Linguistic geography

Linguistic geography. A trend in linguistics begun by Jules Gilliéron, who proposed to recover the history of a given language from the present-day territorial distribution of linguistic data. Linguistic geographers study dialects systematically and compile dialectal atlases. In the Slavic countries this scholarly trend had the greatest following in Poland.

Although a pioneering work in linguistic geography, Petro Buzuk’s dialectological study of the Poltava region, was written in Ukraine in 1929, the first Ukrainian dialectal atlas did not appear until almost three decades later. Some data on Ukrainian dialects appeared in Józef Tarnacki’s comparative study of Polish dialects in Mazovia and Polisia (1939) and the dialectological atlas of the Belarusian language (1963). Some works on Ukrainian dialects, such as Ivan Pankevych’s book on the Transcarpathian dialects (1938), Havrylo Shylo’s on the southwestern dialects north of the Dnister River (1957), Vasyl S. Vashchenko’s on the Poltava dialect (1957), and Karol Dejna’s on the Ternopil region’s dialects (1957), contain a number of maps and can be considered embryonic dialectal atlases. Atlases of Ukraine’s dialects began to appear only in the 1950s; they include Zdzisław Stieber’s atlas of the Lemko region (8 parts, 1956–64), Yosyp Dzendzelivsky’s atlas of Transcarpathia oblast (2 parts, 1958–60), the Carpathian Mountains dialectological atlas by Samuil Bernshtein et al (1967), Janusz Rieger’s atlas of the Boiko dialect (6 vols, 1979–86), Feliks Czyżewski’s atlas of Polish and Ukrainian dialects (1986), and Z. Hanudel’s south Lemko dialect (see Lemko dialects) atlas (2 vols, 1981–9). Work on a dialectal atlas covering all of Ukraine began in 1948–9, using Borys Larin’s program for collecting data. With Larin’s departure to Leningrad, Fedot Zhylko, the leading linguistic geographer in Ukraine, became the director of the atlas project. He propagated the principles of linguistic geography in his Narysy z dialektolohiï ukraïns'koï movy (Studies in the Dialectology of the Ukrainian Language, 1955; 2nd edn 1966), organized annual conferences on Ukrainian dialectology, and edited several collections of conference papers, including Ukraïns'ka linhvistychna heohrafiia (Ukrainian Linguistic Geography, 1966). The project came to a standstill when Zhylko moved to Moscow, but it was eventually revived under the direction of Ivan Matviias. The first two volumes of Atlas ukraïns'koï movy (Atlas of the Ukrainian Language, 1984, 1988) cover Polisia, the central Dnipro River region, Volhynia, the Dnister River region, and Transcarpathia and adjacent territories. The change of editors and revisions in the project’s program, including the reduction of the number of projected volumes from six to three, had a detrimental effect, and the atlas does not measure up to its Polish, Slovak, Bulgarian, and Belarusian counterparts. Of great importance for a description of Ukrainian linguistic geography is also the Obshcheslavianskii dialektologicheskii atlas (General Slavic Dialectological Atlas), published in a series from 1988. Besides work on the linguistic atlas, other studies in linguistic geography have been written by Vashchenko (the Dnipro region), Petro Lyzanets (Transcarpathia), Vasyl Latta (the Prešov region), Mykola Nykonchuk, and others.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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