Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Forms and Functions of English in Multilingual Signage
Author: Kay McCormick
Institution: University of Cape Town
Author: Rama Kant Agnihotri
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Delhi
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Research on language contact phenomena (language switching and mixing, borrowing) shows that in a multilingual setting people's choice of language(s) is governed not simply by the need to be understood. Other factors play a role. These include various forms of positioning: the language, dialect, accent a speaker chooses for an interaction consciously or unconsciously displays particular aspects of his or her actual or aspired identity. These aspects cover, for example, being (or not being) educated/religious/from a particular region or social grouping. They position the speaker in relation to the person being spoken to. They may also indicate to the addressee not only how the speaker perceives him or her (for example as someone with particular background or attributes) but also as someone with particular aspirations. In multilingual societies language choice in commercial signage carries out similar positioning in addition to giving information about products or services: being understood is not always the sign producer's only or chief consideration. He or she needs to trigger aspects of identity and aspiration that are likely to create a desire for whatever is being sold. In this paper we focus on how English is used in relation to other languages in signage, mainly commercial signage, in two multilingual cities that are the centres of an ongoing research project on bilingual and multilingual signage: Delhi and Cape Town.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 25, Issue 3.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page