Visualizing Dialect Variation on a 3-D Interpolated Map: A Case Study in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Reference work entry


Geographic information systems (GIS) have undoubtedly played an increasingly important role in spatial analysis of linguistic data, as evident in geolinguistics and regional dialectology. During the second half of the twentieth century, linguistic mapping shifted from simply visualizing language distributions to quantifying language observations and analyzing linguistic spatial patterns. In this chapter we start out with a brief overview on existing works that use GIS and spatial analysis to map, analyze, and visualize linguistic data. We then demonstrate an application of spatial analytics with Chiang Mai dialect data collected from 500 informants. The collection of these data focused on lexical variation of common words that both the young and the old shared. Point-based data were used in spatial interpolation with an ordinary kriging approach to create an estimated surface of how each variant is distributed over space. The resulting surface was then overlaid onto a topographic relief data layer and displayed in 3-D to facilitate the exploration of spatial patterns between the physical variable (topography) and lexical variation. While many language atlases traditionally present dialect observations using point symbol maps, we show that a 3-D interpolated map could be a useful tool for visualizing co-occurrences of multiple variants of the same word at the same geographic location. This technique allows linguists to determine a general trend of dialect variation, which might not be revealed on a 2-D map, and also serves as a tool to detect some variants that might be at risk of falling out of use.


Cartographic visualization Geostatistics Ordinary kriging interpolation Dialectology Geolinguistics 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental PlanningTowson UniversityTowsonUSA
  2. 2.English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)Lone Star College – Creekside CenterThe WoodlandsUSA
  3. 3.College of Environment and PlanningHenan UniversityKaifengChina
  4. 4.Department of GeographyKent State UniversityKentUSA

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