Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-vkn6t Total loading time: 0.402 Render date: 2022-08-19T14:49:02.668Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

A gradient perspective on modeling interdialectal transitions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2019

Péter Jeszenszky*
Department of Geography, University of Zurich (UZH), Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057, Zurich Department of Geography, Ritsumeikan University, Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage, 58, Komatsubara Kitamachi, Kita-ku, 603-8341, Kyoto
Philipp Stoeckle
German Department, University of Zurich (UZH), Schönberggasse 2, CH-8001, Zurich Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (ACDH), Postgasse 7-9, 1010, Vienna
Elvira Glaser
German Department, University of Zurich (UZH), Schönberggasse 2, CH-8001, Zurich
Robert Weibel
Department of Geography, University of Zurich (UZH), Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057, Zurich
*Corresponding author: Péter Jeszenszky, Department of Geography, University of Zurich (UZH), Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057, Zurich,


Finding the boundaries of linguistic variants and studying transitions between variants are key interests in classical linguistic geography. However, the definition of boundaries in areal linguistics is vague, and a quantitative characterization of transitions at the interface between dialectal variants is missing. We conceptualize these transitions as gradients, aiming to quantitatively account for the transition patterns which are traditionally only implicitly inferred from visualizations. Fitting of logistic functions in different spatial scopes (profiles as well as surfaces) is proposed as an approach to model the transition at the interface between the dominant usage areas of dialectal variants. Logistic functions can accommodate the breadth of boundary concepts, ranging from sharp isoglosses to transitions with different gradualities. The parameters of the fitted logistic models as well as supplementary measures then allow for the quantitative characterization and comparison of transitions across variables. To demonstrate the proposed methodology, we use Swiss German syntactic data on dialectal variables with a single transition zone.

© Cambridge University Press 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adler, Daniel, Duncan Murdoch, Oleg Nenadic, Simon Urbanek, Ming Chen, Albrecht Gebhardt, Ben Bolker, Gabor Csardi, Adam Strzelecki, Alexander Senger, Dirk Eddelbuettel. 2018. rgl: 3D Visualization Using OpenGL. R package version 0.99.16. Google Scholar
Akima, Hiroshi & Gebhardt, Albrecht. 2016. akima: Interpolation of Irregularly and Regularly Spaced Data. R package version 0.6-2. Google Scholar
Bach, Adolf. 1950. Deutsche Mundartforschung, ihre Wege: Ergebnisse und Aufgaben. Mit 58 Karten. Heidelberg: Winter.Google Scholar
Bailey, Charles-James N. 1973. Variation and linguistic theory. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.Google Scholar
Bailey, Guy, Wilke, Tom, Tillery, Jan & Sand, Lori. 1991. The apparent time construct. Language Variation and Change 3. 241264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barbiers, Sjef, Hans, J. Bennis, Vogelaer, Gunther De, Devos, Magda & van der Ham, Margreet H.. 2005. Syntactische Atlas van de Nederlandse Dialecten/Syntactic Atlas of the Dutch Dialects (SAND), vol. 1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
Beale, Colin M., Lennon, Jack J., Yearsley, Jon M., Brewer, Mark J. & Elston, David A.. 2010. Regression analysis of spatial data. Ecology Letters 13(2). 246264.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Blythe, Richard A. & Croft, William. 2012. S-curves and the mechanisms of propagation in language change. Language 88(2). 269304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Britain, David. 2002. Space and spatial diffusion. In Jack K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, & Natalie Schilling-Estes (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, 603637. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Britain, David, . 2010. Language and space: the variationist approach. In Peter Auer & Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, vol. 2, 142163. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
Bucheli, Claudia & Glaser, Elvira. 2002. The Syntactic Atlas of Swiss German dialects: Empirical and methodological problems. In Sjef Barbiers, Leonie Cornips & Susanne van der Kleij (eds.), Syntactic microvariation, vol. 2, 4173. Amsterdam: Meertens Institute Electronic Publications in Linguistics.Google Scholar
Burridge, James. 2017. Spatial evolution of human dialects. Physical Review X, 7. 031008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burridge, James. 2018. Unifying models of dialect spread and extinction using surface tension dynamics. Royal Society Open Science 5(171446).CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Chagnaud, Clément, Garat, Philippe, Davoine, Paul-Annick, Carpitelli, Elisabeth & Vincent, Axel. 2017. ShinyDialect: A cartographic tool for spatial interpolation of geolinguistic data. In ACM SIGSPATIAL Workshop on Geospatial Humanities (GeoHumanities) 2017(1). 2330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chambers, Jack K. & Trudgill, Peter. 2004. Dialectology. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Daan, Johanna C. & Blok, Dirk P.. 1969. Van randstad tot landrand: toelichting bij de kaart; dialecten en naamkunde; met een kaart en een grammofoonplaatje. Noord-Hollandsche uitg. maatschappij.Google Scholar
Davis, Lawrence M. & Huock, Charles L.. 1992. Is There a Midland Dialect Area ?— Again. American Speech 67(1). 6170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dros-Hendriks, Lotte. 2018. Not another book on Verb Raising. LOT, Utrecht: University of Groningen dissertation.Google Scholar
Fischer, Hermann. 1895. Geographie der schwäbischen Mundart. Mit einem Atlas von achtundzwanzig Karten. Tübingen: H. Laupp.Google Scholar
Fleischer, Jürg, Kasper, Simon & Lenz, Alexandra N.. 2012. Die Erhebung syntaktischer Phänomene durch die indirekte Methode: Ergebnisse und Erfahrungen aus dem Forschungsprojekt “Syntax Hessischer Dialekte” (SYHD). Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 1(79). 242.Google Scholar
Francis, W. Nelson. 1983. Dialectology: An introduction. London: Addison-Wesley Longman.Google Scholar
Galton, Antony. 2003. On the Ontological Status of Geographical Boundaries. In Matt Duckham (ed.), Foundations of geographic information science, 151171. London: Taylor & Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giacomelli, Gabriela, Agostiniani, Luciano, Bellucci, Patricia, Gianelli, Luciano, Montemagni, Simonetta, Nesi, Annalisa, Paoli, Matilde, Picchi, Eugenia & Salani, Teresa Poggi (eds.). 2000. Atlante lessicale Toscano (ALT). Rome: Lexis Progetti Editoriali.Google Scholar
Girard, Dennis & Larmouth, Donald. 1993. Some applications of mathematical and statistical models in dialect geography. In Dennis R. Preston (ed.), American dialect research, 107132. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Girnth, Heiko. 2010. Mapping Language Data. In Alfred Lameli, Roland Kehrein & Stefan Rabanus (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, vol. 2, 98145. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
Glaser, Elvira (ed.). (forthcoming). Syntaktischer Atlas der Deutschen Schweiz (SADS). University of Zurich. Google Scholar
Glaser, Elvira. 2013. Area formation in morphosyntax. In Peter Auer, Martin Hilpert, Anja Stukenbrock & Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (eds.), Space in language and linguistics: Geographical, interactional and cognitive perspectives. (linguae & litterae 24), 93–119. Berlin & Boston: Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS), De Gruyter.Google Scholar
Glaser, Elvira & Bart, Gabriela. 2012. Discovering and mapping syntactic areas: Old and new methods. In Xosé Afonso Álvarez Pérez, Ernestina Carrilho & Catarina Magro (eds.), International Symposium on Limits and Areas in Dialectology (LimiAr) 2011, 345363. Lisbon: Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa.Google Scholar
Glaser, Elvira & Bart, Gabriela. 2015. Dialektsyntax des Schweizerdeutschen. In Roland Kehrein, Alfred Lameli & Stefan Rabanus (eds.), Regionale Variation des Deutschen. Projekte und Perspektiven, 79105. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
Goebl, Hans. 1982. Dialektometrie. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Denkschriften, Band 157. Wien.Google Scholar
Goebl, Hans. 1983. “Stammbaum” und “Welle”. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 2(1). 344.Google Scholar
Goslee, Sarah C. 2011. Analyzing Remote Sensing Data in R: The landsat Package. Journal of Statistical Software. 43(4). 125. Scholar
Grieve, Jack, Speelman, Dirk & Geeraerts, Dirk. 2011. A statistical method for the identification and aggregation of regional linguistic variation. Language Variation and Change 23(2). 193221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haag, Karl. 1898. Die Mundarten des oberen Neckar- und Donaulandes (schwäbisch-alemannisches Grenzgebiet: Baarmundarten). Reutlingen: Buchdruckerei Hutzler.Google Scholar
Haas, Walter. 2000. Die deutschsprachige Schweiz. In Jachen C. Arquint, Hans Bickel, Robert Schläpfer (eds.), Die viersprachige Schweiz 2 (pp. 57–108). Aarau: Sauerländer.Google Scholar
Haas, Walter. 2010. A study on areal diffusion. In Peter Auer & Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, vol. 2, 649667. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
Heeringa, Wilbert. 2004. Measuring dialect pronunciation differences using Levenshtein distance. Groningen Dissertations in Linguistics 46. Groningen: University of Groningen dissertation.Google Scholar
Heeringa, Wilbert & Nerbonne, John. 2001. Dialect areas and dialect continua. Language Variation and Change 13(3). 375400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoch, Shawn & Hayes, James J.. 2010. Geolinguistics: The Incorporation of Geographic Information Systems and Science. The Geographical Bulletin 51(1). 2336.Google Scholar
Hosmer, David W., Taber, Scott & Lemeshow, Stanley. 1991. The importance of assessing the fit of logistic regression models: A case study. American Journal of Public Health 81(12). 16301635.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jeszenszky, Péter, Stoeckle, Philipp, Glaser, Elvira & Weibel, Robert. 2017. Exploring global and local patterns in the correlation of geographic distances and morphosyntactic variation in Swiss German. Journal of Linguistic Geography 5(2). 86108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeszenszky, Péter & Weibel, Robert. 2015. Measuring boundaries in the dialect continuum. In Fernando Bacao, Maribel Yasmina Santos & Marco Painho (eds.), 20 th AGILE International Conference on Geographic Information Science (AGILE) 2015. Lisbon.Google Scholar
Kellerhals, Sandra. 2014. Dialektometrische Analyse und Visualisierung von schweizerdeutschen Dialekten auf verschiedenen linguistischen Ebenen . Zurich: University of Zurich MSc Thesis.Google Scholar
Kessler, Brett. 1995. Computational dialectology in Irish Gaelic. Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (7). 6066. Dublin.Google Scholar
Kroch, Anthony S. 1989. Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language Variation and Change 1(3). 199244. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Labov, William, Ash, Sharon & Boberg, Charles. 2006. Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology, and sound change. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, fire, and dangerous things: What Categories Reveal about Thought. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lee, Jay & Kretzschmar, William A.. 1993. Spatial analysis of linguistic data with GIS functions. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems 7(6). 541560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lee, Sean & Hasegawa, Toshikazu. 2014. Oceanic barriers promote language diversification in the Japanese Islands. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(9). 19051912.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Leung, Yee. 1987. On the imprecision of boundaries. Geographical Analysis 19(2). 125151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Löffler, Heinrich. 2013. Dialektologie - Eine Einführung. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.Google Scholar
Maurer, Friedrich. 1942. Oberrheiner, Schwaben, Südalemannen. Strassburg: Hünenburg.Google Scholar
Nerbonne, John. (2006). Identifying linguistic structure in aggregate comparison. Literary and Linguistic Computing 21(4). 463475. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nerbonne, John, Heeringa, Wilbert & Kleiweg, Peter. 1999. Edit distance and dialect proximity. In David Sankoff & Joseph Kruskal (eds.), Time warps, string edits and macromolecules: The theory and practice of sequence comparison, vxv. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information Publications.Google Scholar
Parker, Bradley J. 2006. Toward an Understanding of Borderland Processes. American Antiquity 71(1). 77100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pickl, Simon. 2013. Probabilistische Geolinguistik. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, Beihefte, Band 154, Stuttgart: Steiner.Google Scholar
Pickl, Simon. 2013b. Verdichtungen im Sprachgeografischen Kontinuum. Zeitschrift Für Dialektologie Und Linguistik LXXX(1). 135.Google Scholar
Pickl, Simon & Rumpf, Jonas. 2012. Dialectometric concepts of space: Towards a variant-based dialectometry. In Sandra Hansen, Christian Schwarz & Philipp Stoeckle (eds.), Dialectological and folk dialectological concepts of space: Current methods and perspectives in sociolinguistic research on dialect change, 199214. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Pröll, Simon M., Pickl, Simon & Spettl, Aaron. 2014. Latente Strukturen in geolinguistischen Korpora. In Michael Elmentaler, Markus Hundt, & Jürgen E. Schmidt (eds.), Deutsche Dialekte. Konzepte, Probleme, Handlungsfelder. Akten des 4. Kongresses der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Dialektologie des Deutschen (IGDD) in Kiel. (Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, Beihefte, 158.), 247258. Stuttgart: Steiner.Google Scholar
Rosch, Eleanor H. 1973. Natural categories. Cognitive Psychology. 4(3). 328350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rumpf, Jonas, Pickl, Simon, Elspaß, Stephan, König, Werner & Schmidt, Volker. 2009. Structural analysis of dialect maps using methods from spatial statistics. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 76(3). 280308.Google Scholar
Scherrer, Yves. 2012. Generating Swiss German sentences from Standard German: A multi-dialectal approach. Geneva: University of Geneva dissertation.Google Scholar
Scherrer, Yves & Stoeckle, Philipp. 2016. A quantitative approach to Swiss German – Dialectometric analyses and comparisons of linguistic levels. Dialectologia et Geolinguistica 24. 92125. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scholz, Johannes, Thomas, Thomas J. Lampoltshammer, Bartelme, Norbert & Wandl-Vogt, Eveline. 2016. Spatial-temporal modeling of linguistic regions and processes with combined intermediate and crisp boundaries. In Georg Gartner, Markus Jobst, Haosheng Huang (eds.), Progress in Cartography: EuroCarto 2015, 133–151. Springer.Google Scholar
Séguy, Jean. 1971. La relation entre la distance spatiale et la distance lexicale. Revue de Linguistique Romane 35(138). 335357.Google Scholar
Seiler, Guido. 2004. On three types of dialect variation, and their implications for linguistic theory: Evidence from verb clusters in Swiss German dialects. In: Bernd Kortmann (ed.), Dialectology meets typology: Dialect grammar from a cross-linguistic perspective, 367399. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Seiler, Guido. 2005. Wie verlaufen syntaktische Isoglossen, und welche Konsequenzen sind daraus zu ziehen? In Eckhard Eggers, Jürgen Erich Schmidt & Dieter Stellmacher (eds.), Moderne Dialekte – Neue Dialektologie, 313341. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.Google Scholar
Shackleton, Robert G. Jr. 2007. Phonetic variation in the traditional English dialects: A Computational analysis. Journal of English Linguistics 35(1). 30102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sibler, Pius, Weibel, Robert, Glaser, Elvira & Bart, Gabriela. 2012. Cartographic visualization in support of dialectology. AutoCarto (18).Google Scholar
Smith, Edward E. & Medin, Douglas L.. 1981. Categories and Concepts. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stoeckle, Philipp. 2018. Zur Syntax von afa (‚anfangen‘) im Schweizerdeutschen – Kookkurrenzen, Variation und Wandel. In Augustin Speyer & Philipp Rauth (eds.), Syntax aus Saarbrücker Sicht 2. Beiträge der SaRDiS-Tagung zur Dialektsyntax, 173205. Stuttgart: Steiner.Google Scholar
Viereck, Wolfgang. 1986. Dialectal speech areas in England: Orton’s phonetic and grammatic evidence. Journal of English Linguistics 19. 240257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wattel, Evert & Reenen, Pieter van. 2010. Probabilistic maps. In Alfred Lameli, Roland Kehrein & Stefan Rabanus (eds.), Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, vol. 2, 496505. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
Werner, König (ed.). 1996–2009. Sprachatlas von Bayerisch-Schwaben (SBS). 14 volumes. Heidelberg: Winter.Google Scholar
Wickham, Hadley. 2016. ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Analysis. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wieling, Martijn & Nerbonne, John. 2011. Bipartite spectral graph partitioning for clustering dialect varieties and detecting their linguistic features. Computer Speech and Language 25(3). 700715.Google Scholar
Wieling, Martijn & Nerbonne, John. 2015. Advances in Dialectometry. Annual Review of Linguistics 1. 243264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Willis, David. 2017. Investigating geospatial models of the diffusion of morphosyntactic innovations: The Welsh strong second-person singular pronoun chdi. Journal of Linguistic Geography 5. 4166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yokoyama, Shoichi & Sanada, Haruko. 2009. Logistic regression model for predicting language change. In Reinhard Köhler (ed.), Studies in quantitative linguistics 5: Issues in quantitative linguistics, 176192. Lüdenscheid (D): RAM-Verlag.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Jeszenszky et al. supplementary material

Jeszenszky et al. supplementary material 1

Download Jeszenszky et al. supplementary material(File)
File 19 MB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

A gradient perspective on modeling interdialectal transitions
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

A gradient perspective on modeling interdialectal transitions
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

A gradient perspective on modeling interdialectal transitions
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *