Linguistic landscape is the "visibility and salience of languages on public and commercial signs in a given territory or region" (Landry and Bourhis 1997:23). Linguistic landscape has been described as being "somewhere at the junction of sociolinguistics, sociology, social psychology, geography, and media studies". It is a concept used in sociolinguistics as scholars study how languages are visually used in multilingual societies, from large metropolitan centers to Amazonia. For example, some public signs in Jerusalem are in Hebrew, English, and Arabic (Spolsky and Cooper 1991, Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara, and Trumper-Hecht 2006).
Development of the field of study
Studies of the linguistic landscape have been published from research done around the world. The field of study is relatively recent; "the linguistic landscapes paradigm has evolved rapidly and while it has a number of key names associated with it, it currently has no clear orthodoxy or theoretical core" (Sebba 2010:73). A special issue of the International Journal of Multilingualism (3.1 in 2006) was devoted to the subject. Also, the journal World Englishes published a themed issue of five papers as a "Symposium on World Englishes and Linguistic Landscapes: Five Perspectives" (2012, vol. 31.1). Similarly, an entire issue of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language (228 in 2014) was devoted to the subject, including looking at signs that show influences from one language on another language. In 2015 an academic journal devoted to this topic was launched, titled Linguistic Landscape: An International Journal, from John Benjamins. There is also a series of academic conferences on the study of linguistic landscape. A comprehensive, searchable Linguistic Landscape Bibliography is available. A 2016 special issue of Manusya (22, 2016) begins with a history and summary of the field.
Because "the methodologies employed in the collection and categorisation of written signs is still controversial", basic research questions are still being discussed, such as: "do small, hand-made signs count as much as large, commercially made signs?". The original technical scope of "linguistic landscape" involved plural languages, and almost all writers use it in that sense, but Papen has applied the term to the way public writing is used in a monolingual way in a German city and Heyd has applied the term to the ways that English is written, and people's reactions to these ways.
The languages used in public signs indicate what languages are locally relevant, or give evidence of what languages are becoming locally relevant (Hult 2009; Kasanga 2012). In many multilingual countries, multilingual signs and packaging are taken for granted, especially as merchants try to attract as many customers as possible or people realize that they serve a multilingual community (Hult, 2014). In other places, it is a matter of law, as in Quebec, where signs cannot be in English only, but must include French (Bill 101, Charte de la langue française). In Texas, some signs are required to be in English and Spanish, such as warning signs about consuming alcohol while pregnant.
The study of language in post-war and conflict-ridden areas has also attracted the interest of scholars who applied the Linguistic Landscape approach as a method to explore how language use in the public space represents ethnic groups, reflects territorial conflicts, expresses statehood and projects ideologies and socio-cultural identities. Themistocleous (2019) for instance explored the use of Greek and Turkish on public signs in the centre of Nicosia (Cyprus) and found that traditional discourses of separation and conflict are dominant in the public space but at the same time new discourses of unification, peace and integration slowly begin to surface .
In some cases, the signs themselves are multilingual signs, reflecting an expected multilingual readership. In other cases, there are monolingual signs in different languages, written in relevant languages found within a multilingual community. Backhaus even points out that some signs are not meant to be understood so much as to appeal to readers via a more prestigious language (2007:58).
Some signs are spelled to convey the aura of another language (sometimes genuinely spelled as in the other language, other times fictionally), but are still meant to be understood by monolinguals. For example, some signs in English are spelled in a way that conveys the aura of German or French, but are still meant to be understood by monolingual English speakers. Similarly, some signs use Latin script that is aestheticized to look like Chinese characters or Cyrillic script, in order to evoke the associated languages while still being readable to people who don't know them. For example, Leeman and Modan (2010) describe the use of aestheticized Latin script in the Washington DC's Chinatown and the Arab Quarter of Granada, Spain.
The study of linguistic landscape also examines such patterns as which languages are used for which types of institutions (e.g. country club, hospital, ethnic grocery store), which languages are used for more expensive/cheaper items (new cars or used cars), or which languages are used for more expensive/cheaper services (e.g. pool cleaning or washing machine repair). Also, linguistic landscape can be studied across an area, to see which neighborhoods have signs in which languages. For example, Carr (2017) examined the languages of three cities in Southeast Los Angeles in her dissertation.
Linguistic landscape can also be applied to the study of competing scripts for a single language. For example, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, some signs in Mongolia were erected in the traditional Mongolian script, not just Cyrillic (Grivelet 2001). Similarly, in some Cherokee speaking communities, street signs and other public signage is written with the Cherokee syllabary (Bender 2008). Also, license plates in Greek Cyprus have been printed with Greek or Roman letters in different eras.
More recently, scholars have rejected the purely quantitative approaches to Linguistic Landscape. For example, using Scollon and Scollon's (2003) framework of geosemiotics, researchers have analyzed the placement and relative size of different languages and signs. Leeman and Modan (2009) proposed a "contextualized historical approach" to linguistic landscape that emphasizes the importance of considering how the signs came to be, and what they mean in a given context. Their example of the different symbolic meanings of Chinese and English on Starbucks signs in Washington DC's Chinatown and a Shanghai shopping mall shows that it is unwise to draw conclusions based on the relative frequency of languages in signage.
The study of the linguistic landscape can also show evidence of the presence and roles of different languages through history. Some early work on a specific form of linguistic landscape was done in cemeteries used by immigrant communities, some languages being carved "long after the language ceased to be spoken" in the communities.
In addition to larger public signage, some who study linguistic landscapes are now including the study of other public objects with multilingual texts, such as banknotes in India which are labeled in over a dozen languages.
Spanish-English sign at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in Dallas, Texas; the congregation has both English and Spanish speakers.
Tombstone for Gurkha soldier who served in British army, in Gurkha and English
"Learn Danish" banner in Danish and German, in Flensburg, Germany where it is an officially recognised regional language.
Sign in Jerusalem prohibiting slanderous speech
Multilingual signs at supermarket in Arlington, Texas. The area has many immigrants who speak Chinese, Vietnamese, or Spanish.
Recycling site labeled in English, Hmong, Spanish, and Somali in Minneapolis
Coptic and Arabic inscription in old part of Cairo, from 1899
Maronite convent in Old Jerusalem: French, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew
Sign in English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
- Sebba, Mark (2010). "Review of Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban Multilingualism in Tokyo.". Writing Systems Research. 2 (1): 73–76. doi:10.1093/wsr/wsp006.
- Shulist, Sarah. 2018. Signs of status: language policy, revitalization, and visibility in urban Amazonia. Language Policy 17: 4, pp 523–543.
- "Linguistic Landscape 7 - 7-9 May 2015, UC Berkeley". berkeley.edu. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- "Zotero - Groups > Linguistic Landscape Bibliography > Library". zotero.org. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- Troyer, Robert A. 2016. "Linguistic Landscape Bibliography". Zotero.
- "Manusya :: Journal of Humanities". chula.ac.th. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
- Huebner, Thom (2016). "Linguistic landscape: History, Trajectory and Pedagogy" (PDF). Manusya: Journal of the Humanities. 2016 (22): 1–11.
- Tufi, Stefania; Blackwood, Robert (2010). "Trademarks in the linguistic landscape: methodological and theoretical challenges in qualifying brand names in the public space". International Journal of Multilingualism. 7 (3): 197–210. doi:10.1080/14790710903568417.
- Papen, Uta (2012). "Commercial discourses, gentrification and citizens' protest: the linguistic landscape of Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin". Journal of Sociolinguistics. 16 (1): 56–80. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00518.x.
- Heyd, Theresa (2014). "Folk-linguistic landscape". Language in Society. 43 (5): 489–514. doi:10.1017/s0047404514000530.
- Themistocleous, C. (2019) Conflict and unification in the multilingual landscape of a divided city: the case of Nicosia's border. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 40 (2). pp. 94-114
- Hult, F.M. (2009). Language ecology and linguistic landscape analysis. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (Eds.), Linguistic landscape: Expanding the scenery (pp. 88-104). London: Routledge.
- Hult, F.M. (2014). Drive-thru linguistic landscaping: Constructing a linguistically dominant place in a bilingual space. International Journal of Bilingualism, 18, 507-523.
- Leeman, Jennifer; Modan, Gabriella (2010), "Elana Shohamy, Eli Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (Eds.) Selling the City: Language, Ethnicity, and Commodified Space", Linguistic Landscape in the City, retrieved 2018-04-22
- Carr, Jhonni (2017). Signs of Our Times: Language Contact and Attitudes in the Linguistic Landscape of Southeast Los Angeles. EScholarship (Thesis). UCLA.
- Dimitra Karoulla-Vrikki. 2013. Which alphabet on car number-plates in Cyprus? Language Problems and Language Planning 37.3: pp. 249–270
- Scollon, Ron; Scollon, Suzie Wong (2003). Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World. Routledge. ISBN 9781134436903.
- Leeman, Jennifer; Modan, Gabriella (2009). "Commodified language in Chinatown: A contextualized approach to linguistic landscape". Journal of Sociolinguistics. 13 (3): 332–362. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2009.00409.x.
- Jam Blommaert. 2013. Ethnography, superdiversity, and linguistic landscapes: Chronicles of complexity. Multilingual Matters.
- Ramamoorthy, L. (2002) Linguistic landscaping and reminiscences of French legacy: The case of Pondicherry. In N.H. Itagy and S.K. Singh (eds) Linguistic Landscaping in India (pp. 118–131). Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages/Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University.
- Doris Francis, Georgina Neophytu, Leonie Kellaher. 2005. The Secret Cemetery. Oxford: Berg.
- p. 42. Kara VanDam. 2009. Dutch- American language shift: evidence from the grave. LACUS Forum XXXIV 33–42.
- Larissa Aronin and Muiris Ó Laoire. 2012. The material culture of multilingualism. In Durk Gorter, Heiko F. Marten and Luk Van Mensel, eds., Minority Languages in the Linguistic Landscape, pp. 229–318. (Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities.) Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Angermeyer, Philipp Sebastian (2005). "Spelling bilingualism: Script choice in Russian American classified ads and signage". Language in Society. 34 (4): 493–531. doi:10.1017/s0047404505050190.
- Aronin, Larissa; Laorie, Muiris Ó (2013). "The material culture of multilingualism: moving beyond the linguistic landscape". International Journal of Multilingualism. 10 (3): 225–235. doi:10.1080/14790718.2012.679734.
- Backhaus, Peter (2006). "Multilingualism in Tokyo: A Look into the Linguistic Landscape". International Journal of Multilingualism. 3 (1): 52–66. doi:10.1080/14790710608668385.
- Backhaus, Peter (2007). "'Linguistic landscapes: a comparative study of urban multilingualism in Tokyo". Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
- Ben Said, Selim. 2010. Urban Street Signs in the Linguistic Landscape of Tunisia: Tensions in Policy, Representation, and Attitudes. Doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University.
- Bender, Margaret (2008). "Indexicality, voice, and context in the distribution of Cherokee scripts". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2008 (192): 91–104. doi:10.1515/ijsl.2008.037.
- Ben-Rafael, Eliezer; Elana Shohamy; Muhammad Hasan Amara; Nira Trumper-Hecht (2006). "Linguistic Landscape as Symbolic Construction of the Public Space: The Case of Israel". International Journal of Multilingualism. 3 (1): 7–30. doi:10.1080/14790710608668383.
- Cenoz, Jasone; Durk Gorter (2006). "Linguistic Landscape and Minority Languages". International Journal of Multilingualism. 3 (1): 67–80. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.573.7767. doi:10.1080/14790710608668386.
- Choski, Nisshant (2014). "Scripting the border: Script practices and territorial imagination among Santali speakers in eastern India". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2014 (227): 47–63. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2013-0087.
- Correll; Arthur Polk, Patrick (2014). "Productos Latinos: Latino business murals, symbolism, and the social enactment of identity in Greater Los Angeles". Journal of American Folklore. 127 (505): 285–320. doi:10.5406/jamerfolk.127.505.0285.
- Gorter, Durk (2006). "Introduction: The Study of the Linguistic Landscape as a New Approach to Multilingualism". International Journal of Multilingualism. 3 (1): 1–6. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.537.7398. doi:10.1080/14790710608668382.
- Gorter, Durk, Heiko F. Marten and Luk Van Mensel, eds. 2012. Minority Languages in the Linguistic Landscape. (Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities.) Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Grivelet, Stéphane (2001). "Digraphia in Mongolia". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2001 (150): 75–94. doi:10.1515/ijsl.2001.037.
- Hassa, Samira (2012). "Regulating and negotiating linguistic diversity: top-down and bottom-up language planning in the Moroccan city". Current Issues in Language Planning. 13 (3): 207–223. doi:10.1080/14664208.2012.722375.
- Hult, F.M. (2014). Drive-thru linguistic landscaping: Constructing a linguistically dominant place in a bilingual space. International Journal of Bilingualism, 18, 507-523.
- Hult, F.M. (2009). Language ecology and linguistic landscape analysis. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (Eds.), Linguistic landscape: Expanding the scenery (pp. 88–104). London: Routledge.
- Kasanga, Luanga Adrien (2012). "Mapping the linguistic landscape of a commercial neighbourhood in Central Phnom Penh". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 32 (6): 1–15. doi:10.1080/01434632.2012.683529.
- Lai, Mee Ling (2013). "The linguistic landscape of Hong Kong after the change of sovereignty". International Journal of Multilingualism. 10 (3): 225–235. doi:10.1080/14790718.2012.708036.
- Landry, Rodrigue; Richard Y. Bourhis (1997). "Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality An Empirical Study". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 16 (1): 23–49. doi:10.1177/0261927X970161002.
- Leeman, Jennifer; Modan, Gabriella (2009). Commodified language in Chinatown: A contextualized approach to linguistic landscape. The Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(3), 333-363.
- Leeman, Jennifer; Modan, Gabriella (2010). Selling the City: Language, ethnicity and commodified space. In Elana Shohamy, Eli Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (Eds.) Linguistic Landscape in the City. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 182-197.
- Macalister, John (2012). "Language policies, language planning and linguistic landscapes in Timor-Leste". Language Problems and Language Planning. 36 (1): 25–45. doi:10.1075/lplp.36.1.02mac.
- Muth, Sebastian (2014). "Linguistic landscapes on the other side of the border: Signs, language, and the construction of cultural identity in Transnistria" (PDF). International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2014 (227): 25–46. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2013-0086.
- Pons Rodríguez, Lola. 2012. El paisaje lingüístico de Sevilla. Lenguas y variedades en el escenario urbano hispalense. Sevilla: Diputación Provincial de Sevilla, Colección Archivo Hispalense. (Download)
- Rasinger, Sebastian M. (2014): Linguistic landscapes in Southern Carinthia (Austria), Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, doi:10.1080/01434632.2014.889142
- Sebba, Mark (2010). "Book review: "Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban Multilingualism in Tokyo", by Peter Backhaus". Writing Systems Research. 2 (1): 73–76. doi:10.1093/wsr/wsp006.
- Shiohata, Mariko (2012). "Language use along the urban street in Senegal: perspectives from proprietors of commercial signs". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 33 (3): 269–285. doi:10.1080/01434632.2012.656648.
- Shohamy, Elana; Durk Gorter (2009). Linguistic landscape: Expanding the scenery. New York and London: Routledge.
- Spolsky, Bernard; Robert Cooper (1991). The Languages of Jerusalem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.