Analysing Geo-linguistic Dynamics of the World Wide Web: The Use of Cartograms and Network Analysis to Understand Linguistic Development in Wikipedia

Han-Teng Liao, Thomas Petzold


This article discusses the usefulness of geo-linguistic analysis for Internet studies by presenting two techniques to frame and visualize the linguistic development of the World Wide Web, in particular the geo-linguistic development amongst different language versions of Wikipedia. An emergent research agenda has been set to explore the multilingual aspects of the Internet using, for example, a global perspective on Wikipedia research. And yet, there is a lack of theoretical and methodological tools for understanding the distribution and diffusion of linguistic materials online. The idea of geo-linguistic factors is introduced in this article to address these shortcomings and to respond to the study of a wide range of issues such as linguistic pluralism on the Internet or, more generally, the diffusion of innovation. Cartograms and network analysis are presented as two techniques that showcase the potential uses of geo-linguistic analysis. These two techniques of measurement and visualization indicate certain geographic and linguistic affiliations among languages. It is argued that although certain more developed language versions such as English and German may have central positions in connecting all languages, there exists another pattern that can best be explained by geo-linguistic factors. Finally, the limitations and implications of such findings and techniques are discussed, not only for research on Wikipedia but for Internet studies in general.

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