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Cross-EUTOPIA student workshop on Linguistic Landscaping

The cross-EUTOPIA student workshop on Linguistic Landscaping, which took place on February 4th, 2021, brought together students from the University of Warwick, the University of Gothenburg, and University Pompeu Fabra.

This pioneering activity was an opportunity for students to carry out a Linguistic Landscaping project, participate in cross-university collaboration, and experience global connected learning despite the current disruption in mobility.

Below are blogs written by the students based on the mini research projects they carried out.

The Language of Graffiti in the Municipalities of El Pla, Berga, and Sant Martí (district in Barcelona), Catalonia

Laia Capdevila, Sara Larios, Eloi Singla

This project aims to determine the relationship between the linguistic evidence in street graffiti and the languages of the immigrant population in each of the three places where we have conducted research. It also aims to compare the languages in which the graffiti are written in a small town like El Pla de Santa Maria, a small city like Berga, and a district of a big city like Sant Martí, in Barcelona.

Read the full blog here.

Linguistic Landscape: Manresa, Gavà Mar, Barcelona

Imma Martinez, Hidaya Hafdi, Mercè Amorós

This research project attempts to analyse whether linguistic diversity can be considered to exist in three different zones of Catalonia. We focus on Gavà Mar, Manresa, and the capital, Barcelona. Nevertheless, our real interest lies in the reasons for choosing to use one language over another. In this work, we analyse the areas where the authors of this work live, so we can say that there are some preconceived ideas and that we start from our own knowledge. Therefore, the research focuses on studying the data gathered and, from there, establishing results.

Read the full blog here.

Multilingualism in Public Spaces in Umeå 

Vesna Busic

This research project explores multilingualism in the municipality of Umeå in Sweden. Umeå is an administrative area for three of the national minority languages: Sámi, Finnish, and Meänkieli. Additionally, 11% of its population was born outside of Sweden. These 14,600 people come from around 40 different countries. It is therefore pertinent to explore:

  • what languages are visible in the linguistic landscape of Umeå’s town centre and how does this linguistic representation reflect the linguistic resources of the inhabitants?
  • in what way can the linguistic landscape of Umeå’s town centre be related to ideologies and theories associated with multilingualism in society?

Thirty-four photographs were taken. Twenty photographs of top-down signs were taken at the town library, and twenty-four photographs (5 top-down signs and 9 bottom-up signs) were taken at the central square.

The results show that multilingualism as a resource is “allowed” for children, yet it gradually declines as people grow up. In other words, adults’ linguistic landscape is poorer and dominated by the majority language, Swedish. For example, at the city library there are 34 different languages presented on 10 top-down signs in the children department, yet only nine languages on ten top-down signs in the adult department. When considering these signs in relation to social justice and social practice – which are two main principles of translanguaging as presented in García (2009) – it is the examples from the library’s children department that near the principles the most.

Moreover, the municipality of Umeå has erected five top-down billboards on the central square. Although, at the top, they include headings in Finnish, Meänkieli, and one of the Sámi languages, accompanied by a translation in Swedish and in English (What’s on?), the content of the posters on these billboards is written in Swedish with very few elements in English. On the remaining nine bottom-up signs (restaurant and shop signs) at the central square, no language other than Swedish and English are represented.

From a language ideological perspective, Swedish and English (to some extent) can be seen as having greater value and are therefore considered by many as more suitable languages of communication for signage in Umeå. This position can be seen as part of a larger power structure in society (Bourdieu, 1999). Such a structure should be challenged along with questions about who has access to certain rooms and who can negotiate a change in this context (Shohamy, 2006).

Read the full blog here.

A Linguistic Landscape Study in Malmö

Yvonne Jacobsson

The aim of this study is to analyse the presence of monolingualism and multilingualism in a linguistic landscape, and to put the choice of linguistic code in relation to top-down or bottom-up actors and to the Swedish language policy. Data for this study was gathered in the multicultural market area of Malmö called Möllevångstorget and some of its surrounding streets. The pictures collected were analysed against a defined list of criteria inspired by Scollon & Scollon (2003), Shohamy (2006) and Nuottaniemi (2018). These criteria included:

  • the quantity of monolingual and multilingual shop- and restaurant signs,
  • the preferred code, defined as the hierarchy between different linguistic codes based on spatial placements and font size,
  • the amount of top-down/public signs (LL-items issued by the authorities) or bottom-up/unofficial signs (LL-items issued by autonomous social actors, shop signs and posters or announcements on billboards).

In total, nine different linguistic codes were identified: Swedish, English, Arabic, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Farsi, Japanese and Dari. After counting the instances of different linguistic codes and analysing which codes were preferred, the conclusion is that the Swedish language dominates both top-down and bottom-up (50 instances), followed by English and Arabic (16 instances each). Notably, top-down actors are only using the Swedish language, thus following a monolingual norm prioritizing the Swedish language. However, bottom-up actors follow a multilingual norm using several linguistic codes accompanied by cultural identifications like flags and colours to attract people to their businesses. There are economic motives for using multilingualism in the market area, but bottom-up actors are also opening up people’s possibilities to use their mother tongue, which is something the authorities are neglecting to do in their top-down items, such as the information and road signs displayed. Some of the signs from the municipality had rather naïve pictures and symbols to clarify their content and show some kind of consideration of the multilingual target group´s abilities to understand Swedish. The Swedish language policy states that Swedish is the main language, and that the public (the state) has a particular responsibility to make sure that Swedish is used and developed. If the Swedish language is supposed to be used by authorities (government, municipality, and so on) in their contact with Swedish citizens, the individual’s right to use his or her mother tongue also has to be protected. It is the public’s responsibility to make sure that the individual’s right to develop and use his or her mother tongue actually takes place, even though this is not pinpointed to specific settings in society. Since authorities have seemingly taken a Swedish monolingual stance in their display of signs in the market area, the top-down actors’ interpretation of the language policy could be open for further discussion.

Read the full blog here.

Linguistic Legislation: Local vs. Exotic Food Products

Arlet Lozano, Aina Queralt, Paula Prat

This study is part of the field of language legislation and aims to analyse the labeling of food products from a multilingual perspective. This is a descriptive analysis that compares the use of languages in terms of product labeling. It focuses on local and exotic food products from two different companies. Four food products were selected, two of which were local, while the other two were exotic. Their labels were then analysed. We investigated whether the labeling language policies in the region of Catalonia were respected or not. Also, the differences between the local products and the exotic ones were observed in order to outline a linguistic landscape.

The investigation focused on how products should be labeled – taking into account the legislation within the region (Catalonia, with three official languages), Spain, and Europe – as well as how they are actually labeled. In other words, the research was aimed at comparing the reality versus the norm. The results obtained from our qualitative observation suggest that both the local and exotic products of the selected brands fulfill language regulations. In conclusion, the findings show that most brands do not support multilingualism in their labeling and, moreover, that the use of Catalan in products marketed in Catalonia is not reinforced.

Read the full blog here.

Plaça Catalunya: The Linguistic Landscape of One of the Most Emblematic Areas of Barcelona

Alex Tomico, Natàlia Lopez, Jana Surroca

This research project aims to provide an overview of the linguistic landscape of Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona. Our objective was to analyse the linguistic landscape of our surroundings to compare it with the multilingual reality of the city and to see if the languages spoken in our city were really represented in the different shops and establishments, as well as to verify that the latter complied with the linguistic legislation established by the government. We analysed Plaça Catalunya’s shops and establishments to see what languages were used in publicity, posters, promotions, and other visual objects, as well as on public road signs. Through our research, we observed that the predominant languages in the area are Catalan and Spanish, whereas English and other languages occupy a secondary position.

Read the full blog here.

The Linguistic Representation of Spirituality in Glastonbury Experience Courtyard

Sophie Frankpitt

Linguistic landscapes have traditionally studied the presentation of multilingualism in a public space. It provides insight into the relationship between the physical landscape – the signage – and the identity of an area (Ben-Rafael et al., 2006). In this project, I use the foundations of Linguistic Landscaping to study the connections between spirituality, language, and public space.

Glastonbury is a fascinating location to explore these connections. The physical landscape of Glastonbury – including the Tor, Chalice Well, and Abbey – is thought to be deeply connected to its spiritual landscape (Bowman, 2005). I focus on the representation of spirituality in Glastonbury Experience Courtyard, which, based upon sources such as Greenwood et al. (2008), seems to be deeply connected to various branches of Paganism.

Read the full blog here.