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103 Errors in Mapping Indo-European Languages in Bouckaert et al. Concluded: Part V, Western Europe

Submitted by on October 11, 2012 – 5:43 pm 5 Comments |  

By now, all of the cartographic failings of Bouckaert et al. have become familiar. On the map of France and neighboring areas, for example, we see the unreasonable elevation of minor dialects to the status of discrete languages (three forms of Breton make the list), the replacement of a non-Indo-European language with an Indo-European languages (the Basque region is shown as French speaking), the improper use of political boundaries as linguistic boundaries (French is not shown as extending into Switzerland), the preferential classification of dialects as languages when they are associated with states (Walloon counts as a language, unlike the other equally distinctive langues d’oïl of northern France or the langues d’oc of southern France; Flemish counts as a language, unlike other equally distinctive forms of Dutch), and the simple geographical misplacement of languages (Romansh is placed in northwestern Italy rather than southern Switzerland). Of particular note in regard to the linguistic mapping of France is the fact that Corsica is completely obliterated by circle #48 (see the map of the Italian Peninsula in the previous post).

 

The mapping of the Iberian Peninsula is particularly simplistic. The authors have simply placed Portuguese in Portugal and Spanish, along with Catalan, in Spain. The fact that Galician in northwestern Spain is closer to Portuguese than to Spanish is ignored, and the Basque-speaking region is mapped as if it were Spanish speaking. The Balearic Islands are also neglected, as archipelagoes generally are in the authors’ land-biased approach.

 

The map of the British Isles severely misconstrues the Celtic tongues. Irish, for example, is shown as extending across all of the Republic of Ireland and as entirely absent from Northern Ireland. In actuality, Irish has long been largely limited to the western margin of the island, and as late as the early 20th century was still spoken in parts of what was to become the political unit of Northern Ireland. The mapping here, in other words, is yet again political rather than linguistic. By the same token, Welsh is placed in the coal-mining districts of southern Wales where it has been absent for generations, just as Cornish is depicted in areas where it was not been spoken for hundreds of years. The mapping of Scottish Gaelic is not bad, but the term used—“Scots Gaelic”—is off the mark. The proper term is “Scottish Gaelic,” as “Scots” refers to a different language altogether. Scots, or Lowland Scots, is usually regarded as a highly distinctive form of English, but some linguists regard it as a language in its own right (CNN has recently reported on the demise of one of its dialects).*

 

 

 

The mapping of extinct language is also poorly executed. Old English is essentially restricted to the historical kingdom of Wessex, even though the language extended as far north as the Edinburgh region of what is now southeastern Scotland, and included dialects of Kent, Mercia, and Northumbria. Significantly, even the Wessex (West Saxon) dialect of Old English extended farther to the east than what Bouckaert et al. would allow for Old English in its entirety.

The language map of Bouckaert et al. that I have criticized over these past five posts is a cornerstone of their model, yet it is also wholly inadequate for the task. Many of the errors found here ramify through all of the maps that they have produced.  But even if a serviceable map had been constructed, the model would still yield nonsense, as most of the assumptions upon which it is based are unwarranted, as we shall in more detail see in subsequent posts.

*Although I am no expert on this topic, I would argue that Lowland Scots is almost but not quite interintelligible with Standard English, especially in its spoken form, and thus deserves to be regarded as a separate language. Although I love the poetry of Robert Burns, I generally need translation. Take for example, these versus from “Auld Lang Syne”:

In the Original Scots:

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pu’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne.

 

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

sin auld lang syne.

 

In Standard English:

We two have run about the slopes,

and picked the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,

Since long long ago.

 

We two have paddled in the stream,

from morning sun till dinner time;

But seas between us broad have roared

since long long ago.

 

Or listen to the delightful poem “To a Mouse” on ScotsIndependent website:

 

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty

Wi bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murdering pattle.

 

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  • Paul Clapham

    I read that poem “To a Mouse” in school, but it wasn’t until 40 years later when I happened to buy a Scots-English dictionary in the gift shop at the Falkirk Wheel, that I found out the meaning of the Scots word “sleekit”.

    I had always assumed it meant something related to “sleek” and my teacher hadn’t said anything about the word at all, so I was very surprised to find it really meant “sly, devious”.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your fascinating comment, Paul!

      My personal favorite Scots words include “slather” and “ilk” (both spread to English), as well as “puggled” and “wabbit”, both meaning ‘extremely tired’. And of course, “kilfuddoch”, which is on the cover of my book!

  • Daniel Ezra Johnson

    First, these posts should have bylines, as earlier ones did. Second, considering that “even if a serviceable map had been constructed, the model would still yield nonsense”, too much time has been spent on these arguably minor geographical points. I look forward to future more substantive posts, as advertised, but please bear in mind that even there, there is some value in concision.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      These errors are “minor” only if one does not take accuracy of data to be important. And the sheer volume of them speaks for itself and hence has to be highlighted.

  • jemblue

    Actually, the French Basque Country is indeed French-speaking. Basque speakers are around a quarter of the population of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, while virtually the entire population (Basque speakers included) can speak French.