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How traditional knowledge systems refer to places and features in the landscape: Foundations for Indigenous mapping and Indigenous GIS

Mark, D.M., Stea, D., Topaha, C. and Turk, A.G. (2006) How traditional knowledge systems refer to places and features in the landscape: Foundations for Indigenous mapping and Indigenous GIS. In: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting 2006, 7 - 11 March 2006, Chicago, IL

Abstract

People refer to places and landscape features in various ways. Proper names, such as "Shiprock", refer to individual feature instances, while common nouns (generic terms), such as "hill" or "river", refer to categories of features or to generic category instances. It is important to understand the many ways of referring to places and landscape features, so that we can connect natural language to spatial data infrastructures geographic databases. Traditional knowledge systems must be linked to GIS data, in order to support mapping and effective GIS use by indigenous people. This paper reports early ethnophysiographic research with Navajo (Diné) in New Mexico and Arizona, and Yindjibarndi in Australia, comparing these results with common physiographic references in English and related languages. English makes heavy use of nouns referring to kinds of geographic features in both generic (eg., "his house is on a hill") and specific reference (eg., "Mount Washington"). Furthermore, European proper names of geographic places and features (toponyms) often include generic terms that indicate the kind of feature. Preliminary results suggest that both Navajo and Yindjibarndi speakers use specific (proper) names for places and land features more often than do English speakers. Also, Yindjibarndi proper names, which are not easily translatable, seldom include generic terms. However, Navajo generic and specific terms are often translatable literally (eg. "Reddish rock protrudes out"), but frequently lack generic landscape terms. The paper also discusses field interviews and initial general principles for use of toponyms and generic geographic terms in these languages.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Information Technology
Conference Website: http://www.aag.org/
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/26239
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