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Dimensions of Sociolinguistic Landscapes in Europe

Materials and Methodological Solutions


Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

The articles in this volume investigate everyday textual material of sociolinguistic landscapes in the early 21st century. Sociolinguistic landscapes reflect societal change, and they enable observers to map what linguistic resources are used in various contexts and to study how these resources interact and are interpreted. The articles present not only quantitative results of the presence of languages in signs but also look into how authors and designers make use of an endless pool of linguistic resources, how visible semiotic items contribute to create a sense of space, what types of mental processes are involved in the production, and how various audiences (residents, occasional passers-by, and language regulators) interpret and construct signs and sociolinguistic landscapes to form their own understanding of semiotic space.
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Ideofiers in the commercial city: A discursive linguistic landscape analysis of hairdressers’ shop names


1. Setting the stage: from the writing to the discursive city in sociolinguistics and linguistic landscape studies

Linguistic landscape studies (LLS) as a subfield of sociolinguistics has for the last fifteen years contributed to our knowledge of linguistic diversity in a growing bi- and multilingual world of urban environments. LLS foregrounded the writing city and thus extended the scope of sociolinguistic research on the talking city to studies of written language use in the cityscape.1 LLS was setting the scene for analyses of linguistic messages written in the public sphere in the 1990s and evoked a still on-going debate on adequate operative methodologies to study written messages as municipal or private and commercial, static or transgressive signs, multimodal texts with varying scripts – signs in various forms and on various media from municipal street name signs and traffic signs to commercial signs and flyers, chalkboards, placards and stickers in the public sphere.2

LLS explored urban communicative spaces as multilingual spaces with power imbalances of majority and minority languages by connecting linguistic data to demographic data.3 Through this innovative turn, LLS have convincingly documented to which extent ethnic and regional cultures are visible in the writing urbanities, and foregrounded the ways minority groups are able to find a “voice” in the ← 53 | 54 → written information setting of a city. Frequency and visible distribution of languages in the city with its ethnically fragmented districts and neighborhoods also gave evidence to how language policy agendas have materialized in...

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