Cultural region
Cultural region is a term used mainly in the fields of anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

. Specific cultures often do not limit their geographic coverage to the borders of a nation state, or to smaller subdivisions of a state. To 'map' a culture, we often have to identify an actual 'cultural region', and when we do this we find that it bears little relationship to the legal borders drawn up by custom, treaties, charters or wars.

There are different kinds of cultural regions that can be delineated. A map of culture that maps 'religion & folklore' may have slightly different shape to one which, in the same region, maps 'dress and architecture'.

Types of cultural region

Cultural Region – places and regions provide the essence of geography. A culture region is a geographical unit based on characteristics and functions of culture. Three types of culture regions are recognized by geographers: formal, functional, and vernacular.

Formal Culture Region- an area inhabited by people who have one or more cultural traits in common, such as language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 or system of livelihood. It is an area that is relatively homogeneous with regard to one or more cultural traits. The geographer who identifies a formal culture region must locate cultural borders. Because cultures overlap and mix, such boundaries are rarely sharp, even if only a single cultural trait is mapped. For this reason, we find cultural border zones rather than lines. These zones broaden with each additional cultural trait that is considered, because no two traits have the same spatial distribution. As a result, instead of having clear borders, formal culture regions reveal a center or core where the defining traits are all present. Away from the central core, the characteristics weaken and disappear. Thus, many formal culture regions display a core-periphery.

Functional Culture Regions- the hallmark of a formal culture region is cultural homogeneity. It is abstract rather than concrete. By contrast, a functional culture region need not be culturally homogeneous; instead, it is an area that has been organized to function politically, socially, or economically as one unit. A city
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, an independent state, a precinct, a church diocese or parish, a trade area or a farm. Functional culture regions have nodes, or central points where the functions are coordinated and directed. Ex: city halls, national capitols, precinct voting places, parish churches, factories, and banks. In this sense, functional regions also possess a core-periphery configuration, in common with formal culture regions. Many functional regions have clearly defined borders that include all land under the jurisdiction of a particular urban
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

 government; clearly delineated on a regional map by a line distinguishing between one jurisdiction and another.

Vernacular Culture Regions (Also called "Popular" or "Perceptual" Regions)-are those perceived to exist by their inhabitants, as evidenced by the widespread acceptance and use of a special regional name. Some vernacular regions are based on physical environmental features; others find their basis in economic, political, or historical characteristics. Vernacular regions, like most culture regions, generally lack sharp borders, and the inhabitants of any given area may claim residence in more than one such region. It grows out of people’s sense of belonging and identification with a particular region. Ex: one popular region in the US "Dixie
Dixie is a nickname for the Southern United States.- Origin of the name :According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origins of this nickname remain obscure. According to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles , by Mitford M...

". They often lack the organization necessary for functional regions, although they may be centered around a single urban node, and they frequently do not display the cultural homogeneity that characterizes formal regions.

Cultural boundary

A cultural boundary (also cultural border) in ethnology is a geographical boundary between two identifiable ethnic or ethno-linguistic cultures. A language border
Language border
A language border or language boundary is the line separating two language areas. The term is generally meant to imply a lack of mutual intelligibility between the two languages...

 is necessarily also a cultural border (language being a significant part of a society's culture), but it can also divide sub-groups of the same ethno-linguistic group along more subtle criteria, such as the Brünig-Napf-Reuss line
Brünig-Napf-Reuss line
The Brünig-Napf-Reuss line forms a geographical boundary in traditional Swiss culture . Running from the Brünig Pass along the Napf region to the Reuss River , it partly separates western and eastern varieties of High Alemannic, although some places east of the line belong to the western dialect...

 in German-speaking Switzerland, the Weißwurstäquator
The is a humorous term describing the very different culture and dialect of the southern part of Germany, especially Bavaria, and the rest of the country...

 in Germany or the Grote rivieren
Grote rivieren
The Grote rivieren, literally translated Great rivers, is a landform in the Netherlands. In addition, it is commonly used as a figure speech to denote a divide in Dutch culture linking to the broader Dutch-Flemish culture.-Geographical meaning:...

 boundary between Dutch and Flemish culture.

In the history of Europe
History of Europe
History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.-Overview:...

, the major cultural boundaries are found
  • in Western Europe between Latin Europe
    Latin Europe
    Latin Europe is a loose term for the region of Europe with an especially strong Latin cultural heritage inherited from the Roman Empire.-Application:...

    , where the legacy of the Roman Empire
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

     remained dominant, and Germanic Europe
    Germanic Europe
    Germanic Europe may refer to:*Historically,**The parts of Europe settled by Germanic peoples during the Migration period*In a modern context,**Germanic-speaking Europe...

    , where it was significantly syncretized with Germanic
    Germanic peoples
    The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

  • in the Balkans, the Jireček Line
    Jirecek Line
    The Jireček Line is an imaginary line through the ancient Balkans that divided the influences of the Latin and Greek languages until the 4th century...

    , dividing the area of dominant Latin (Western Roman Empire
    Western Roman Empire
    The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

    ) from that of dominant Greek (Eastern Roman Empire) influence.

Macro-cultures on a continental scale are also referred to as "worlds", "spheres
Cultural sphere
The term cultural sphere expresses an understanding of culture as attached to an ethnolinguistic group and the territory it inhabits. The "spheres of influence" considered may however overlap or form concentric structures of macrocultures encompassing smaller local cultures.Examples:*East–West...

" or "civilizations", such as the Islamic world, the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, etc. (c.f. The Clash of Civilizations).

In a modern context, a cultural boundary can also be a division between subcultures or classes within a given society, such as blue collar
Blue collar
Blue collar can refer to:*Blue-collar worker, a traditional designation of the working class*Blue-collar crime, the types of crimes typically associated with the working class*A census designation...

 vs. white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...


See also

  • Culture by region
    Culture by region
    Cultures of the world is the aggregate of regional variations in culture, both by nation and ethnic group and more broadly, by larger regional variations. Similarities in culture often occur in geographically nearby peoples...

  • Regionalism
    Regionalism (politics)
    Regionalism is a term used in international relations. Regionalism also constitutes one of the three constituents of the international commercial system...

  • Bioregionalism
    Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and environmental system or set of views based on naturally defined areas called bioregions, similar to ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics...

  • Spirit of place
    Spirit of place
    Spirit of place refers to the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place; often those celebrated by artists and writers, but also those cherished in folk tales, festivals and celebrations...

  • Cultural landscape
    Cultural landscape
    Cultural Landscapes have been defined by the World Heritage Committee as distinct geographical areas or properties uniquely "..represent[ing] the combined work of nature and of man.."....

  • Deep map
    Deep map
    Deep map refers to an emerging practical method of intensive topographical exploration, popularised by author William Least Heat-Moon with his book PrairyErth: A Deep Map. ....

  • Cultural tourism
    Cultural tourism
    Cultural tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those peoples, their art, architecture, religion, and other elements that helped shape their way of life...

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