Medea’s Map of Colchis

Peri Ozlem Yuksel-Sokmen, Developmental Psychology
Faculty Advisor: Patricia Brooks
Project Website: Medea’s Map of Colchis
NML Award: The New Media Lab Digital Dissertation Award (April 2013)

Medea’s Map of Colchis

The Caucasus region is a fascinating open field laboratory to study linguistic diversity and houses three unrelated Caucasian language families: Northwest, Northeast, and South Caucasian. At the eastern end of the Black Sea bordering Turkey and Georgia lies the formerly ancient territory Colchis- the home of Medea and the Golden Fleece.  Here, three endangered South Caucasian languages are located: Laz (aka Lazuri), Mingrelian (aka Margaluri), and Svan (aka Svanuri).

This project concerns the language development of children speaking Lazuri (ISO 639-3), an endangered language spoken by approximately 20,000 – 50,000 people along coastal regions of the Black Sean and Sea of Marmara  of Turkey and in some parts of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara and Georgia. Lazuri is in danger of becoming extinct within the next two generations if children and adolescents no longer speak it as their mother tongue and if nothing is done to revitalize this indigenous language.

The goal of Medea’s Map of Colchis is to visualize parts of my dissertational data and to create an interactive learning tool as a cultural record for and beyond the Laz community.

Just as Euripides’s play made the princess of Colchis, Medea, famous to the Ancient and the Modern World, this project aims to revitalize the once ancestral language of Colchis, Lazuri, by publicly documenting it on the Web through scholarly and communal diligence.

The title of my digital work, Medea’s Map, is inspired by the philosophical works of Wittgenstein as well as the statement by Alfred Korzybski that “the map is not the territory” but a balancing act imbued with multimodal meanings from different perspectives and practices – socio-cultural, ethnical, regional, historical, and linguistic. Through the New Media Lab, I will be working on exploring the meaning of a linguistic map and the story of the Lazi.