Friday, July 20, 2018

The Map of Languages

The Europa Polyglotta is an eighteenth century map of the world's languages and alphabets. The map was published in 1741 as part of Gottfried Hensel's early work on comparative linguistics, the Synopsis Universae Philologiae.

The map is divided into four continents of Europa, Asia, Africa and America. Each of the four continent segments includes a map of the continent and a list of the alphabets used in those continents. Countries on the maps are labeled by the languages that are spoken there. Each country also includes the first (and sometimes second) phrases of the Lord's Prayer written in the local language ('our father who art in heaven (hallowed be thy name)').

The languages of Europe seem to be very well covered. Asia appears to feature many of the major languages (although the Chinese and Japanese characters look very odd to me). The languages of Africa and America are hardly shown at all.

The map is colored to show the areas of the world which were settled by the three sons of Noah. Japhet is pink, Shem is yellow and Ham is green. I believe that in the Synopsis Universae Philologiae itself Hensel argues that all languages derive from a common origin in Hebrew (presumably from the Tower of Babel myth).

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