Gough Map of Britain:Linguistic Geographies research project

The interdisciplinary linguistic geographies research project funded by the Arts & Humanities Council (AHRC) conjures up all the “old school” components of geography as a romantic, intellectual discipline but with the addition of new technology. For the past year, a team of researchers with backgrounds in geography, cartography, history, paleograhics, and linguistics have been developing techniques to use “linguistic geographies” to better study maps of “unknown origin” , specifically the Gough Map.

The Gough Map is the oldest known geographic map showing the whole of Britain (c.1360) and is housed at the Bodleian Library. Despite being noted and visually represented in books, documentaries, and articles not much is actually known about the Gough Map’s origins. The researchers wanted to “learn more about the Gough Map, specifically, but more generally to contribute to ongoing intellectual debates about how maps can be read and interpreted; about how maps are created and disseminated across time and space; and about technologies of collating and representing geographical information in visual, cartographic form.”

A significant outcome of their project has been a searchable digital version of the Gough Map available on their website. They also direct researchers to another version of a digital Gough map at Mapping the Realm which was funded through the British Academy.

A colloquium and exhibition of the linguistic geographies research project and the Gough Map will be held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford from Thursday June 23 to Saturday June 25 2011. At The Language of Maps colloquium, presenters will discuss the language and linguistics of medieval maps and mapping.

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