'Long' Countries Protect Languages Better: Study

Jared Diamond's 'Guns, Germs and Steel' inspires quirky study
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2012 4:29 PM CDT
The Ortelius world map, dated 1570.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – Speaking an indigenous language in Chile or Italy? You're in luck. In Turkey or Russia? Not so much. So say researchers at Stanford University, who studied 147 countries and concluded that those with a wide west-east axis (as opposed to a long north-south one) tend to eliminate smaller languages and favor cultural homogeneity, Nature reports. The inspiration for this odd study: Jared Diamond's famous 1997 book, Guns, Germs and Steel.

Diamond argued that countries spanning west-east (think Turkey) benefit from having less climate variation. This means agricultural innovations spread more easily, followed by ideas and culture—and, say Stanford researchers, the dominance of a single language. But one Georgetown historian dismissed the new study, saying most countries are too close to a square or round shape to support the finding: “Unfortunately there aren't many countries shaped like Chile." (Read more language stories.)

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