Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

23 maps and charts on language

The Tower of Babel. Pieter Bruegel the Elder


23 maps and charts on language

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

”The limits of my language,” the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once posited, “mean the limits of my world.” Explaining everything within the limits of the world is probably too ambitious a goal for a list like this. But here are 23 maps and charts that can hopefully illuminate small aspects of how we manage to communicate with one another.

The basics

1) Indo-European language roots

Minna Sundberg

Minna Sundberg, a Finnish-Swedish comic artist, created this beautiful tree to illustrate both the relationships between European and central Asian languages generally, as well as a smaller but still striking point: Finnish has less in common with, say, Swedish than Persian or Hindi do. The latter two are Indo-European language, even if they branched off more quickly, whereas Finland is Uralic.

2) The languages of Wikipedia

wikipedia map 2Graham et. al., 2014

This map shows the language in which the plurality of Wikipedia articles on a given country are written. Some countries match up. Articles about European countries tend to be mostly written in their languages (though intriguingly Catalan is the plurality language for articles about Spain, perhaps because of an old breakaway competitor to Wikipedia in that country). Same goes for East Asian countries and the US.

But a whole lot of countries are most commonly written about in English, and not just countries where English is a major language. There’s not much reason for English to be the most common language for articles about Mongolia, for example. Out of all the world’s Arabic speaking countries, only Syria appears to have Arabic as its most common Wikipedia language.

German has footholds in Bolivia, Uruguay, and Namibia. These make some degree of sense; Germany colonized Namibia until World War I (committing the first modern genocide in the process) and a small German-speaking population remains today, while Bolivia and Uruguay have small German-speaking communities that migrated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But really, most articles about Bolivia ought to be in Spanish.

Joey Stromberg has more on Wikipedia’s geography and language problems here.

3) The language groups of the world


This map colors regions not by specific language but by the general family to which the dominant language belongs. So France, Romania, Italy, Spain, and Portugal all get colored the same (as does Latin America, apart from tribal languages), and the Anglosphere gets lumped in with Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. But the map also illuminates differences within countries. India has a noticeable split between Hindi speakers and speakers of Dravidian languages, the latter of whom are concentrated in the lower part of the country. China’s Chinese-speaking, heavily populated, industrialized eastern half contrasts sharply with both Tibetan speakers in the southwest and Turkic speakers in the northwest.

4) Romance languages

Yuri Koryakov

This diagram, by Russian linguist Yuri Koryakov, digs deeper than the above tree into the relationships between various romance languages. Langues d’Oïl, on top, is an umbrella category that includes French; the name comes from the word for yes (it has since evolved into “oui” in modern French), which sets the languages apart from languages like Spanish or Italian whose words for yes derive from the Latin “sic.” The most interesting items on the diagram are lesser-used tongues, in particular Sardinian, which stands out as the modern language closest to Latin in pronunciation.

Language divides

5) Linguistic diversity around the world

Kazimierz Zaniewski/Articque

This map — created by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Kazimierz Zaniewski using data from Ethnologue — shows the level of linguistic diversity in various countries, where a score of 0 means everyone speaks the same language and a score of 1 means everyone has their own language. Even though the latter is technically impossible, Papua New Guinea comes pretty damn close with a score of 0.99.

6) Countries mapped by number of languages

Mikael Parkvall/Limits of Language

Mikael Parkvall, a Swedish linguist, takes another approach to illustrating linguistic diversity: “rendering each country in a size corresponding to the number of languages spoken in it … The ten shaded countries are those in which more than 200 languages are in use.” The clear winner, again, is Papua New Guinea, which has only about 7 million people and over 800 languages.

7) China’s languages


Most people know that Mandarin Chinese — the official dialect used and promoted by the Chinese government and taught in most Western Chinese courses — is just one of many, and that a variety of other dialects (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, etc.) have millions of speakers as well. The above map illustrates the geographic distribution of the various dialects on mainland China and Taiwan. But perhaps less well known is exactly how different the dialects can be. They use the same character set, and most use Mandarin in writing, but the spoken dialects are often mutually unintelligible. As University of Wisconsin linguist Zhang Hongming once told the New York Times, “The degree of difference among dialects is much higher than the degree of difference among European languages.”

8) India’s languages

Maps of India

Just as many of China’s most populous cities (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong) are located in regions where dialects other than Mandarin prevail, many of India’s biggest cities (Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata) are in states where Hindi does not dominate. This map is a bit outdated — Andhra Pradesh was split up in 2014, with the city of Hyderabad going to the new state of Telangana — but it’s a good indication of the levels of linguistic diversity in the country, which speaks about 780 languages total, and has lost 220 in the past fifty years.

9) Ukrainian v. Russian

Laris Karklis/Washington Post

As Max Fisher notes in our card stack on the Ukraine crisis, maps of the Ukrainian/Russian divide in Ukraine look a LOT like maps of electoral results showing where the pro-Russian and pro-Western parties won. The linguistic divide itself is contentious — though some have adapted by having conversations where each side speaks a different language — but it’s really more of a proxy for the deeper underlying cultural and political splits that the past year’s tumults have brought to the fore.

10) Endangered languages

The Endangered Languages Project

The Endangered Languages Project — launched with heavy support from Google and now sustained by the LINGUIST List and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council in Canada — created this interactive map to document languages in danger of extinction. This screenshot excludes Europe and Africa, which contain significant numbers of threatened languages (Nigeria and East Africa especially), but the heaviest concentrations are in Southeast Asia and Latin America. The map also makes a sobering counterpoint to the previous two, in that it emphasizes how fragile Papua New Guinea’s unique linguistic diversity is, given just how many of its sundry languages are in danger of being lost forever.

11) Who in Europe speaks English

EnglishJakub Marian

Many countries have more than one commonly used language, with many residents learning two or more. And due to both the British Empire and America’s dominance of global commerce and culture since World War II, English is often the second or third language people learn.

This map shows how common English speaking is in a number of European countries. Strikingly, even in countries where proficiency is comparatively rare, it still makes up a sizable chunk of the population; 20 percent of Hungary and 22 percent of Spain is nothing to sneeze at.

But the penetration rates in countries speaking Germanic languages are especially astounding. 90 percent of Dutch people can hold a conversation in English; that’s nearly as high as Ireland, an actual English-speaking country.

Some of the variation here is explainable by how countries deal with imported television programs and films; in Northern European countries, TV and movies from the US tend to be subtitled whereas in Southern Europe dubbing is more common; the former amounts to a sort of low-intensity English class, if you watch enough TV.

12) How many languages Europeans speak

Jakub Marian

Not only are Netherlands highly proficient in English, but the typical Dutch person knows a third language as well, Jakub Marian finds in this map. The term “median” requires a bit of explication here, since obviously there’s no person in France speaking 1.5 languages. Marian uses the fraction to highlight countries where there’s a close split. “X½ for a country means that between 45% and 55% (i.e. “about one half”) of its inhabitants speak X+1 languages,” Marian says. “For example, 1½ for France indicates that about one half of the French speak two languages, and the rest speak just a single language.”

13) The second most popular language in US states

Ben Blatt/Slate

There’s an arguably more interesting version of this map showing the most popular non-English, non-Spanish language in each state, which generates some really interesting findings (Hmong in Minnesota! Russian in Oregon!). But this map conveys what’s probably a more important fact about languages in the US: they don’t vary as much by region as you might think. Just about everywhere, the second most spoken language is Spanish. There are exceptions — Louisiana and states near Quebec favor French, for example — but ultimately, the US is a English-speaking country which has had many waves of immigration from Spanish-speaking countries, meaning that most states have sizable first-generation immigrant populations that speak Spanish.

14) New York tweets, by language

John Barratt, Ed Manley, James Chesire, and Oliver O’Brien

Obviously, the most common language for tweets originating from New York City is English; those tweets are represented in grey on the interactive map this screenshot is taken from. The more interesting data points are the other languages. Spanish is by far the most prevalent, with particular pockets in Queens, northern Manhattan, the Bronx, and Union City, NJ. Midtown Manhattan and JFK airport (the glowing area just a bit below the center of the image) have, understandably, the most linguistic diversity. And you can make out other enclaves: Russian in Brighton Beach, Portuguese in Astoria, etc. (Hat tip to Flowing Data.)


15) The history of English

Sabio Lantz

While Germanic at root, English has evolved into a hybrid with components from ancient Celtic languages (such as a continous tense, or -ing verb tenses), considerable vocabulary borrowed from Latin and French, and lots of words stolen from Hindi, Arabic, and other languages of British colonies. This chart by Sabio Lantz is a clear, detailed chronology of that process.

16) Where letters are used in English

David Taylor

The point that some letters are more commonly used to end words and others to begin them is pretty self-evident, but it’s cool nonetheless to see the letter-by-letter breakdown, which this chart by David Taylor provides.

17) Which letters follow each other

David Taylor

By the same author as the above chart and using data from the Corpus of Historical American English at Brigham Young, this diagram delves deeper and shows the specific probability that a certain letter will follow a certain other letter in a word. The first column and first row are just a test of how frequently the letters in question are used to begin/end words. And naturally the Q/U relationship is quite strong.But I was surprised by how much V relies on E, and by the lack of a clear winner when it comes to starting words.

18) Most common letter combos

Peter Norvig

”Our language,” Stephen Fry once noted, features “hundreds of thousands of available words, frillions of legitimate new ideas … And yet, oh, and yet, we, all of us, spend all our days saying to each other the same things time after weary time: ‘I love you,’ ‘Don’t go in there,’ ‘Get out,’ ‘You have no right to say that,’ ‘Stop it,’ ‘Why should I,’ ‘That hurt,’ ‘Help,’ ‘Marjorie is dead.’”

Google director of research Peter Norvig wasn’t able to confirm the ubiquity of “Marjorie is dead,” but he did reach some fascinating conclusions about the frequency of various words and character combinations in the Google Books archive. The chart of words is a bit dull (spoiler: “the” wins); more interesting, albeit less pretty, is this table he made of the most commonly searched character combinations for various character lengths. Note that this isn’t the same thing as searches by word length — word segments like “ation” do very well for themselves — but it’s often clear what words those segments are a part of (see “governmen” or “politica”).

19) The rise and fall of the semicolon


In another clever use of the Google Ngram search engine, Wikipedian Brett searched for semicolon usage throughout the centuries; he found a jagged upward trend that peaked around 1800, followed by a long, smooth decline.

American English

20) American dialects

Rick Aschmann

This chart of American dialects was put together by Rick Aschmann as a hobby, but the level of detail is extraordinary, and makes playing around with the larger, interactive version a must. The map itself is just the tip of the iceberg. Aschmann has a detailed table outlining the distinctions between the various dialects represented here, over 900 audio examples for them, and much, much more. What I found most surprising was the contiguity of the “Inland South” dialects, which goes from the southernmost tip of West Virginia all the way down to eastern New Mexico and much of Texas.

21) Northern cities novel shift


Vowels sound different around the Great Lakes. Penn linguist William Labov started documenting the way short vowels were used in cities like Syracuse, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and Chicago, and noticed that the way that, say, “block” was pronounced started to resemble the way the rest of the country says “black.” More than that, the changes caused a chain reaction. “Buses” started to sound more like “bosses.” To make the “o” sound that used to be part of “block,” you now used a “u” instead of an “o.” The map shows which areas have adopted various stages of that chained vowel shift. Here’s a more detailed explanation, and here are a number of examples of the shift in action.

22) Coke v. pop v. soda

Soda vs. popJoshua Katz

You knew this was coming. Perhaps the most famous map of language disparities within the US, this map by Joshua Katz (now of the New York Times) uses data from the Harvard Dialect Survey to show what people in different regions of the US use as a generic term for sugary, carbonated beverages. It’s a good reminder that while the US is linguistically cohesive compared to a lot of places, there are still revealing differences.

23) Sunshowers

Joshua Katz

At least nearly all Americans have a term for soda (or coke or pop or whatever). The phenomenon this other map of Katz’s is about — it raining while the sun is out — doesn’t have a specific term associated with it in most of the US. In Minnesota, southern Florida, and parts of the Northeast, it’s referred to, benignly, as a “sunshower.” It gets weird in central Alabama and Mississippi, where “the devil is beating his wife” is apparently a thing people say, raising all kinds of theological questions in the process.

Learn more


Writer Dylan Matthews

Developer Yuri Victor

Editor Matthew Yglesias

Editor Melissa Bell