Language represents an abstract ability of a community of speakers (Lippuner & Werlen, 2009). So it is a medium through which people communicate with each other. Regarding Werlen (2009, p. 6), language is used as central medium for action and meaning transfer. Geography is concerned with the study of language as the medium through which intersubjective meaning is communicated, and in the power relations intrinsic to such meaning (Gregory et al., 2009). Language makes it possible for people to have interactions, by acting, understanding and reacting. One person acts, by starting a conversation. For an other person to react on this, he needs to understand the meaning of what was said. So understanding is a very important aspect of language.
Language and geography
Language has played an important role in the development of human geography theory, which is reflected in different branches of study, such as language geography (language mapping) which is rooted in anthropogeography and linguistic geography (researching geographical roots in regional dialects), but also in studying the intersubjective meaning (and the power relations within that meaning) that is communicated through language.
In thematically ordering these examples, it may be possible to distinguish two important themes of study concerning (distribution of) language and social usage of language. Central in the first of these main themes (rooted in traditions of cultural geography and also addressing the previous examples of language- and linguistic geography) is the study of "language distributions, upon spatial and social variations in linguistic form and in the origins of and changes in place names" (Gregory et al., 2011, p. 411). The second theme focusses on "the connections between language, social power and identityand the practice of geography" (Gregory et al., 2011, idem) and is characteristic of cultural politics, Postcolonialism and "contemporary interests in unequal power relations and in language as a political agency" (Gregory et al., 2011, idem). This way of thinking about language among geographers is highly influenced by the changes in twentieth-century philosophy and social theory during the linguistic turn (Gregory et al., 2011, idem).
The meaning of language within Structuralism
Ferdinand de Saussure discovered that language language was actually a structure. Language is a whole social linguistic system into which an individual is born. A master system of differences between sign that regulates sign production above and beyone linguistics alone (Smith, 2009, p. 30). At the moment that people start to use and practise language it becomes a 'la parole'. This french for speech. It describes the language as a process and how it is being practised by speakers (Smith, 2009).
- Gregory, D., Johnston, R., Pratt, G., Watts, M.J., Whatmore, S. (2009). The Dictionary of Human Geography. Wiley-Blackwell.
- Lippuner, R., Werlen, B. (2009). Structuration Theory. Elsevier Ltd.
- Smith, R.G. (2009), Structuralism/Structuralist Geography. In: International Encyclopedia for Human Geography. Elsevier
- Werlen, R. (2009), Everyday regionalisation. In: International Encyclopedia for Human Geography. Elsevier
- Withers, C. (2011). Language. In Gregory, D., et al. (Eds.) The Dictionary of Human geography. Wiley-Blackwell.
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