Art and Cartography

Culture and Art

3709.3 - Mapping language with the Nunaliit Atlas Framework: The languages of Iran and the Inuit language in Canada

Monday, July 3
4:50 PM - 5:10 PM
Location: Harding

In this paper we introduce topics and methods in language mapping, and demonstrate how the Nunaliit Atlas Framework is being applied to language mapping in two large-scale, collaborative efforts hosted at GCRC (Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre) in Ottawa, Canada: the Atlas of the Languages of Iran, and the Atlas of the Inuit Language in Canada.

Language mapping
Language mapping encompasses the distribution of language varieties and linguistic forms (Lameli, Kehrein & Rabanus 2011). The best-known and most commonly used examples of language maps treat the geographic extent of language varieties such as language families, individual languages, or dialects. Additionally, maps may explore the distribution of language varieties within particular social groups, or the geographic and social distribution of linguistic forms.

The Nunaliit Atlas Framework
The Nunaliit Atlas Framework ( has been used to generate a wide range of socially-anchored atlases treating topics as varied as Canada’s trade with the world, water scarcity in Latin America, history of colonial treaties around Lake Huron, and sea ice in the Arctic (GCRC 2008, 2010, 2014a, 2014b). Developed according to the principles of cybercartography (Taylor 2003, 2005, Taylor & Pyne 2010, Taylor & Lauriault 2014), Nunaliit uses open-source code which is shared, with documentation, for atlas developers on its website (GCRC 2013). Its flexible and inherently relational structure facilitates interconnections between all data sets within an Atlas, allowing for integration and analysis of organized as well as non-standard data, and remote contributions (Scassa et al. 2014). Its multi-sensory design promotes interactivity and participation from Atlas users (Di Leo Browne & Ljubicic 2014).

Mapping language with the Nunaliit Atlas Framework
Over the past two years, Nunaliit is being applied to language mapping for the first time. Most existing language maps use standard GIS packages that are largely static and supply-driven, and fail to capture the complexities involved. Cybercartography (Taylor & Lauriault 2014), utilizing a user-driven, interactive multimedia and multi-sensory approach, allows different perspectives to be represented. This is evident in the two Nunaliit language atlases we present: the Atlas of the Languages of Iran, and the Atlas of the Inuit Language in Canada.

The first language atlas to use the Nunaliit Atlas Framework is the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI;, initiated in 2014 and supported by an international team of over 60 researchers. ALI uses Nunaliit’s versatile data structure and user-oriented approach to address and overcome persistent obstacles to developing an atlas of Iran’s languages, such as the complexity of the language situation, lack of access to language communities, contrasting perspectives on language identity and distribution, and limited dissemination of project results (Anonby, Sabethemmatabadi & Hayes 2016). Key elements of the Atlas include:
language distribution assessments for Iran’s some 60,000 cities, towns and villages;
user participation through submission of language data, media, comments and corrections;
generation and comparison of complementary language maps based on user-defined taxonomies;
comparison of language distribution assessments with actual linguistic forms.

The goal of the Atlas of the Inuit Language in Canada is to present in one location the 12-15 Inuit language varieties (dialects) spoken by over 55,000 Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic. Each dialect has equal privilege, accessibility and exposure, regardless of its geographic location or number of speakers. The language database includes linguistic information such as sound files, phonetic transcription and orthography, as well as links to photographs and videos highlighting the cultural significance of particular linguistic forms. Nunaliit’s modular structure allows information to be accessed in multiple formats, including a dialect chart, drawings and photographs, and a community map. Users can focus on one dialect, or select several for cross-dialectal comparisons.

D. R. Fraser Taylor

Chancellor's Distinguished Research Professor
Carleton University

Dr. D. R. Fraser Taylor is Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Professor and Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He has been recognized as one of the world’s leading cartographers and a pioneer in the introduction of the use of the computer in cartography. He also has a strong background in international development and has published widely in this field. His interests in cartography and international development are often combined as he uses geographic information processing to address development issues. In 2014 he was recipient of the prestigious Killam Prize for the Social Sciences.


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Kumiko Murasugi

Associate Professor, Linguistics
Carleton University

Kumiko Murasugi is Associate Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Carleton University, Ottawa. Her research focuses on the Inuit language from various perspectives: linguistics (morphology and syntax), language documentation, dialectology, and heritage Inuktitut. Her Atlas of the Inuit Language in Canada is a collaborative project with the Geographic and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University and Inuit partner organizations across all Arctic regions. She also provides linguistic support for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization, on their project exploring a unified Inuit writing system.


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Erik Anonby

Associate Professor, French/Linguistics
Carleton University

Erik Anonby is Associate Professor of French and Linguistics at Carleton University, Ottawa. His research centres on language documentation in the Middle East and in North-Central Africa, with an emphasis on phonological description, dialectology, language endangerment and language mapping. A Fellow of the Humboldt Foundation, Erik is currently leading research along with Fraser Taylor on the SSHRC-funded project, A pilot atlas of the languages of Iran.


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Amos Hayes

Technical Manager
Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University

Amos Hayes is the technical manager for the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) at Carleton University. He helps communities (northern, indigenous, and communities of practice such as social sectors, physical science, humanities researchers) who have novel mapping and knowledge management needs by leading the design and development of technologies to help them research, visualize, share, and preserve their data-driven stories. Amos has been working with government, academia, and the private sector on computer systems, security, and networking for over 20 years and is architect of the open source Nunaliit Atlas Framework (


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Send Email for Sebastien Caquard


3709.3 - Mapping language with the Nunaliit Atlas Framework: The languages of Iran and the Inuit language in Canada

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