New Trends in eHumanities - maps and grammar

1. Jeroen van Craenenbroeck, KU Leuven and 2. Bettina Speckmann, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven


September 18, 2014. 15.00-17.00 Meertens Institute, Symposium zaal

The presentations of this day are part of the Meertens workshop:  Maps and Grammar

This workshop aims to bring together researchers in linguistics with experts in geographic mapping.
If you are interested to join the whole workshop, you can register via the workshop website


The here mentioned presentations start at 15.00 hrs and are meant for a wider Humanities scholars audience.

1. Jeroen van Craenenbroeck (KU Leuven) 
Reverse Dialectometry: geography as a probe into linguistic theory

1 Introduction

Verb cluster ordering is a well-known area of microparametric variation within Germanic (Barbiers and Bennis (2010); Wurmbrand (2005)). For example, out of the six logically possible orders in three-verb clusters, five are attested, and their occurrence depends on the type of verbs, the hierarchical relations within the cluster, etc.

Dialectometric analyses typically map the differences and similarities between dialect locations based on their linguistic profile (see e.g. Spruit (2008) and the literature cited in Nerbonne and Kretzschmar Jr. (2013)). In this talk I reverse this perspective, and plot the similarities and differences between linguistic constructions (in particular, verb cluster orderings) based on their geographical spread.

2 Data & methodology

I examine the raw data from 8 maps in Barbiers et al. (2008): 4 containing two-verb clusters and 4 containing three-verb clusters, for a total of 31 possible cluster orders. These data are collected in a 31×267 matrix, where each row represents a verb cluster order and each column a dialect location. This table is then transformed into a 31×31 distance matrix, which lists, for each pair of verb cluster orders, the distance between them based on their geographical spread. When we apply multidimensional scaling to this matrix, we arrive at the following plot:


Figure 1: MDS-representation of 31 cluster orders in Barbiers et al. (2008)

3 Reverse dialectometry as a theoretical tool

This plot can now be used as a testing ground for theoretical analyses of verb clusters. For example, from Barbiers (2005)’s analysis we can distill the following four microparameters necessary for generating all and only the attested cluster orders in dialect Dutch: [±base-generation], [±movement], [±pied-piping], and [±feature-checking violation]. If this theoretical decomposition is on the right track, it should yield the pattern uncovered in Figure 1 above. Below I color code this plot according to Barbiers’s four microparameters. As is clear, these four microparameters do not succeed in deriving the empirical pattern laid before us by the dialect data. The analysis thus suggests that Barbiers’s theoretical decomposition of word order in dialect Dutch verb clusters is not on the right track.


Figure 2: the same MDS-representation, but color-coded according to Barbiers’s (2005) microparamters

4 Conclusion

In this talk I use dialectometric methods to compare linguistic constructions based on their geographical spread. I show that this technique can be used as a testing ground for theoretical analyses of these phenomena.


Barbiers, Sjef. 2005. Word order variation in three-verb clusters and the division of labour between generative linguistics and sociolinguistics. In Syntax and variation. Reconciling the biological and the social, ed. Leonie Cornips and Karen P. Corrigan, volume 265 of Current issues in linguistic theory, 233-264. John Benjamins.

Barbiers, Sjef, Johan van der Auwera, Hans Bennis, Eefje Boef, Gunther De Vogelaer, and Margreet van der Ham. 2008. Syntactische atlas van de Nederlandse dialecten. Deel II. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Barbiers, Sjef, and Hans Bennis. 2010. De plaats van het werkwoord in zuid en noord. In Voor Magda. Artikelen voor Magda Devos bij haar afscheid van de Universiteit Gent, ed. Johan De Caluwe and Jacques Van Keymeulen, 25-42. Gent: Academia. Nerbonne, John, and William A. Kretzschmar Jr. 2013. Dialectometry++. Literary and Linguistic Computing 28:2-12.

Spruit, Marco René. 2008. Quantitative perspectives on syntactic variation in Dutch dialects. Doctoral Dissertation, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Wurmbrand, Susanne. 2005. Verb clusters, verb raising, and restructuring. In The Blackwell Companion to Syntax, ed. Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, volume V, chapter 75, 227-341. Oxford: Blackwell.


2. Bettina Speckmann (Technische Universiteit Eindhoven) 
Algorithms for geovisualization and automated cartography

Geovisualization and cartography are two related fields which are concerned with the (interactive) visualization and exploration of geographic data, often in terms of (thematic) maps. Computer science has played an ever increasing role in developing sophisticated procedures – algorithms – to facilitate automated, online, on demand map creation, as well as interactive visualizations, which enable users to explore ever larger spatial data sets.

In this talk I will present a variety of geovisualization methods (and hint at the underlying algorithmic techniques), focussing mostly on thematic maps.