By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
EDITOR(S): Gorter, Durk TITLE: Linguistic Landscape SUBTITLE: A New Approach to Multilingualism PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2006
Elke Laur, unaffiliated scholar
Gorter's book ''Linguistic Landscape'' includes an introduction by the editor; four case studies on the articulation of social and multilingual aspects of written signs and place names in Israel, Thailand, Japan, Spain and the Netherlands; and the author's closing summary discussion of further research perspectives. This collection previously appeared in a special issue of the _International Journal of Multilingualism_ (Vol. 3, No. 1, 2006).
As each case study covers very different contents, I have opted here to describe and evaluate every article individually before concluding with a short overall-evaluation.
DURK GORTER ''Introduction: The Study of the Linguistic Landscape as a New Approach to Multilingualism''.
In his introduction, the editor situates the reader with a brief discussion on the etymology and varying usages of the recent term ''linguistic landscape'' (LL). He refers to the working definition of the term given by Bourhis and Landry (1997), as one that is ''followed by all authors in this issue'' (page 2). He then addresses a number of methodological issues and challenges posed by the sampling of empirical data, the complex task of defining a unit of analysis and subsequently devising categorization and coding schemes of the signs studied. In conclusion, he provides a brief introduction to each contribution of the book.
ELIEZER BEN-RAFAEL, ELANA SHOHAMY, MUHAMMAD HASAN AMARA and NIRA TRUMPER-HECHT ''Linguistic Landscape as Symbolic Construction of the Public Space: The Case of Israel''.
The authors begin by reviewing the literature on the study of linguistic landscapes and the sociological frameworks of Bourdieu, Goffman and Boudon, on which they draw to formulate their working hypothesis. The focus of their analysis is on the social actions of ''LL-actors'', that is to say participants partaking in the shaping of linguistic landscapes. The first analytical distinction proposed by the authors is between top-down (institutional) and bottom-up (individual) elements, which both contribute to a ''symbolic construction of the public space'' (p. 10).
Eight different areas are highlighted in the study, located in Israeli towns and cities and in East Jerusalem. They represent three relatively homogenous linguistic and religious settings, defined by demographic data as either: (1) Jewish localities, (2) Israeli-Palestinian localities and, in the case of East-Jerusalem, a (3) Non-Israeli Palestinian locality. The presence of Hebrew, Arabic and English is analysed on a thousand public (top-down) and private (bottom-up) signs of different types. The public category includes signs of religious, governmental, municipal-cultural, educational or medical institutions; public signs of general interest; various announcements and nominal street signs. Commercial and business signs and private announcements represent the ''private'' category. The data is then cross-tabled with the three demographic settings and discussed in respect to the theoretical frameworks referenced by the authors.
The main findings of the research show that Hebrew is the predominant language -- either with or without English -- in nearly 100% of the items studied within Jewish localities, with the presence of English varying according to the presence of tourists. Within Israeli-Palestinian localities, Hebrew is strongly present, but in 75% of the cases it is accompanied by Arabic or English in different combinations of multilingual signs. As for the Palestinian localities, they show a much greater variance in the presence of Hebrew and bilingual signs, depending on their proximity to Jewish centres. Lastly, the East Jerusalem area clearly shows another pattern altogether as Arabic is the dominant language, English is in second position and Hebrew is hardly present at all.
Notable differences between linguistic settings are also apparent when comparing public and private signs. In Jewish areas, both kinds of signs are predominantly in Hebrew. In Israeli-Palestinian localities, Hebrew is more present on public signs than on private signs which tend to be more bilingual with Arabic as the second language or even trilingual with the addition of English. The most striking contrast here again occurs in East Jerusalem where official signs are almost exclusively in Arabic or Arabic-English. The place given to English in the signs is very significant considering its non-official status. The authors hypothesize that English is perceived as a ''neutral'' language; ''neither a priori associated with Jews or with Arabs – and allows maintaining of communication over the head of manifestations of animosity, preventing thereby a total cut-off between populations'' (page 25).
THOM HUEBNER ''Bangkok's Linguistic Landscapes: Environmental Print, Codemixing and Language Change''
To determine the place of English, of standard Thai and of four major regional languages in Bangkok, Thailand, Huebner and his research assistants identified 15 neighbourhoods in which 613 signs were analysed. The script and language mixing, homophones and language prominence (placement and amount of text, colours used) were analysed in order to assess the variation of monolingual and multilingual signs in official and commercial use.
Results show that for all signs, only 45% were single-script whereas 55% were multiple-script signs. The signs containing Thai constituted the majority (33% Thai/Roman; 26% Thai; 6% Thai/Roman/Chinese; 3% Thai/Chinese) 17% were single Roman scripted signs and 15% presented other linguistic combinations. Official signs were mostly in Thai (60%) or in Thai and English (34%) without neighbourhood variation. In contrast to the government signs and despite a governmental tax incentive for including Thai in commercial signs, these showed a much greater variation according to where they were situated in the different neighbourhoods. In his article, Huebner distinguishes between five neighbourhood-patterns of predominance: (1) predominantly Thai monolingual signs were found in three neighbourhoods located in proximity to the Parliament Building and the Residential Palace of the King, accommodating middle-level government workers, middle and working class Thais and small and retail businesses or schools. One of the boroughs is nevertheless a tourist destination-- but only in a prospective way. (2) A balanced monolingual Thai and bilingual Thai-English use of governmental and non-governmental signs (translations) was observed in two neighbourhoods with religious, medical and non-profit institutions, a few commercial enterprises and sport clubs. The author states that this use of English targets educated Thais. (3) Predominantly Thai-Chinese bilingual signs were observed in two neighbourhoods which house a historical minority population of Chinese and their small and retail businesses. (4) Thai-English multilingual signs were predominant in four neighbourhoods including a major commercial centre of Bangkok with businesses providing financial, health and travel services, shopping, entertainment, restaurants and retail enterprises. One of the areas studied was the Sky Train – interestingly treated as a neighbourhood. Since it caters to the middle classes, foreign residents and tourist populations, the advertisements promoted a great variety of international products. (5) A predominance of signs in other languages was registered in four neighbourhoods with mainly monolingual English signs but also some in Japanese and Arabic. One of the neighbourhoods in question was a low-cost international travel destination with entertainment and service industries, while the others were more focussed on retail businesses and the like. While these neighbourhoods shared the feature of predominantly non-Thai signs, they tended to vary greatly in terms of the other languages used.
The signs mixing Thai and English show different types of script, lexicon and syntax combinations. The author observes a ''nonreciprocal relationship'' between Thai and English which he argues is a ''function of access and inequity''. Thai script is ''intended virtually, solely for Thai audiences'' whereas foreigners rely on translations. The bilingual signs add a ''cosmopolitan flair'' (p. 48) as the Thai population creates a mixing of Thai and English, with lexical borrowing influencing the phonological and orthographic use of Thai. This leads the author to question the definitions of language and community boundaries.
PETER BACKHAUS ''Multilingualism in Tokyo: A Look into the Linguistic Landscape''
The paper begins with a thorough overview of previous scholarly works done on signs in multilingual settings, with special attention paid to the distinction between official and non-official signs. The author aims at establishing ''a link between the situation in Tokyo and the growing corpus of linguistic landscape research around the world'' (page 54). In order to compare official and non-official multilingual signs, the author recorded 11,834 signs in 28 survey areas. Although Tokyo is a largely monolingual society with only 2.8% of registered foreign residents, the city presents a surprisingly multilingual landscape. According to the author's census, every fifth sign contains one or more languages other than Japanese. Of the 15 other languages assessed, English is present in 97.6% of the cases.
One fourth of the recorded signs are official, governmental signs and are almost entirely multilingual, containing Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean and Latin script. They practically always include Japanese and English, the latter being the most frequently used language on multilingual official signs. The languages are mostly mutual translations of the information given and, the author notes: ''address different groups of monolingual readers who do not know each other's languages'' (page 59). The analysis of code preference (through order and size) confirms a clear predominance (99%) of Japanese on official signs. On the other hand, nonofficial signs show a greater variety of languages on their multilingual signs and only 64% of them contain Japanese. The use of these languages is complementary in a proportion of 55% and ''presuppose a multilingual, presumably Japanese-English readership'' (page 60). The order and size analysis gives a 40% preference of non-Japanese codes on these nonofficial signs. These differences are interpreted as the reflection of power and solidarity: the use of Japanese in official signs is seen as the expression of a linguistic power relation in Japan reinforcing the official language even though the presence of the other languages constitute ''a noteworthy concession to linguistic minorities in Tokyo'' (page 64). The use of multilingualism on nonofficial signs, mainly noticed through the 40% absence of Japanese, is an argument for the author to conclude in favour of a more solidarity-based use of these languages, evoking the example of the use of Korean in traditionally Korean immigrant neighbourhoods.
JASONE CENOZ and DURK GORTER ''Linguistic Landscape and Minority Languages''
Conceptualizing a two-way relationship between linguistic landscapes and sociolinguistic contexts, the authors present a rather exceptional empirical study. They compare two one-street-analyses conducted in two non-national regions in Europe, one in Friesland, Netherlands and the other in the Spanish Basque Country. These two regions share the common presence of an official minority language (Basque and Friesian) co-existing alongside official majority languages (Spanish and Dutch) and English as an international language. The authors analyze the use of these languages and their relative importance, each within a 600 meter section of two central shopping streets located in Donostia, San Sebastian where 104 units were analysed, and Nijstêd-Nieuwestad in Ljouwert, the capital of the Frisian province where 103 units were analysed. These units represent the signs of individual businesses or establishments. Analysis is based on the sign-coding scheme presented by Bon-Rafael et al. in the same volume. In both cities, the national languages dominate the signs in either a monolingual or multilingual fashion, with a percentage of 91% in the case of Dutch, and 82% in the case of Spanish. The authors noted a considerable difference in the use of the minority languages relative to their presence on signs and to the demographics of these language speakers. In Ljouwert, nearly half of the population speaks Frisian, yet the language figures on only 3% of the observed signs and is dominant in only 2% of the signs. In contrast, while about a third of the population in Donostia speaks Basque, the language is present in over 50% of the signs studied and predominant in 28% of them. Analysis of the size and types of fonts, the amount of information given and the form or presence of translation, confirm the dominance of the national languages and the linguistic minority differences between the two cities. The authors interpret this finding as a reflection of the different statuses of these minority languages as a written language and as an object of language policy. In practice, Frisian is more of a spoken than a written language compared to Basque which is promoted much more substantially as a minority language compared to Frisian. In short, the analysis of linguistic signs in two streets in cities located in a similar minority situation show striking differences: Frisian is not as present as a minority language as the Basque language is in Spain. The authors point to the largely symbolic function of the more widespread use of Basque as compared to Frisian.
In both places about one third of the signs contain English -- which makes it the second language in Friesland and the third in the Basque Country, reflecting local perceptions with regards to the use of English ''as more prestigious and modern than using the local languages'' (page 79).
DURK GORTER ''Further Possibilities for Linguistics Landscape Research''
This final paper is divided in five parts. The first, entitled ''Globalization and the Spread of English'' discusses the degree of multilingualism in all the localities studied and the emerging importance of English among other forms of multilingualism. The transformations that the Thai language has undergone, leads the author to conclude that ''English is overall gaining importance due to globalization'' (page 81). Concurrently, there is a ''regionalization or localization going on'' (p.82). The studies of this antagonizing phenomenon named ''glocalization'' ''also provide a better understanding of the spread of English'' (p.82). In the second part titled ''Etymology and a Neologism'', Gorter discusses yet again the etymology of the word ''landscape'' and its double referral to the physical object and to its representation, proposing to substitute the term with ''Multilingual Cityscape'' as a more precise term given the urban concentration of the linguistic tokens studied. The third part of his paper deals with the ''Technological Advancements'' made in the past ten years which have enabled the archiving of countless visual documents of landscapes and signs. He also evokes future possibilities for the use of new technologies in the study of linguistic landscapes and signs, proposing different software programs used for image analysis in the public domain or the automatic number plate recognition currently used for surveillance or security devices. The forth part titled ''Regulation and Policy'' deals with the ''top-down'' regulation of language use in public spaces by government or local policies. A discussion of the functionality of signs follows with the mention of the symbolic importance that place names could take on, especially in multilingual settings. The fifth part: ''Multiple Perspectives'' insists on the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to the analysis of linguistic landscapes within a historical and cultural perspective, including linguistic, sociological or sociolinguistic perspectives, psychology, geography, the study of visual perception, city planning, semiotics, and the study of second language acquisition among others. Furthermore, the author stresses the fact that multilingualism is going global and that this globalization gives multiple perspectives on its use in urban spaces.
This book is a welcome and useful addition to the study of language and space, particularly for its contribution of well needed empirical studies. The articles show how rich empirical data on linguistic landscapes and on the use of language on signs can be. They constitute original steps towards conceptualising their varied features and developing a methodological basis, but they show how much more work in these directions needs still to be done. One example should illustrate the lack of shared conceptualizations: In his study, Huebner counts script-features as one of the elements defining language mixing. Backhaus on the other hand, uses script as a criterion to determine whether one or the other language is used -- even if they include lexical borrowing. Moreover, a number of methodological questions are raised, such as how sample neighbourhoods are and should be selected, how data should be analysed and presented, to name only these. The studies raise even more fundamental questions concerning basic concepts in sociolinguistics, socio-psychology and sociology, such as the boundaries of sociolinguistic communities, the processes of pidginization, the sociological framework in which to interpret these data sources, etc.
Indeed, as the editor points out, there is a considerable need to define frameworks and methodological tools in order to solidify and cluster the very heterogeneous approaches to this area of research. As such, the book's subtitle ''a new approach to multilingualism'' seems to make a misconceived statement seeing as the book does not effectively propose a new approach to multilingualism, rather, it contributes by supplying new empirical research, to the knowledge of a methodologically renewed perspective on multilingualism: that of the study of signs as a material reflection of sociolinguistic use and regulation of multilingualism.
The ''linguistic landscape'', a notion defined by Bourhis and Landry (1997), clearly stands for a new area of study which emerged in the early 90 when sociolinguistics became explicitly urban via the publications of Calvet (1990, 1994) and Bulot (1998) in France. In the book, there is only one reference to this earlier work -- by Backhaus -- on which the editor relies in his own outlines (pages 5 and 81). The ''top-down'' and ''bottom-up'' distinction is clearly necessary but is an example of what was already introduced as ''in vitro'' and ''in vivo'' by Calvet (1990). The fact that 30 nations or regions have language policies regulating their linguistic landscapes (Leclerc 1994) shows that their impact is known -- their study originates often in the legislative outcome of language contact zones.
In addition to these more general remarks, I propose a short, more specific evaluation of the four empirical studies:
BEN-RAFAEL ET AL. provide a very interesting introduction to linguistic variety and contact in Israel that is both brief and efficient. Consequently, the reader is disconcerted to find no information on how the demographic census data defined the categories used by the authors, such as mother tongue and knowledge of language. Furthermore, there is some confusion surrounding the ethnolinguistic composition of the population living in the areas studied and the places themselves as if the authors were conflating geography and peoples. In the general conclusions the authors resume their work as a study of interactions between three groups ''as buffered through linguistic landscapes'' which ''reveal aspects of the dynamics of these relationships''. It is my reading that a study about signs and their linguistic concentration in the city can hardly conclude on actual interaction, even when signs are understood as an ''aspect of social reality''. This same kind of over-interpretation is made evident in the analysis of the predominance of Hebrew, not in signs but in Israel. As illustrated by the study of Bourhis and Landry, (1997) cited in this article as the foundational work on which rests this kind of research, the linguistic landscape is an important but not the only factor of the linguistic vitality of a community or a Nation-State.
Although interpretations feel mostly and intuitively right, data is clearly representative neither of Israel nor of the linguistic sub-areas studied and as such, the conclusions can not only be based on the empirical data but are, to a certain extent, based on qualitative interpretation. The problem in my view, resides not in this methodological choice -- but in the fact that it is not stated as such. The hypothesis presenting English as a kind of ''buffer-language'' is an interesting one, but difficult to evaluate given the data presented and the absence of further references. The presentation of the conclusions within the sociological framework of Bourdieu, Goffman and Bourdon is a successful one, especially because the authors conclude with parallel readings of their findings in the three frameworks.
My last critical remark concerns the following analytical argument: linguistic landscape studies rely on sheer facts and therefore '''speak out' more faithfully the meanings of behaviours'' (page 26) than other possible data gatherings. The study of LL is clearly an important one, but in my opinion only as a combining factor with other methodological approaches to multilingualism.
Notwithstanding these critical remarks, the contribution is a rather important one to the understanding, and necessary accumulation of data, of segregated areas in cities or nations, a segregation based on language and other related social characteristics such as religion and socio-cultural status.
HUEBNER: This paper provides an excellent description of the signs found in the studied neighborhoods, but unfortunately says not enough of its inhabitants. Who lives in these places? Some side-remarks hint at a social stratification in some of the areas mentioned, but this aspect of the research is not as explicit as one would like. On the other hand, the author does successfully outline the links between government enforcement and the use of Thai-language signs and the private use of language on business signs. He also provides a well-documented overview of the 15 neighborhoods and their linguistic diversity, although the analysis is neither systematic nor representative, and as such, the conclusion comes off as a bit too far reaching. Although it purports to do so, the article does not ''offer evidence of a shift over time from Chinese to English as the major language of wider communication in the city'' (page 50). Such a conclusion could only be arrived at through a more empirical and longitudinal analysis comparing at least two variables over a given time span. The description of the ''social structure, the power relations, and status of various languages'' is also one of the weaker points of the paper that reads more like a first description of a particularly interesting fieldwork from which a number of hypotheses about changes in language use could be drawn. Much in the same way, ''the paper documents the influence of English'' but not really the ''development of Thai (page 50)'', nor does it ''provide evidence of a nascent Thai variety of English'' (page 50), even though this is an interesting hypothesis warranting further research.
BACKHAUS: This article provides a valuable synthesis of scholarly works conducted in the field of linguistic landscape studies. It contributes a number of distinctions which had remained largely vague in the other articles, such as the distinction between official and non-official signs. Overall, it is precise in its definition and classification of empirical analysis, well-informed with regards to all categories analyzed and methodologically thorough. However, the author's interpretation of relations of power and solidarity in the last part of the article is convincing in some aspects but not in all. The articulation of political power through the imposition of Japanese on official signs seems evident, just as the interpretation of the use of Korean in some neighborhoods as an expression of solidarity denotes a sensitive understanding of linguistic reality in that particular part of Tokyo. On the other hand, one questions whether the use of English on non-official signs is indeed an expression of solidarity considering that it is present in 97% of the non-official signs, far outweighing the number of speakers. While the author explains this as a ''symbolic expression by Japanese sign writers to join the English language community'' (page 63), it reads more like an expression of socio-economic power relations and ''the values attached to it'' (page 63). If the Japanese sign writers want to express something I would argue, it is not to the solidarity values associated with the English-speaking community in Tokyo (only 2.8% are ''registered foreign residents'', page 52), but the ''connotational value'' of the global language (as Cenoz and Gorter call it on page 70). It is not to suggest that the ''power'' and ''solidarity'' dichotomy could not be ''fruitfully employed in the analysis of language distribution on signs'' (page 62), to the contrary, but a more holistic interpretation of the values attached to these categories would contribute more depth to the innovative framework conceived in this paper.
CENOZ and GORTER: This contribution is highly original in its conceptualization of empirical research. Two very different sites sharing basic features are analyzed, revealing a number of interesting patterns. The authors provide both a description of the socio-linguistic context and the various signs used. Their decision to restrict comparison to two streets in two different cities, may not be quantitatively representative, but it does demonstrate how a motivated and qualitative approach to gathering data can produce results from which general inferences can be made. At first glance, the comparison between the different sites, The Basque Country and Friesland, is somewhat perplexing, but the rhetorical argument convincingly shows how differences in demographic composition, linguistic policies and minority language literacy, affect the use of minority languages on signs.
Bourhis, Richard Y. & Rodrigue Landry (1997) Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An empirical study. In Journal of Language and Social Psychology 6, 23-49.
Bulot, Thierry, ed. (1998) Rouen : reconstruction, langages (Socolinguistique normande : langues en ville), Etudes Normandes 1, Association Etudes Normandes, Mont Saint Aignan.
Calvet, Louis-Jean (1990) Des mots sur les murs : une comparaison entre Paris et Dakar. In : R. Chaudenson, ed., Des langues et des villes (Actes du colloque international à Dakar, du 15 au 17 décembre 1990), Paris, Agence de coopération culturelle et technique, 73-83.
Calvet, Louis-Jean (1994) Les voix de la ville. Introduction à la sociolinguistique urbaine. Paris, Payot.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Elke Laur works in Quebec on issues of linguistic segregation, linguistic identity, attitudes and perceptions in multilingual communities.