How are linguistic variations related to other aspects of human geography such as settlement patterns and national boundaries? And, how do languages reflect human interaction with the physical environment?
The spatial distribution of languages is quite complex and it is very difficult to plot them on a single large-scale map. The analysis of language maps is even more difficult. One problem which comes in the way of interpretation of language maps is the definition of language.
The linguists do not agree on a single definition which may be taken as the basis of demarcation of language regions.
The second problem in the spatial analysis of language maps is the enormous type of languages and the continuous and increasing change in them.
According to estimates made by linguists, the total number of languages varies between 3,000 and 8,000. Moreover adequate data is not available on many of the languages. The third problem is the overlapping of languages in the transitional zones.
Thus, language is a system of conventional spoken or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, communicate.
Language may also be defined as an organized system of spoken words by which people communicate with each other with mutual comprehension.
Language so defined is a peculiar possession of human beings. Other animals interact by means of sounds and body movements, and many also learn to understand human speech to some extent.
But no other species of being has conventionalized its cries and utterances so that they constitute a systematic symbolism in the way that language does. In these terms, then man may be described as ‘talking animal’.