LL-MAP: Language and Location - A Map Annotation Project

LL-MAP is a project designed to integrate language information with data from the physical and social sciences by means of a Geographical Information System (GIS). The most important part of the project is a language subsystem, which relates geographical information on the area in which a language is or has been spoken to data on resources relevant to the language. Through a link to the MultiTree project, information on all proposed genetic relationships of the languages is made available and viewable in a geographic context. The system walso includes ancillary information on topography, political boundaries, demographics, climate, vegetation, and wildlife, thus providing a basis upon which to build hypotheses about language movement across territory. Some cultural information, e.g., on religion, ethnicity, and economics, is also included.

The LL-MAP system encourages collaboration between linguists, historians, archaeologists, ethnographers, and geneticists, as they explore the relationship between language and cultural adaptation and change. We hope it will elicit new insights and hypotheses, and that it will also serve as an educational resource. As a GIS, LL-MAP has the potential to be a captivating instructional tool, presenting complex data in a way accessible to all educational levels. Finally, as a free service available online, LL-MAP increases public knowledge of lesser-known languages and cultures, underlining the importance of language and linguistic diversity to cultural understanding and scientific inquiry.

LL-MAP started as a joint project of Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and Stockholm University, in collaboration with several projects and archives in the USA, Europe, and Australia. Collaborators include PARADISEC, The Alaska Native Language Center, The Tibetan-Himalayan Digital Library, and The WALS Project, as well as noted documentary linguists. Technical development is directed by The Institute for Geospatial Research and Education (IGRE) at EMU. The project was funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

The LL-MAP project is currently hosted and developed at Indiana University in the Department of Linguistics at The LINGUIST List.

Contact the Project Managers:
See Contact information at The LINGUIST List.

Collaborating Institutions

Founding Partners

An outstanding group of international collaborators have furnished data for the project. These include:

Alaska Native Language Center (ANLC)

The ANLC has provided LL-MAP with access to all of its geographic language data. Its archive includes over 200 topographic maps of Alaska which contain isogloss information for the Athabascan and Eskimo language families.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

MPI furnished information from 2 projects: the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), which has mapped cross-linguistic structural variation across more than 200 languages and includes an extensive database of geographical coordinates and the Loanword Typology project, which investigates patterns of lexical borrowing.

Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC)

PARADISEC has contributed language materials from the Pacific region, defined broadly to include Oceania and East and Southeast Asia. They have considerable textual data which is especially relevant to this project.

Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library Project (THDL)

THDL provided extensive data on the languages and dialects of Tibet, as well as georeferenced cultural and environmental data.

University of Stockholm

Öesten Dahl and his collaborators have provided LL-MAP with data from the Swedish National Atlas as well as from his new GIS project mapping the languages of the Caucasus.

Advisory Board

The LL-MAP Advisory Board includes GIS and Language Technology experts, as well as distinguished linguists.

Michael Batty
Director and Professor, CASA (Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis), University College London. Editor, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design

Steven Bird
Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dept of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Melbourne; Senior Research Associate, Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania

Barbara P. Buttenfield
Professor of Geography, University of Colorado. Past President of the American Cartographic Association. Fellow of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). Editorial Board: Annals of the Association of American Geographers; Cartography and GIS; Transactions in GIS; and the URISA Journal.

Claire Bowern
Asst Prof, Department of Linguistics, Rice University (after 7/2004); Affiliate of the Centre for Research on Language Change, Australian National University.

Lyle Campbell
Professor of Linguistics, University of Utah

Bernard Comrie
Director, Dept. of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara

Alan Dench
Associate Professor, Linguistics; Head of School, School of Humanities, University of Western Australia

Andrew Garrett
Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

Spike Gildea
Associate Professor and Head, Dept. of Linguistics, University of Oregon

Ives Goddard
Senior Linguist, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution

Alice Harris
Professor of Linguistics, State University of New York Stony Brook

Jeffrey Heath
Professor of Linguistics, University of Michigan

Gary Holton
Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Associate Director, Alaska Native Language Center

Jay Jasanoff
Professor and Chair, Dept. of Linguistics, Harvard University.

Brian D. Joseph
Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics & Kenneth E. Naylor Professor of South Slavic Linguistics, The Ohio State University; Editor, Language

Joseph Kerski
Geographer, US Geological Survey, Rocky Mountain Mapping Center, Denver.

Randy LaPolla
Professor and Chair, Linguistics Department, LaTrobe University, Australia.

Marianne Mithun
Professor of Linguistics, University of California Santa Barbara

Paul Newman
J.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Professor, Linguistics; Adjunct Professor, School of Law, Indiana University. Bloomington, Indiana

Johanna Nichols
Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

Zhong-Ren Peng
Associate Professor, Department of Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and Director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Information Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Martha Ratliff
Associate Professor of Linguistics, Wayne State University

Sarah Thomason
William J. Gedney Collegiate Professor of Linguistics, U. of Michigan

Joe Salmons
Professor of German, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Co-director, Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, UW-Madison; Editor, Diachronica

Joel Sherzer
Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas; Director of AILLA Project

Doug Whalen
Vice President of Research, Haskins Laboratories, Yale University. President, Endangered Languages Fund

Senior Personnel

Initial PIs and researchers:

Current researchers and managers:

Former Team Leaders (Research Assistants)

Student Team Members

Technical Team (former and current)



Data Contributors


World Language Mapping System (Global Mapping International)

The World Language Mapping System (WLMS) consists of Geographic Information System (GIS) data mapping language locations. WLMS is the result of over 15 years of collaborative work between Global Mapping International (GMI) and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), during the Language Mapping Project to map the over 6,800 languages described in SIL's 14th edition Ethnologue. This data set, adapted to work with either NGA's public domain Digtital Chart of the World (VMAP Level 0) base map or GMI's companion Seamless Digital Chart of the World, is now available to the broader community of GIS users.