Exploring Place-Making Practices in the Linguistic Landscape: Examples from Urban Centers in "Greater China"

Talk by Melissa L. Curtin, UCSB

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In most cities around the world, including those of greater China, one is surrounded by a dazzling diversity of language varieties and scripts that are “put on display” -- in official signage (e.g., streets, buildings, mass transit), commercial signage (shop marquees, billboards, tourism), grassroots and personal signage (handwritten posts, on clothing, tote bags, tattoos), and transgressive signs (murals, graffiti, protest movements). Over the past 15 years, the new transdisciplinary field of Linguistic Landscape Studies (LLS) has emerged in which visual language and other discursive modalities (script, typeface, color, images, materiality of the sign) are examined so as to understand ways in which these practices construct both social and physical spaces.

This colloquium considers a range of examples from urban centers of greater China to examine how LLS can provide rich insight into ways in which places and spaces are socially constructed – and contested – through language and other semiotic practices. In doing so, we will consider the interpenetration of identities, ideologies, and language practices and policies as these are negotiated within specific historical and political contexts. Examples will be taken from LL practices in Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Beijing and Taipei, as well as North America.

Blommaert, Jan (2013). Ethnography, superdiversity, and linguistic landscapes: Chronicles of complexity. Bristol: Multilingual Matters

Hult, Francis (2018). Language policy and planning and linguistic landscapes. In J.W. Tollefson & M. Pérez-Milans (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language policy and planning.

As a critical interpretivist, Melissa Curtin’s research is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing upon the fields of communication and culture, linguistic anthropology, sociocultural linguistics, cultural studies, and cultural geography. Her work investigates ways in which language and other social semiotic processes are used in processes of identification and in the social construction of place and social spaces of “differential belonging.” Her research has been published in the International Journal of Sociology of Language and in Social Semiotics, as well as in several edited volumes on language and identity, language and globalization, and linguistic landscape studies.

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Published: Thursday, February 28, 2019