Spatial Reasoning and GIS in Linguistic Prehistory. Two Case Studies from Lower Fungom (Northwest Cameroon)

in Language Dynamics and Change
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Being an ontologically multidisciplinary topic, language change is among the best candidates to be addressed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS can integrate datasets from diverse disciplines along with real-world geographical information, hence facilitating the investigation of (i) the spatial relations existing between research items and (ii) (past) landscapes. Drawing from an ongoing project focused on the historical development of the extremely diverse linguistic situation documented in the Lower Fungom region (Northwest Cameroon), this article explores the possibility of placing authentic interdisciplinary research pivoting on linguistic issues within a GIS framework.

Spatial Reasoning and GIS in Linguistic Prehistory. Two Case Studies from Lower Fungom (Northwest Cameroon)

in Language Dynamics and Change

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    Figure 1. Localization (left) and geomorphological map (right) of the northern area of the Cameroonian Grassfields. The small rectangle in the map to the right locates the research area that will be visualized in the following maps.

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    Figure 2. Physical and political map of Lower Fungom with main paths connecting villages.

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    Figure 3. Distribution and affiliation of the languages spoken in Lower Fungom. Mashi is a variety of Naki that is spoken (at least) also in Mekaf and Nse, which are two villages located outside of Lower Fungom proper and, therefore, are not shown on the map.

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    Figure 4. Thematic map representing synoptically, for each village, the affiliation of the language spoken in it and the provenance of most of its exogamous units. As for the latter, the first subdivision between indigenous and foreign ancestors is made through difference in contour line thickness: a thicker contour line indicates indigenous ancestors, whereas a contour line of normal thickness indicates ancestors’ foreign provenance. Within the latter subgroup, an oblique stroke indicates that ancestors were of diverse foreign provenance; stroke-less shapes indicate ancestors’ uniform foreign origin.

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    Figure 5. Distribution of the items of memory presumably dating back to circa 1750, collected in village-based ethnohistorical traditions. Nsom (see legend and Figs 6 and 7) is a deserted settlement of some importance for reconstructing the history of Lower Fungom in the 19th century. It is not mentioned in the remainder of this paper for reasons of space, but further information can be found in Di Carlo (2011: 92–94).

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    Figure 6. Distribution of the items of memory presumably dating back to around 1830, collected in village-based ethnohistorical traditions.

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    Figure 7. Distribution of the items of memory presumably dating back to around 1860, collected in village-based ethnohistorical traditions.

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    Figure 8. Distribution of the items of memory presumably dating back to around 1900, collected in village-based ethnohistorical traditions.

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