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Chapter 7-8

GEOG 280 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7-8: Haitian Creole, French Sign Language, American Sign Language

Geographic Science
Course Code
GEOG 280

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GEOG 280: Cultural Geography
Geography of Language and Religion
Instructions: Use your text, atlas, Power Point, and anything else you might need, to answer each of the following
questions and define each term.
1. What is the definition of language? Language is a system of communicating that involves sounds, gestures, marks
or signs.
2. What are phonemes? About how many phonemes does the English language have? The Rotokas language of
Papua New Guinea? The San language of Africa? Phonemes are sounds that make up a language. English has
between 40 and 50 unique phonemes. Rotokas only has 11, and the San language has over 100.
3. What are the oldest forms of language? Cave drawings
4. What is meant by pictographic writing? A tiny picture, or representation, of the object it was representing.
5. What is the Rosetta Stone and why was it important to scientists? The Rosetta Stone is a tablet that has the same
inscription written on it in 3 different scripts. Scholars knew Greek, so they were able to use that to decipher the
other scripts in the 1820s.
6. Who is Thomas Gallaudet? Approximately how many “speakers” of American Sign Language are there today?
How many other forms of sign language are used around the world? Thomas Gallaudet modified French sign
language for American students. 100,000-500,000 speakers use ASL. Over 100 forms of sign-language are used
around the world.
7. What is the difference between a language and a dialect? Dialect refers to variations of sounds and vocabulary
within a language.
8. How are accents and dialects learned? Dialects and accents develop because of geography, notable distance and
isolation, which allow common cultural traits to diverge.
9. What is a lingua franca? How does it differ from a pidgin? A lingua franca is a language used by people for
purposes of cross-cultural communication or trade. A pidgin is a simplified language that is used by people who
speak different languages. A pidgin is usually not that native language of anyone using it and has simple
vocabularies and grammar so they can be learned quickly.
10. In Haiti people speak French and Haitian Creole. What is a creole? Creole is a pidgin that is adopted by a
group of speakers as its first, or primary, language.
11. What is a language family? How are languages grouped into language families? A language family is a
group of languages with a common ancestor, or proto-language. They are grouped according to genetic
12. Make notes on each of the following language families.
a. Afro-Asiatic: a group of over 370 languages primarily spoken in North Africa and the Middle East. The
most important subgroup is the Semitic branch, which includes over 70 languages, like Arabic.
b. Indo-European: includes over 440 languages spoken across the Euro-Asian landmass. Important
subgroups: Indo-Iranian (oldest surviving subgroup), Greek, Romance subgroup (important to modern
English), Germanic subgroup (English!)
c. Niger-Congo: largest language family with 1,400 languages in Africa. Includes 9 major branches,
including Bantu
d. Sino-Tibetan: includes 250+ languages, include many Chinese dialects like Mandarin (870 million, most
widely spoken first language in the world), Cantonese (71 million), Hakka (33 million)
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e. Malayo-Polynesian: includes over 1,200 languages across Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, 20% of
the world speaks a Malayo-Polynesian language, Malagasy is spoken by the people of Madagascar and is
thousands of miles away from its closest linguistic neighbors.
13. What is a proto-language? the common ancestor of a collection of languages
14. Approximately how many languages are spoken today? 6,800 living languages
15. Where is English, in some form or another, spoken today? United States, Canada, South Africa,
Australia/New Zealand, Norway
16. What is Gullah? A creole language spoken on islands off the South Carolina and Georgia coasts,
developed from a form of pidgin English with thousands of African loan words.
17. What are some of the strongest barriers to language diffusion? Physical barriers, cultural barriers
18. How do languages converge and diverge? Divergence is the dividing of a language into many languages,
which occurs when speakers become geographically isolated in two or more areas. Convergence is when two
different languages merge, which has been documented when an area has high numbers of bilingual speakers who
begin to use vocab and grammar of one language while speaking another.
19. What is a language isolate? Give two examples. A language isolate is a language that belongs to no
known language family and is not related to any living language. Examples include Basque, Japanese, Ainu, and
20. What is an extinct language? According to the Ethnologue database of languages, how many languages
have been classified as nearly extinct? An extinct language is a language that is no longer spoken. 473 languages
are nearly extinct.
21. What factors in the modern world make the extinction of languages more likely? What technologies
might reverse the trend toward fewer languages? Colonialism, the pressure to adopt the culture traits of the
majority population makes extinction of languages more likely. The loss of distance decay might reverse the trend
toward fewer languages.
Note on the death of languages
Harrisonburg is home to the manufacturers of Rosetta Stone Language software. Some of their customers at this
point in time are individuals, groups or organizations that are paying the company to publish a particular language
that is dying out so that it doesn’t become extinct. Your professor is waiting for the company to publish software
for Haitian Creole but officials tell her that it will probably be a while because they are so busy with the special
requests for the languages that are in danger of disappearing.
22. A toponym is a place name and the study of place names is toponymy. What do toponyms on the
landscape reveal? They indicate physical features, such as a river or mountain, or human features on a landscape,
such as towns or roads.
23. In what ways are languages at the heart of some conflicts in the world today? The conflict can be over
what language should be used, or about the cultural pollution of one language by another.
24. What is language pollution? Language pollution is when one language infringes on the “purity” of
another language.
25. True/false: English is the official language of the U.S.
26. What is the “conflict” over English in the U.S. today? Some have advocated for making English the
official language of the US, but 10-15% of Americans speak a language other than English. However, this might
making English an official language would interfere with due process of law because courts would no longer have
to provide translators or interpreters to non-English-speaking defendants.
27. What is the definition of religion? A cultural system of beliefs, traditions, and practices often centered
around the worship of a deity or deities.
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