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The Frontiers of Language and Nationality in Europe

The Frontiers of Language and Nationality in Europe
Title: The Frontiers of Language and Nationality in Europe
Release Date: 2018-10-30
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have beenplaced at the end of each chapter.

Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.









Copyright, 1917,


To my Alma Mater
Robert College of Constantinople

[Pg vii]


This book is submitted as a study in applied geography. Itspreparation grew out of a desire to trace the connection existingbetween linguistic areas in Europe and the subdivision of thecontinent into nations. The endeavor has been made to showthat language exerts a strong formative influence on nationalitybecause words express thoughts and ideals. But underlying thecurrents of national feeling, or of speech, is found the persistentaction of the land, or geography, which like the recurrent motifof an operatic composition prevails from beginning to end ofthe orchestration and endows it with unity of theme. Uponthese foundations, linguistic frontiers deserve recognition as thesymbol of the divide between distinct sets of economic and socialconditions.

The attention bestowed on the Turkish area has been determinedby the bearing of the Turkish situation on European internationalaffairs and in the earnest belief that the application ofgeographical knowledge could provide an acceptable settlement ofthe Eastern Question. Never has it been realized better than atthe present time that an ill-adjusted boundary is a hatching-ovenfor war. A scientific boundary, on the other hand, prepares theway for permanent goodwill between peoples.

My effort has been directed to confine the work to a presentationof facts, as I have felt that the solution of the boundaryproblems involved could not be reached satisfactorily by individualopinion. Should these pages afford a working basis, or provesuggestive, in the settlement of European boundary conflicts, Ishall feel compensated for the time and labor bestowed on thecollection of the material herein contained.

My thanks are due to the American Geographical Society forthe liberal spirit displayed in promoting my efforts and particularlyfor the colored maps which illustrate the text. I am under[viii]special obligations to Councilor Madison Grant of the Society fornew views and a better insight into the significance of race inEuropean history. To Dr. Isaiah Bowman, Director of the Society,the extent of my debt would be difficult to estimate, as his interestin my work has been unfailing in spite of the pressure of hismany duties. I owe him many alterations and suggestions whichhave greatly improved the text. Neither can I allow the volumeto go to press without thanking the American Oriental Societyand the Geographical Society of Philadelphia for the reproductionof portions of my articles printed in their publications.Acknowledgment of important criticism on two articles formingthe nucleus of the present volume and published in Vol. 47 of theBulletin of The American Geographical Society is also due toProfessors Palmer, Le Compte and Seymour of Yale as well asto Professors Gottheil and Jordan of Columbia. Many friends,whose work has helped mine, I have never seen. To them alsoI extend thanks.

Leon Dominian.

The American Geographical Society,

New York.



Figs. 1, 4, 23, 24, P. L. M. Railways of France.
Figs. 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, Swiss Federal Railroads.
Figs. 36, 37, American Scandinavian Review.
Figs. 40, 42, 46, Travel.
Figs. 45, 56, 58, Messrs. Sébah & Joaillier, Constantinople.
Figs. 52, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, Photos by Dr. E. Banks.



I.The Foundations1
II.The Boundaries of French and Germanic Languages in Belgium and Luxemburg19
III.The Franco-German Linguistic Boundary in Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland35
IV.Borderlands of Italian Language59
V.Scandinavian and Baltic Languages93
VI.The Area of Polish Speech111
VII.Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian141
VIII.The Lands of Hungarian and Rumanian Languages154
IX.The Balkan Peninsula and its Serbian Inhabitants174
X.Language Problems of the Balkan Peninsula192
XI.The Geographical Case of Turkey221
XII.The Peoples of Turkey271
XIII.Summary and Applications314
Appendix A.German Settlements in Russia343
Appendix B.The Balkan States Before and After the Wars of 1912-1913345
Appendix C.Classification of Languages Spoken in Europe346
Appendix D.A Selected Bibliography348
Appendix E.Key to Place Names357


I.The Franco-Flemish linguistic boundary22
II.The Franco-German linguistic boundary in Alsace-Lorraine46
III.Austria-Hungary and parts of southeastern Europe showing languages82
IV.The area of Polish speech118
V.Railroads In Turkey showing their connections and extensions248
VI.European spheres of influence and territorial claims in Turkey266
VII.Part of Asiatic Turkey showing distribution of peoples274
VIII.Distribution of Armenians in Turkish Armenia294
IX.Part of Europe showing languages having political significance334



By Madison Grant

Mr. Dominian’s book on “The Frontiers of Language andNationality” is the logical outcome of the articles written by himin 1915 in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Societyunder the titles of “Linguistic Areas in Europe: Their Boundariesand Political Significance” and “The Peoples of Northernand Central Asiatic Turkey.” In the present work the problemsarising from the distribution of main European languages andfrom their relation to political boundaries are discussed withclearness and brilliancy. The text embodies a vast collection offacts and data laboriously collected by the author, who has appliedto the subject his familiarity with Eastern languages, as well asan impartial vision which is hard to find in these days when ourjudgments are so warped by the tragedy of the Great War.

The difficulty of depicting conditions geographically in colorsor with symbols is of necessity very great. The peasants whoform the majority of the population of most European statesoften speak a different language or dialect from that of theeducated upper classes, and such lines of linguistic cleavage frequentlyrepresent lines of race distinction as well. For example,in Transylvania the language of about sixty per cent of theinhabitants is Rumanian, while the literary, military and land-owningclasses speak either Magyar or German, and these Hungariansand Saxons, in addition to forming everywhere the rulingclass, are gathered together in many places in compact communities.A similar condition of affairs exists along the easternboundary of the German Empire, except that here the speech ofthe peasants is Polish and that of the dominant classes German.

The preparation of the maps which accompany this volumehas been a task of peculiar difficulty. It is an easy matter toshow by colors the language spoken by actual majorities, but[xiv]such a delineation frequently fails to indicate the true literarylanguage of the nation. Mr. Dominian’s solution of these difficultieshas been a very successful one, and the resultant mapsare really of great value, especially where they deal with little-knownfrontiers and obscure lines of demarcation, such as theeastern and western frontiers of the German Empire.

In spite of exceptions, language gives us the best lines for theboundaries of political units whenever those frontiers conform tomarked topographical features such as mountain systems. Inmany cases where the boundaries of language and nationalitycoincide they are found to lie along the crest of mountains or awell-defined watershed, often along the base of plateaus or elevateddistricts, and very seldom along rivers. But the boundariesof nationality and of language, when they do coincide, seldomcorrespond with those of race, and political boundaries are moretransitory and shifting than those of either language or race.

There are a few nations in Europe, chiefly small states, whichare composed of sharply contrasted languages and races, suchas Belgium, where the lowlands are inhabited by Flemish-speakingTeutons, and the uplands by French-speaking Alpines.Belgium is an artificial political unit of modern creation, andconsequently highly unstable. The Belgian upper classes arebilingual, a condition which precedes a change of language, andunless Flanders becomes united to Holland or Germany it is morethan probable that French speech will ultimately predominatethere also.

Among the Celtic-speaking peoples, we have in the highlandsof Scotland, in the mountains of Wales, in western Ireland andin the interior of Brittany, remnants of two distinct forms ofCeltic speech. These diverse populations have, in common, onlytheir Celtic speech, and are not related, one to the other, by race.As a matter of fact, the Scotch, the Welsh and the Bretons areexcellent representatives of the three most divergent races ofEurope. The Armorican-speaking Bretons are Alpine by race,the Cymric-speaking Welshmen are Mediterranean, while theGaelic-speaking Scots are Nordic. In short, there is today neither[xv]a Celtic race nor any recognizable remnant of it. If one of thesethree peoples be Celtic in bodily characters, the other two mustof necessity not be Celtic, and furthermore, if we designate anyone of the three as Celtic by race, we must include in that termother distant populations which by no stretch of the imaginationcan be so regarded.

The literary revival of some Celtic dialects may be interesting,but it will only serve to keep the Celtic-speaking populations stillmore out of touch with the march of modern progress. In thelong run the fate of Erse, Gaelic, Cymric and Armorican is certain.They will be engulfed by the French language on thecontinent, and by the English speech in the British Isles, just asCornish and Manx have become extinct within a century.

In eastern Europe, the Slavic tongue of Bohemia and Moravia,known as Czech, was fifty years ago on the point of utter collapse,but the literary revival of Bohemia has been successful becauseit had for support on the east a solid mass of Slavic speech andthe political power of Pan-Slavism, and in consequence was ableto hold its own against the encroaching German. These Slavicdialects all through eastern Europe and the minor tongues elsewhereare greatly handicapped by the lack of books, newspapersand good literary forms. In the case of Erse and Cymric thedifficulties of the spelling are an almost insuperable obstacle. TheFrench language in Quebec and the various languages spokenamong newly arrived immigrants in the United States will ultimatelymeet the same fate, since a few million illiterate andpoverty-stricken habitants of Canada and a few million laborersin the United States must in the long run inevitably succumb tothe overwhelming power of the world language of the Englishpeople.

Although race taken in its modern scientific meaning—theactual physical character of man—originally implied a commonorigin, it has today little or nothing to do with either nationalityor language, since nearly all the great nations of Europe arecomposed of various proportions of two and sometimes all threeof the primary European races. The population of England owes[xvi]its blood to the Mediterranean and to the more recent Nordicrace. Germany is composed of a combination of Nordic andAlpine, Italy of a mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean, whileFrance unites within her boundaries the Nordic in the north, theMediterranean in the south and the Alpine in the center. Spainand Portugal, however, are overwhelmingly of Mediterraneanblood, while the Scandinavian races are purely Nordic. Thus itis quite evident that nationality and language are independentof race, and in fact the meaning of the word “race” as used

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