Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Yunnan, with the largest number of minority languages in China, is labeled as “The Museum of Dialects”. The rich diversity of ethnic groups is reflected in its toponyms (place names). The objectives of this study are to (1) construct a GIS database of toponyms in Yunnan at the prefecture, county and township levels from a comprehensive toponymical dictionary series of China; (2) analyze the spatial distribution of Han, Tibeto-Burman (Zang-Mian) and Kam-Tai (Zhuang-Dong) toponyms and its association with environmental factors; and (3) examine the historical evolution of toponyms. Results show that the study shows that the highest concentrations of Zang-Mian toponyms are in north and the eastern mountainous areas, and Zhuang-Dong concentrate in the southwest and southeast areas with lower elevations. Statistical analysis reveals that Zhuang-Dong toponyms tend to have lower elevations than Han toponyms, and Zang-Mian toponyms tend to in places higher than Han toponyms. Both minority groups of toponyms are slightly farther from rivers but closer to railways or the major cities than Han toponyms. The standard distance and standard deviation methods help reveal the historical trend of gradual expansion of Han settlement in Yunnan as recorded in the time stamps of toponyms. In Ming Dynasty,Han people spreaded out into south and north, especially the north area. In the Qing Dynasty, Han people expanded to the frontier areas. This suggests that the most significant spread of Han settlement in Yunnan happened in the Qing dynasty.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Wang, Fahui