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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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Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place


1. Introduction

The connections between semiotic signs and the sense of place have been widely explored in linguistic landscape research.1 According to Coulmas (2009: 3), the origin of writing coincided with the emergence of urban space. Earlier Habermas (1991 [1962]) suggested that the first text displayed in open spaces was in fact the seed of the public sphere. Ben-Rafael (2009: 40) specifies that in linguistic landscape (hereafter LL) analysis, the focus is on the territorial-geographic dimension of the public sphere, namely public space, which has its own rules and regulations (Shohamy and Gorter 2009: 3). As a product and consequence of social interrelations (Jaworski and Yeung 2010: 153, Lefebvre 1991), these rules and regulations can in effect be understood as the place-specific (social) culture, one that will naturally differ from one place to another. Space acquires its meaning from various traces of human activity in the material world; embedding language in a public space contributes to the creation of such meaning, or the sense of place as it has also been called (Jaworski and Yeung 2010: 155).

This article sets two urban districts in Oslo side-by-side and examines how local social culture is expressed in their respective LLs. It will first present an overview of the sociocultural and economic determinants of these districts. This overview functions as a contextualizing force for interpreting how the sense of place varies considerably in each (Jaworski and Yeung 2010). This variation, as argued here, is expected to stem...

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