Program for LanGIS Lecture Day
Wednesday 9 May 2018, 09:00–12:15
Engelska parken, room Eng/ 16-0043
The event is public. No application needed.

Invited speakers

Alan Macniven
Peder Gammeltoft
Peter Ranacher

  • Alan Macniven is the Head of Scandinavian Studies and Senior Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies at the Department of European Languages and Cultures of the University of Edinburgh. He teaches on a range of courses covering the language, literature and culture of modern and medieval Scandinavia. His current research is focussed on the mariculture of Scotia Scandinavica.
  • Peder Gammeltoft is Senior Academic Librarian and Scientific Manager of the Norwegian Language Collections at the Department of special collections of the University of Bergen. As a formerly associate professor at Center for Name Research, University of Copenhagen, he has worked with onomastic data for two decades and have always been interested in digital utilization of language data. With his involvement in the DigDag-project 2009-11, he gained a greater insight in spatial usage of place-name data and has worked with GIS and spatially-enabled databases ever since.​
  • Peter Ranacher is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich. He works on the interdisciplinary project LiMiTS (Linguistic Morphology in Time and Space). He holds a PhD in Geoinformatics from the University of Salzburg.

Chair: Alexandra Petrulevich

  • 09:00-09:15 Welcome and opening remarks, Alexandra Petrulevich and Marc Tang (Uppsala University)
  • 09:15–10:00 Peder Gammeltoft: Onomastic data in spatial settings – online GIS vs. specially developped names portals
  • 10:00–10:30 Coffee break
  • 10:30–11:15 Peter Ranacher: A spatial view on language evolution
  • 11:15–11:30 Break
  • 11:30–12:15 Alan Macniven: Seaways, Spies and Sagas: Using GIS to coordinate the search for Scotland’s Viking Age harbours
  • 12:15–          Lunch (Kajutan, Matikum)

See abstracts below:

  • Peder Gammeltoft: Onomastic data in spatial settings – online GIS vs. specially developped names portals

    While the study of personal names and place-names have a century-long tradition, the challenges of bringing research findings and general information out in the world have not decreased with the rise of the Digital Age. While being a specifically linguistic research object, the applications for onomastic data are far-reaching. Being some of the most used elements of language in expressing location, direction and relation, place-names and personal names play a central role in as diverse societal aspects as geodata, administrative systems, the legal framework and, not least, every day communication.

    How do we secure that onomastic data retains a relevance to its users and ensure the continued usage? To me, one of the key elements to continued usage is a strong digital presence, openly sharable data and, for place-names, geolocation!

    This talk will focus on the problem of georeferencing and publication of georeferenced data. As it is, there are a number of possible ways of publicizing georeferenced place-name data, either in the form of off-the-shelf solutions or as purposebuilt standalone applications or through webservices. Each possibility has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are easily created and publicized but with limited functionality whereas others are costly but will show exactly what is needed and wanted. As I see it, all application types have their own use for different purposes and tasks, and my talk will give some recommendations as how to integrate geocoded place-names better in research, teaching, publication and general information.
  • Peter Ranacher: A spatial view on language evolution

Together with geographers and linguists from Zurich, Peter explores the evolution of languages in space and time. He is particularly interested in quantitative methods to infer spatial pathways of language expansion and language contact. Language expansion is the process in which societies migrate and possibly fission into groups while retaining common linguistic traits. Language contact is the process in which societies interact, with the possible result of traits spreading from one society to another. In the first part of his presentation, Peter gives an overview on recent phylogeographic methods for exploring the spatial expansion of languages. Since phylogeographic methods require traits to be passed from ancestor to descendant, they are not suitable for analyzing contact-related phenomena. This motivates the need for quantitative methods to infer spatial pathways of language diffusion independent of and across phylogenies. In the second part of the presentation, Peter introduces two such approaches. The lecture concludes with two case studies in South America and North-Western Europe.

  1. South America: The case study identifies contact zones in South America, i.e. connected regions where languages share common traits. The study shows that the Amazon River has played an important role for language expansion and contact.
  2. North-Western Europe: The case study explores the change of language similarity on the British Isles and continental Europe from the Early Middle Ages to the present. The study finds an areal signal that sets the languages of the British Isles apart from languages spoken on the continent and cross-cuts lines of linguistic ancestry.
  • Alan Macniven: Seaways, Spies and Sagas: Using GIS to coordinate the search for Scotland’s Viking Age harbours

The peoples of Scotia Scandinavica had an intimate relationship with the sea. Living in fractured archipelagos and deeply indented fjordic littorals, they were surrounded by it. Rather than keeping them isolated and apart, however, the surrounding and interconnecting waterways served to facilitate communication, commerce and political control. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the ship came to occupy a central place in their elite symbolism, with numerous known and suspected Viking boat burials scattered across the region. In the west, the future Lordship of the Isles, the material reality of seafaring appears to have changed little from the Viking Age to the 16th century, when the iconography of the prestigious West Highland grave slabs continued to focus on twin-prowed, clinker-built ships driven by oars and sails.

What is both surprising and frustrating is how very little documentary or material evidence survives for this important and extended period in Scotland’s maricultural history that might shed further light on either the ships themselves or the harbours and anchorages where they might have been encountered. To have any hope beyond random chance of finding the remnants of these traditions demands a multidisciplinary approach, beginning with the reports of military spies in the 16th century and working back through earlier charters and Icelandic sagas. In so doing it is also necessary to consider an array of topographical features and maritime conditions along with their significance to land-based populations as seen from place-names, aspects of social and ecclesiastical infrastructure and pagan burials. Today’s talk will demonstrate how GIS solutions have been used to help coordinate and navigate the data so far.