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(dialect geography), a branch of dialectology which studies the territorial distribution of the distinctive features that characterize and differentiate the dialects of a given language.
Linguistic geography developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when work on the compilation of large national atlases was begun. The most important work on atlases was done abroad: Wenker and Wrede’s German Atlas (compiled in manuscript from 1876 to 1926; abridged edition, issues 1–13, 1926—51); the French atlas of J. Gilliéron and E. Edmont (Linguistic Atlas of France, vols. 1–7, 1902–12); and the Italian Swiss atlas of K. Jaberg and J. Jud (vols. 1–8, 1928–40), which includes some ethnographic data.
In Russia, the geographic study of linguistic phenomena began in the second half of the 19th century (I. I. Sreznevskii and A. I. Sobolevskii). Systematic work on the linguistic geography of the Russian language was begun in 1903 by the Moscow Dialectology Commission, which published in 1915 A Dialect Map of the Russian Language in Europe, With a Supplemented Essay on Russian Dialectology. In 1935, preparatory work was begun on the compilation of an atlas of the Russian language. The Linguistic Atlas of the Lake Seliger Region was published in 1949, and the Atlas of Russian Dialects in the Central Regions East of Moscow appeared in 1957. The Dialect Atlas of the Byelorussian Language, published in 1963, received the State Prize of the USSR.