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Cross-Linguistic Research on Landscape Categories Using GEOnet Names Server Data: A Case Study for Indonesia and Malaysia

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This article explores how toponym databases (gazetteers) can be used to examine the ethnophysiography hypothesis, which states that people from different language groups/cultures have different ways of conceptualizing landscape. Toponyms of two classes of eminences, mountain and hill, in Malaysia and Indonesia where the dominant languages are highly cognate were extracted from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) GEOnet Names Server (GNS) and analyzed using a heuristics-based geomorphometry approach. The result revealed that gunung and bukit, the main terms in Malay or Indonesian languages similar to mountain and hill in English, are used differently in the two countries: Bukit and gunung are used interchangeably for eminence features in Indonesia regardless of size (area extent), but the use of gunung is more strict for Malaysia to refer to larger eminence features. Furthermore, in Indonesia, the NGA GNS can readily be used to identify generic terms in local languages and dialects; we show that in some cases, size of eminence is distinguished with different generic terms and that spatial proximity might affect which term is used. The result suggests that NGA GNS is a promising set of data to explore ethnophysiography research questions, and can be a valuable exploratory tool for guiding detailed ethnophysiography work.
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Keywords: , , ,; GIS; eminences; eminencias, etnofisiografía, categorías geográficas, SIG, topónimos; ethnophysiography; geographic categories; toponyms

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National University of Singapore, 2: University at Buffalo,

Publication date: October 2, 2017

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