded that preposition stranding (that is putting a preposition at the end of the sentence, as in Who did you talk to?) is not a Scandinavian contribution to English, but a natural development of a structure that was already present in Old English. Let’s now consider the more fundamental change from the Object-Verb (OV) to the Verb-Object (VO) pattern that characterized the transition from Old English to Middle English. It too cannot be attributed wholly to the Vikings for several reasons.