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Sprache & Gesellschaft (B.A.)

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Linguistic Landscape

In major European cities, language(s) in the urban public space increasingly draw the attention of the linguistic research community – especially in the context of Linguistic Landscape.

“Generally Linguistic Landscape refers to the visibility and salience of languages on public and commercial signs in a given territory or region.” (Landry/Bourhis 1997: 23)

Particularly in the context of urban linguistic diversity, there is a multitude of ways to create signs. By taking a closer look at multilingualism in urban public areas, the arrangement and intention to place multilingual information on signs is a good start to discuss the correlation between language and society.

Following Reh’s analyses of multilingual writings, it is required to define the scope of the communicative processes that are evoked by a physical sign (Reh 2004: 3). There are four types of multilingual information that can be arranged on signs.

  1. Complementary multilingual information: The text is composed in multiple languages. To understand the message fully the speaker must possess knowledge of all languages presented. By doing so, particular information cannot be accessed by a monolingual speaker (Reh 2004: 14)
  2. Fragmentary multilingualism: The text is given in one language but selected information is translated into another. The purpose is to draw attention of a speaker with limited knowledge of the translated language. This type of information arrangement also addresses speakers focusing on keywords (Reh 2004: 10).
  3. Duplicating multilingual information: The exact same text is presented in more than one language. Here, the information is presented to a target speaker which cannot be reached by one language only (Reh 2004: 8) - It can also be used for educational purposes.
  4. Overlapping multilingual information: There are two types of texts: One text offers additional and/or similar information to another text. Monolingual speakers can derive the information of only one text while multilinguals speaker receive additional information from both texts (Reh 2004: 12).

To the right you can find pictures of four multilingual signs. Let’s try to find out which sign represents which information arrangement scheme.

Complementary multilingual information

 

Fragmentary multilingualism

 

Duplicating multilingual information

 

Overlapping multilingual information

 
1.

Bild A

2.

Bild C

3.

Bild D

4.

Bild B

These examples show how the different impacts of multilingual signs in the public space are analysed. On the one hand, we investigate how information is arranged to address a particular group of speakers, on the other we can compare the arrangement of information in different public spaces within a single city. Thus this gives us a linguistic perspective and research tool to investigate the structural properties of an area observed.