This project will break new ground in the language sciences by pursuing a linguistic inquiry into landscape. From the linguist s point of view, the geophysical environment is virtually unexplored. Yet it has vast potential for influence on the discipline. The project will play a pioneering role in situating landscape within linguistics as a fundamental domain of representational systems, opening up important links to other disciplines concerned with landscape that usually have little to do with language. It will achieve this by (1) exploring landscape categorization in a number of languages, (2) comparing such categorization, (3) developing a model for understanding categorization across languages and speakers, and (4) documenting vanishing landscape systems. The research team will study landscape categorization in six diverse language settings. Each setting is a case study carried out by a team member with expert knowledge and prior field experience of the setting. Each setting offers opportunities of studying closely related languages as well as individuals speaking the same language, making comparison possible not only among maximally diverse languages but also at finer levels of linguistic granularity. An exploratory psycholinguistic subproject will probe the relationship between language and cognition in the landscape domain. The project will blaze a trail in applying GIS to linguistic data, in testing advanced experimental techniques in the field, and in documenting domain-specific data from a global language sample. Cross-cultural variation in landscape ontology is a matter of great practical importance understanding the meaning and reference of landscape terms and place names is crucial to major fields of human cooperation, from navigation to international law.
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