Geographic information systems (GIS) in Linguistic Research

close up photography of magnifying glass
Photo by Noelle Otto on


Geographic information systems (GIS) and the associated geospatial analytics have been proved to be comprehensive and highly effective tools. They have been widely applied in linguistic research since the 1990s with fruitful research outcomes. These include data management, storage, and analysis, spatial and temporal analysis, and mapping and visualization of linguistic data. Even with such advances, there is still much room for further applications of GIS in linguistic studies. The future directions include integrating GIS with spatiotemporal analysis, with GPS technology, with web-based mapping technology, visualization and analysis of uncertainty in linguistic data, among others. In addition, simulations of elicited linguistic data to find embedded features or to verify expected spatial and even temporal patterns may help to bring linguistic research to a new path beyond simply drawing isoglosses or statistical summaries. Simulations also enabled linguistic researchers to study spatial processes of how linguistic trends and features change in space and over time.

ApplicationsGISLinguisticsResearch directions