Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 295


Series editor’s introduction (Amei Koll-Stobbe)��������������������������������������������������������7


Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe

(Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja)��������������������������������������������������������11

Part I: Mobility, globalization and signs in space���������������������������������������������������27

Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces

(Hagen Peukert)����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������29

Ideofiers in the commercial city: A discursive linguistic landscape

analysis of hairdressers’ shop names (Amei Koll-Stobbe)��������������������������������������53

Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place

(Karine Stjernholm)����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������77

English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism?

(Mikko Laitinen)������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 105

Part II: Semiotic landscapes and signs in virtual space�������������������������������������� 125

Social media landscapes: Tracing the uses and functions of a hybrid sign
(Mia Halonen)���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 127

Constructing a cross-border space through semiotic landscapes:

A case study of a German-Czech organization
(Christoph Marx and Marek Nekula)�������������������������������������������������������������������� 149
6 Contents 

Part III: Exploring linguistic landscapes in the former Eastern bloc��������������� 169

Linguistic landscapes of a minoritized regional majority:

Language ideologies among Hungarians in South-West Slovakia
(Petteri Laihonen)���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 171

‘Ruralscapes’ in post-Soviet Transnistria: Ideology and language

use on the fringes of a contested space (Sebastian Muth)���������������������������������� 199

Linguistic landscapes as multimodal and multilingual phenomena

(Olga Bever)�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 233

The presence of the Italian language in the linguistic landscapes of Moscow

(Monica Perotto)������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 263

Contributing Authors��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 283

Author Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 287

Subject Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 291

Amei Koll-Stobbe (University of Greifswald)

Series editor’s introduction

This is the seventh volume in the series Language Competence and Language
Awareness in Europe, which documents the complexity of languages in contact
and contact-induced processes of language maintenance and shift. Most of the
papers in this volume stem from a workshop organized by Mikko Laitinen and
Anastassia Zabrodskaja in the autumn of 2010 in Jyväskylä in the context of The
Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English, funded by the Acad-
emy of Finland (2006–2011). This workshop foregrounded methodological plu-
ralism in the sociolinguistic subfield of Linguistic Landscape Studies (LLS), which
studies cities as places of language contact and geosemantic spaces. The thematic
focus of the volume ranges from aspects of contact-induced linguistic choices
in cities and urban-rural borderlines of Europe, to aspects of multilingualism
and language user power-relations across majority and minority borderlines, to
aspects of the mobility of languages (such as English as a social marker of glo-
balization). The analysis of visible written language and multimodal signage in
public spaces contributes to our comprehension of space as a geographic and
mental concept, and of real and virtual/mental landscapes as social marketplaces
for languages and collective as well as individual identities.
I should like to thank Mikko Laitinen for raising further funds to ensure the
publication of the colour figures and slides of this volume. This might index
that LLS as presented in this edited volume is looking into a bright future since
its protagonists step down from the ivory tower of linguistic research to a data-­
oriented sociolinguistic research paradigm that contributes to explanations of
the social meanings of linguistic behaviour in a time of demographic and eco-
nomic power changes.

Greifswald, September 2014

Mikko Laitinen (Linnaeus University) and Anastassia ­
Zabrodskaja (Tallinn University/University of Tartu)

Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic

landscapes in Europe

The articles in this volume investigate sociolinguistic landscapes, language and

signs displayed in space, in Europe in the early 21st century. The common de-
nominator is the object of study as the authors analyze everyday textual mate-
rial which may consist of “any display of visible written language” (Gorter 2013:
190) and other discursive modalities related to written language, such as images
and nonverbal communication (Jaworski and Thurlow 2010: 2). The articles ap-
proach the objects of study from a range of angles and theoretical perspectives.
Some of them take a linguistic landscape approach which examines multilin-
gual signs from the standpoint of societal multilingualism by focusing on how
displays of language are regulated, how hierarchies of languages could be used
to understand multilingual practices in context, and how code choice and pref-
erence become meaningful indicators of societal multilingualism. Others make
use of the theoretical notions presented in Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) geosemi-
otic approach and in Jaworski and Thurlow’s (2010) semiotic landscape studies
in which the focus falls on analyzing emerging social meanings which are related
to placement of signs and to the discourses and actions that stem from their
placement (cf. also Blommaert 2013). No matter what the theoretical orientation
is, the articles present not only quantitative results of the presence of various lan-
guages, but they also investigate (a) how visible semiotic materials and semiotic
aggregates contribute to creating a sense of place or a location, (b) how authors
and designers of signs make use of an endless pool of linguistic resources to place
themselves in the sociolinguistic landscape, (c) what types of cognitive process
are involved in the production, and (d) how various audiences, viz. residents,
occasional passers-by, and language regulators interpret and understand signs to
form their own understanding of space.
In addition to the object of study, the underlying theme is change and contact
between speakers, cultures, ideas, and languages. We are undoubtedly living in
the era of mobility and globalization of people, thoughts, ideologies, and goods.
Mobility and movement influence how linguistic resources are distributed, regu-
lated and interpreted, and sociolinguistic landscapes reflect societal change and
enable mapping what (multilingual) linguistic resources are used, and how they
12 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

are used, in a range of social contexts (cf. Blommaert 2010, 2013; Hélot, Barni,
Janssens and Bagna, eds. 2013). In addition to macro-level mobility and change,
this volume also presents a range of approaches by scholars who are interested
in approaching spatialization, i.e. the processes whereby space is represented,
structured, interpreted, experienced, and contested as places around Europe.
The observations presented in the articles are living records of mobility and spa-
tialization, and they are understood as snapshots displaying written language
and other semiotic signs which help understand globalization. So, in addition to
the action-based approach of what is done with the linguistic resources, socio-
linguistic landscape data, we feel, greatly add to comprehending sociolinguistics
of globalization.
Each contributor has selected and defined their terminology in their own
ways, but collectively this volume understands signs in space as sociolinguistic
landscapes, because designing, manufacturing, displaying, encountering, and
interpreting signs is inherently a human endeavor. Signs do not appear without
humans, and they do not change, apart from wear and tear brought about by the
forces of nature, without humans. This is similar to change in language which
is brought about by its speakers and hearers; it is always speakers who innovate
and spread change, not languages themselves (Milroy 1992: 169; Nevalainen and
Raumolin-Brunberg 2003: 1–2).
The concept of change is reflected in the organization of the articles (see be-
low for a comprehensive overview): Part I focuses on places whose emergence
is closely related with globalization, mobility and the use of multilingual and
multimodal resources. Many of the contributions therefore discuss ways to un-
derstand the changing role and status of English in sociolinguistic landscapes
around Europe but are not restricted to it. Part II is devoted to virtual and se-
miotic landscapes, and the authors follow Shohamy and Waksman’s (2009: 328)
approach in which the research object has “fluid and fuzzy borders” that includes
all possible discourses emerging in changing spaces. Part III contains studies on
signs in change in the former Soviet countries and territories. It is fair to say that
the political turbulence in and around this vast area has brought about the fact
that many of these investigations of multilingual and multimodal signs are, if
possible, even more relevant in mid-2010s than what they were a few years ago.
The editors of this volume come from two distinct fields as one of us (Ana-
stassia Zabrodskaja) is primarily interested in the role and contacts of minority
languages and in particular in ethnolinguistic vitality in post-Soviet spaces, and
the other one (Mikko Laitinen) is a historical corpus linguist whose research
interests center around studying lexico-grammatical variability in modern and
present-day English. He is also interested in testing how the methodological
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 13

insights from sociolinguistic landscape studies could be used to understand the

global spread of English in more detail.
It is fair to say that the entire volume is result of contact as the editors first
met in an Estonian-Finnish research workshop organized by Professor Anna
Verschik at Tallinn University in 2009. Both of us had carried out linguistic
data collection in the form of pictures, Anastassia Zabrodskaja more consist-
ently and systematically as part of the “Vene-eesti ja inglise-eesti koodivahetuse
ja koodikopeerimise korpuse koostamine ja haldamine” [Russian-Estonian and
English-Estonian code-switching and code-copying corpora creation and man-
agement] project (2009–2013), and Mikko Laitinen as a methodological spin-off
as part of his post-doctoral research. We were interested in meeting with other
scholars in the field and in creating new contact points with those interested in
testing and elaborating the theoretical notions and methodologies of sociolin-
guistic landscape studies.
This initial contact led to organizing an international symposium on the
methodological dimensions of sociolinguistic landscapes and signs in space at
the University of Jyväskylä in autumn 2010. The event was part of the activities
at the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG),
a Centre of Excellence in Research funded by the Academy of Finland for 2006–
2011. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Department of Languages
and in particular to the productive Jyväskylä VARIENG group led by Profes-
sor Sirpa Leppänen for providing not only congenial and encouraging environ-
ment for research activities but also financial support for the symposium in the
form of venue and administrative services. Most importantly, the unit provided
academic stimulus and encouragement for a quantitatively-oriented historical
linguist to dig deeper into the world of ethnography and the global spread of
The objective of the two-day symposium was to draw together scholars inter-
ested in exploring sociolinguistic landscapes and signs in space to discuss their
research questions, to present methodological solutions, to compare material
collection endeavors, and to exchange ideas related to their ongoing research.
After the symposium, all the articles have undergone anonymous peer-reviews
by at least two international experts. We wish to thank and express our gratitude
to the scholars who sacrificed their time for peer-reviewing activities and offered
their expert opinions and suggestions for the authors.
In a recent article on the developments of the field, Gorter (2013) points out
that even though studies which make use of and draw from visible signs and
sociolinguistic/semiotic landscapes have been around for at least over four dec-
ades, it is only during the last few years when we have witnessed a considerable
14 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

increase in publications around the key themes of the field (see our overview
below). He argues that despite considerable development of the methods (quan-
titative, qualitative, ethnographic and experimental methods), the changes in the
socio-cultural settings in the form of globalization, and the prospects offered by
new technology, it is unlikely that the field would evolve to a new subdiscipline
of linguistics or lead to a new theory of multilingualism. Rather, it is more likely
that investigating sociolinguistic landscapes will offer an additional set of data
for broader research questions and methodological tools to solve these questions
(also Zabrodskaja and Milani 2014).
We as the editors share this view, and the contributions presented here are
case studies of a range of topics that can be better accessed and understood when
using visible written language and multimodal material in public spaces as data.
Yet, at the same time, we feel that many of the contributions in this volume pre-
sent theoretically interesting insights, a case in point is for instance the article by
Hagen Peukert who takes an interdisciplinary approach to landscapes in vari-
ous highly diverse urban neighborhoods and shopping areas in Hamburg. The
contribution is informed by a set of insights from linguistics and urban sociol-
ogy, and it makes use of space as an auxiliary variable in operationalizing the
study of signs in urban space. In addition, theoretically-relevant notions are also
developed in the articles which discuss the role of English and its displays in
space (see the articles by Amei Koll-Stobbe and by Mikko Laitinen). These con-
tributions explore the role of English in understanding the globalized linguistic
marketplaces of today’s Europe (cf. Bolton 2012). The objective is to steer the
discussion away from the explanation that the plain visibility of English would
(automatically) imply certain symbolic meanings, such as modernity and inter-
national orientations; rather, its omnipresence needs to be understood through
more comprehensive theoretical orientations, including presentation of self, lo-
cal power relations and as a local marker of collective identities for instance (cf.
Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara and Trumper-Hecht 2006; Blommaert 2013: 41).
In addition, during the last decade a body of literature has emerged propos-
ing that (socio)linguists should direct their attention away from the traditional
focus of linguistics, i.e. language as a bounded system, towards broader semiotic
resources to see what is really going on when people ‘language’ (Stroud 2003;
Jacquemet 2005; Shohamy 2006; Makoni and Pennycook 2007; B ­ lommaert
2010). The notion of a language becomes especially questionable in cases of
multilingual computer-mediated communication. The last decade has also
witnessed growing scholarly interest in language on/of the internet in general
and in e-mails and postings on various internet discussion forums or message
boards in particular (e.g. Koutsogiannis and Mitsikopoulou 2003; Palfreyman
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 15

and al Khalil 2003; Hinrichs 2006; Dorleijn and Nortier 2009; Androutsopoulos
2006, 2009; Kytölä 2013). While studying language use by individuals, it is im-
portant to shift “from focus on structure to focus on function – from focus on
linguistic form in isolation to linguistic form in human context” (Hymes 1974:
77). In this volume, Mia Halonen, studying language practices used by Finnish
adolescents in virtual communication, makes a connection between sociolin-
guistic landscape approach and studies on language use and change brought
about by computer-mediated communication and social media.
This volume lands to a field that has seen a growing number of publications
in recent years, and the first volume of a new peer-reviewed journal, Linguistic
Landscape. An International Journal, edited by Elana Shohamy and Eliezer Ben-
Rafael, is expected in near future. The following brief overview of some of the
recent publications aims not to repeat the thorough description of the field in
Gorter (2013), but reviews some of the most recent publications and theoretical
insights to the field. A more comprehensive list of the publications in the field
can be found at a website maintained by Robert A. Troyer at https://www.zotero.
org/groups/linguistic_landscape_bibliography (accessed 8 August 2014).
The articles in Shohamy and Gorter (eds. 2009) center around the core theme
of “expanding the scenery”, and they approach authentic language data from a
range of theoretical and methodological perspectives. The contributions are di-
vided into five parts, the first one focusing on various theoretical approaches,
i.e. “historical, sociological, economic, ecological or more focally sociolinguistic”
(Shohamy and Gorter 2009: 4). The ensuing three parts present case studies that
range from methodological explorations covering language policy issues, identi-
ties and language awareness-related topics. The geographic contexts explored
range from highly diverse urban centers to regional capitals in Africa to post-
communism space in Eastern Europe. The chapters in the final section focus on
exploring the future routes for linguistic landscape studies. The final chapter by
Shohamy and Waksman (2009) argues for a radical expansion of the field and
proposes that language in environment and semiotic signs displayed in public
space are “beginning to be viewed as an integral component of what is meant by
applied linguistics in a multilingual and multimodal world” (2009: 9).
The volume edited by Shohamy, Ben-Rafael and Barni (eds. 2010) sets out
from Landry and Bourhis’ (1997) seminal article, but the objective is to expand
this approach and analyze multilingual public space using theoretical insights
from a range of fields, viz. linguistic, social, cultural and political. Rather than
understanding linguistic landscape as “a ‘given’ context of sociolinguistic pro-
cesses” (Ben-Rafael, Shohamy and Barni 2010: xii), the volume is character-
ized with an agenda in which mundane objects help creating and constructing
16 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

physical settings that are socially constructed and have dynamics of their own.
The articles focus on urban areas of global cities and other smaller but equally
urban areas, and they approach what the editors call “ordered disorder” of lin-
guistic variation in signs, and the notion of linguistic landscape is understood to
be structured along four lines drawn primarily from sociology and social psy-
chology: (a) power relations between various participants in public space, (b) the
good reasons perspective and individual actors’ interests in shaping and molding
public space through designing, creating and placing semiotic signs, (c) subjec-
tive self and perceptions and reactions to signs by the crowd, i.e. sign authors
and passers-by in densely populated and semiotically-rich environments, and
(d) collective identities according to which actors engage in a priori planning
that draws from given individual/group identity markers in today’s globalized
and multicultural urban life (Ben-Rafael, Shohamy and Barni 2010: xvii–xix).
This key theme, from space to a place, is elaborated in the long programmatic
introduction for Jaworski and Thurlow (eds. 2010) and also in the majority of
the articles. The theme is, in its most basic form, seen in the title in which the
notion of semiotic replaces linguistic as the descriptive adjective. This change,
according to the authors, stems from two factors which lead to broader implica-
tions in the field. One of them refers to the nature of data which in linguistic
landscape studies mainly consist of written language, but Jaworski and Thur-
low (2010: 2) argue that since “written discourse interacts with other discursive
modalities: visual images, nonverbal communication, architecture and the built
environment”, the term semiotic is more appropriate in describing space created
through human intervention and meaning making. In addition, it is seen in the
need to steer studies away from “predominantly survey-based, quantitative ap-
proaches” (Jaworski and Thurlow 2010: 14) towards highlighting ethnographi-
cally-informed, genre-specific, and contextualized analyses.
As is well known, the presence of English in public space has received plenty
of attention in recent literature on sociolinguistic landscapes and signs in space.
The great majority of these studies have focused on socially diverse urban ar-
eas of world cities, but some degree of attention is also being paid to rural areas
(Laitinen 2014). A recent special issue of World Englishes (Bolton 2012) reviews
some of the recent developments and publications that focus on the global spread
of English. The introduction and the articles take an applied perspective in which
the existing theoretical notions (cf. the publications listed above together with
Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) geosemiotic approach) are made use of. The studies
in the special issue examine for instance bilingual landscapes of Washington DC’s
Chinatown, the presence of English in the primarily Francophone nation of DR
of Kongo and the uses and visibility of English in online newspapers in Thailand.
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 17

A pointed out above, one productive strand in the field has explored issues re-
lated to minority languages, and they are in focus in the volume edited by Gorter,
Marten and Van Mensel (2012). Their volume stems from recent research on lan-
guage policy and globalization, majority–minority language choice and language
preference at a community level, i.e. using public signage as evidence of the posi-
tion of minority languages and their speakers (e.g. Gorter 2006; Shohamy and
Gorter eds. 2009). The contributions chart how the theoretical and methodo-
logical insights from linguistic landscape studies, taking the venerable Landry
and Bourhis (1997) type of approach, could be used to understand”the dynamics
of minority language situation, with an explicit focus on Europe” (Marten, Van
Mensel and Gorter 2012: 1). The editors acknowledge the need for a more coher-
ent theoretical basis in the field, and point out that the contributions present a
range of research in which the methods from linguistic landscape research could
be made use of to make structural disadvantages of minority language speakers
visible and contribute to survival of such languages. One of the theoretical in-
sights highlighted is moving away from static signs as the object of study to that
of various non-static signs (cf. the pioneering study by Sebba 2010). The contri-
butions make use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches since, as the
editors succinctly point out, both approaches are valuable in understanding the
fascinating questions related to signs in space, i.e. what signs are displayed, what
languages and linguistic resources are used in signs, who posted these signs, and,
most thought-provokingly perhaps, why?
This question of why various signs are displayed is among the key research
questions explored by Blommaert (2013) who examines signs in his own neigh-
borhood in Antwerp. The book focuses on how the notion of sociolinguistic
superdiversity could offer a theoretical and methodological toolbox to under-
stand signs in space and contribute to establishing a firm(er) theoretical basis
for the studies in the field. Blommaert’s approach builds on “deep ethnographic
immersion” (2013: 108) of how signs and diverse motivations behind them could
be understood through the chaos and complexity theory which helps uncover
social, cultural, political, and motivations of displaying them and understand
their social meanings in the broader framework of mobility and globalization.
The articles in the present volume are organized so that we have aimed at
presenting a range of approaches that focus on exploring the various dimen-
sions of sociolinguistic landscapes. In the first four articles, the thematic focus
is on globalization (and particularly on English as its main marker), mobility,
technology, and multilingualism in various locations in Western Europe. The
authors examine both urban and rural spaces by focusing on specific genres
of signs (particularly shop name signs in urban environments) or by aiming to
18 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

understand space, such as city regions, shopping areas, or places of tourism. The
second part discusses semiotic landscapes in virtual space and border regions,
and the authors present interdisciplinary studies in which the aim is to under-
stand the complex nature of semiotic items in socioculturally multilayered space
that manifests itself in oral, written, and virtual communication forms. In the
third part, the focus shifts to the former Soviet countries and territories, and the
authors analyze the interconnections between sociohistorical backgrounds and
contemporary language policies, current ethnolinguistic situation and reversal
of language policy matters, all of which shape form and functions of language(s)
used in multilingual and multimodal signs. Pavlenko (2013), in her recent over-
view of multilingualism in post-Soviet space, notes that the language regimes
and processes in this area are still insufficiently studied, and Part III here pro-
vides a set of accounts on the formation of sociolinguistic landscapes in the post-
Soviet societies.
In ‘Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces’, Hagen Peu-
kert examines linguistic diversity in city space and focuses on the neighborhood
of St. Georg, a commercially-driven, multicultural environment in Hamburg.
His study illustrates how “the city is a place of language contact” (Backhaus 2007:
1), and he approaches his research object interdisciplinarily, combining sociolin-
guistics and urban sociology to analyze quantitative correspondences between
linguistic signs visible on the street level and the number of different usage func-
tions per spatial unit of the buildings in these streets (available through official
city records). The key question addressed is whether the diversity of usages cor-
responds with the diversity visible in signs on the street level.
In an approach that considers shop signage as a genre with a number of func-
tions of advertising discourse, Amei Koll-Stobbe, in ‘Ideofiers in the commercial
city: A discursive linguistic landscape analysis of hairdressers’ shop names’, in-
vestigates the diversity of shop name signs in various urban areas. Her observa-
tions are collected in the inner-city Lancaster and West End in London, and she
also provides supplementary data from Kiel. The results show that shop names
may serve two indexical functions, a direct referential one to identify the busi-
ness and its services, and an indirect discursive one to ideofy the intended hair-
dresser-customer relation as a symbolic commodity. She concludes that signs
in service-oriented industries, such as hairdressers, are used not only as direct
identifiers but shop name signs are often designed to exhibit an act of identity
with the help of an ideofier, “an intended image” which is used to attract specific
groups of customers.
The theme of studying shop name signs continues in “Two faces of Oslo:
A comparative study of the sense of place” by Karine Stjernholm. Two urban
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 19

districts, the more affluent Majorstua in the west and the more working-class
Grünerløkka in the east, are investigated both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The author, drawing from iconography, not only counts what languages are visi-
ble but also analyzes their functions and meanings and makes use of the concepts
of disembedding and re-embedding when analyzing qualitative differences in
these two places. One of the quantitative results is that immigrant languages are
not presented in either of the two locations. The qualitative analysis reveals how
the sense of globalness is more prominent in Majorstua, which is dominated by
chain-stores, whereas localness is stressed in the public signage in Grünerløkka.
Mikko Laitinen, in his ethnographic study ‘English on the move: What’s be-
yond modernity and internationalism?’, concentrates on the global spread of
English and examines its implications for future sociolinguistic landscape stud-
ies. The article focuses on uses and functions of English signs in a country in
which English is used as a foreign language but in which its presence and impor-
tance has increased considerably during the past few decades as part of processes
of globalization and mobility. The observations were collected from two field
trips charting the presence of English in Finnish public space, with a special
focus on non-urban areas. In the analysis part, he first examines the functions
of one mass-produced global sign and then moves on to investigate how one
regional Finnish dialect marker is sometimes used as part of locally-produced
English texts. He argues that future studies need to problematize the nature of
English in public signs and move beyond the widely-repeated claim that English
in signs is merely an index of modernity and internationalism and instead start
charting situated meanings in more detail.
In ‘Social media landscapes: Tracing the uses and functions of a hybrid sign’,
Mia Halonen combines some of the methods in previous linguistic landscape
studies together with internet-based ethnography to study how semiotic signs
are used in digital space. Halonen investigates how and why the sign siisdaa (a
hybrid sign) is employed by Finnish adolescents in the various actions in com-
puter-mediated discourse, i.e. in naming oneself and when commenting others.
Siisdaa has a range of meanings in social networking sites used by young adoles-
cents, and her observations show that the sign is used by interactants to create
affordances of visibility, to highlight specific epistemic positions (i.e. positioning
oneself in relation to what the others could be expected to know), and as an an-
ticipatory style marker which could be used as a specific discursive index when a
person wants to dissociate him/herself from the communicative situation.
Christoph Marx and Marek Nekula’s article ‘Constructing a cross-border
space through semiotic landscapes: A case study of a German-Czech organiza-
tion’ is an ethnomethodological study that investigates semiotic signs in border
20 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

areas. Borders are seen to be socially constructed entities which need to be per-
formed in certain ways, and the article draws from the theory of language man-
agement and provides a detailed overview of the multilayered semiotic landscape
of one binational and bilingual organization on the Bavarian-Bohemian border.
Their data are diverse in nature and include a range of verbal and visual mate-
rial, and the authors separate two notions, public communication and internal
communication. Their analysis shows considerable disparities between the two:
The public semiotic landscape provides a misleading image of the bilingual reali-
ties as the internal communication shows asymmetrical adaptation by the Czech
employees to their German interlocutors. The article concludes that the public
semiotic landscape in this case study is an idealized representation of what bilin-
gual interaction could be.
In the article entitled ‘Linguistic landscapes of a minoritized regional ma-
jority: Language ideologies among Hungarians in South-West Slovakia’, Petteri
Laihonen continues the discussion on the topic of borders but not so much in
the geographic sense as in the majority–minority language context. He inves-
tigates sociolinguistic landscapes in two villages which have two names, one
Slovakian and one Hungarian (Slovakian: Reca/Hungarian: Réte and Slovakian:
Trhová Hradská/Hungarian: Vásárút). The author, making use of both quan-
titative and qualitative approaches, carries out a comparative analysis of both
mono and bilingual signage which reveals language ideologies and discourses in
bilingual (even shifting to Slovak) Reca and predominantly monolingual Hun-
garian Vásárút. The main finding is that the notion of sociolinguistic landscape
might not mirror the presence of a minoritized regional majority at all if speak-
ers themselves consider education in their first language to be a more important
issue and wish to avoid tensions with officials even in cases in which language
legislation clearly permits bilingual (Slovak-Hungarian in this case) signage.
The topic of both geographic and majority–minority language borders is
discussed in Sebastian Muth’s article ‘Ruralscapes’ in post-Soviet Transnistria:
Ideology and language use on the fringes of a contested space’. He focuses on
ruralscapes of a state with limited recognition, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian
Republic (also known as Transnistria). His observations are drawn from five
small communities in Transnistria, and the objective is to establish a connec-
tion between the ongoing efforts to construct a distinctively Transnistrian
political and cultural identity and to demonstrate that surveying ruralscapes
can provide equally meaningful results if compared to urban sociolinguistic
landscapes. His results show that despite the number of Russian, Ukrainian or
Moldovan/standard Romanian speaking inhabitants, Russian firmly dominates
in public signage and serves not only as a marker of pre-1992 history but also
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 21

clearly demonstrates the fact that the lingua franca of interethnic communica-
tion has not changed in this region. Muth concludes that Transnistria serves as
a test bed for further studies in peripheral linguistic landscapes in non-urban
The question of contradictory display of the Russian and Ukrainian languages
and Cyrillic versus Latin scripts in public space in Ukraine is observed in ‘Lin-
guistic landscapes as multimodal and multilingual phenomena’ by Olga Bever.
The contribution pays special attention to the distinctions between Russian and
Ukrainian and their alphabets, different linguistic choices between Russian and
English, and to the Cyrillic and Latin scripts detected in signs in the urban center
of post-Soviet south-eastern Ukraine city of Zaporizhzhya. The author looks at
fonts, sizes, colors, images, text prominence and other semiotic devices which
together constitute multimodality of a multilingual sign, facilitating understand-
ing what language tactics are used in the Ukrainian contexts in the early 21st
century. Even though this article concentrates on sociolinguistic landscapes, it
helps comprehending the various (linguistic) identity and language use choices
among the Ukrainian population in the aftermath of the events in Crimea in
2014 and, what is more important, it illustrates some of the underlying linguistic
tensions in the current confrontation between the western and eastern parts of
The fourth contribution in Part III is Monica Perotto’s article ‘The presence
of the Italian language in the linguistic landscapes of Moscow’. She deals with
an interesting phenomenon, namely the presence and functions of the Italian
language in a multilingual and multiethnic metropolis where Russian is used as
the dominant language for interethnic communication, and where the speak-
ers of Italian constitute very marginal, almost unnoticeable, part of the total
population of circa 11.5 million people. Despite these facts, the Italian language
is visible throughout the city, and Perotto provides insights into how Italian
and Italianized elements are used in Moscow’s commercial signage. The data
show that local practices shape linguistic creativity, and signs in which refer-
ences are made to the Italian culture occur as a result of various interpretations
of what constitutes Italy and Italianness. Her observations also clearly indicate
that positive connotations are associated with the use of Italian in Moscow, and
she concludes that these connotations should be made use of in fostering Ital-
ian language education and strengthening the social, cultural and economic ties
between the two countries.
The majority of the observations are produced as black and white images em-
bedded in the articles. Where necessary for the analysis, some of the observa-
tions are produced in color.
22 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

As suggested by Shohamy and Gorter (2009: 4), the field of sociolinguistic

landscapes has expanded from mere documenting various signs to contextual-
izing observations and problematizing languages visible and audible in space.
The contributions included in the volume at hand aim at broadening this vibrant
field by offering not only new approaches to research on semiotics of sociolin-
guistic landscapes in different European contexts but also adding new methodo-
logical perspectives on data collection and interpretation techniques.

Androutsopoulos, Jannis. 2006. Mehrsprachigkeit im deutschen Internet:
Sprachwahl und Sprachwechsel in Ethno-Portalen. In Peter Schlobinski (ed.),
Von *hdl* bis *cul8r*. Sprache und Kommunikation in den Neuen Medien,
172–196. Mannheim: Dudenverlag.
Androutsopoulos, Jannis. 2009. ‘Greeklish’: Transliteration practice and dis-
course in a setting of computer-mediated digraphia. In Alexandra Georgako-
poulou and Michael Silk (eds.), Standard Languages and Language Standards:
Greek, Past and Present, 221–249. Farnam: Ashgate.
Backhaus, Peter. 2007. Linguistic Landscapes. A Comparative Study of Urban
Multilingualism in Tokyo. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad Amara and Nira Trumper-
Hecht. 2006. Linguistic landscape as symbolic constructions of the public
space: The case of Israel. International Journal of Multilingualism 3:1, 7–28.
Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy and Monica Barni 2010. Introduction: An
approach to an ‘ordered disorder’. In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and
Monica Barni (eds.), Linguistic Landscape in the City, xi–xxviii. Bristol: Mul-
tilingual Matters.
Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press.
Blommaert, Jan 2013. Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes:
Chronicles of Complexity. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Bolton, Kingsley. 2012. World Englishes and linguistic landscapes. World Eng-
lishes 31:1, 30–33.
Dorleijn, Margreet and Nortier, Jacomine. 2009. Code-switching and the in-
ternet. In Barbara  E. Bullock and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio (eds), The
Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-Switching, 127–141. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 23

Gorter, Durk (ed.). 2006. Linguistic Landscape: A New Approach to Multilingual-

ism. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Gorter, Durk. 2013. Linguistic landscapes in a multilingual world. Annual Re-
view of Applied Linguistics 33, 190–212.
Gorter, Durk, Heiko Marten and Luk Van Mensel (eds.). 2012. Minority Lan-
guages in the Linguistic Landscape. Basingstoke: Palgrave-MacMillan.
Hélot, Christine, Monica Barni, Rudi Janssens and Carla Bagna (eds.). 2013. Lin-
guistic Landscapes, Multilingualism and Social Change. Frankfurt am Main:
Peter Lang.
Hinrichs, Lars. 2006. Codeswitching on the Web: English and Jamaican Creole in
E-mail Communication. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Hymes, Dell. 1974. Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Jacquemet, Marco. 2005. Transidiomatic practices: Language and power in the
age of globalization. Language and Communication 25, 257–277.
Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow (eds.). 2010. Semiotic Landscapes: Lan-
guage, Image, Space. London/New York: Continuum.
Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow. 2010. Introducing semiotic landscapes. In
Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.), Semiotic Landscapes: Language,
Image, Space, 1–40. London/New York: Continuum.
Jaworski, Adam and Simone Yeung. 2010. Life in the Garden of Eden: the nam-
ing and imagery of residential Hong Kong. In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-
Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.), Linguistic Landscape in the City, 153–181.
Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Koutsogiannis, Dimitris and Bessie Mitsikopoulou. 2003. Greeklish and Greek-
ness: Trends and discourses of “Glocalness”. Journal of Computer Medi-
ated Communication 9 (1). Available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2003.tb00358.x/full. Accessed 06 August 2014.
Kytölä, Samu. 2013. Multilingual Language Use and Metapragmatic Reflexivity
in Finnish Online Football Forums. A study in the Sociolinguistics of Globaliza-
tion. A published doctoral dissertation, Department of Languages, University
of Jyväskylä.
Laitinen, Mikko. 2014. 630 kilometers by bicycle: Observations of English in ur-
ban and rural Finland. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 228,
24 Mikko Laitinen and Anastassia Zabrodskaja

Landry, Rodriguez and Richard Bourhis. 1997. Linguistic landscape and ethno-
linguistic vitality: An empirical study. Journal of Language and Social Psychol-
ogy 16, 23–49.
Makoni, Sinfree and Alastair Pennycook. 2007. Disinventing and reconstituting
languages. In Sinfree Makoni and Alastair Pennycook (eds.), Disinventing and
Reconstituting Languages, 1–41. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Marten, Heiko, Luk Van Mensel and Durk Gorter. 2012. Studying minority lan-
guages in the linguistic landscape. In Durk Gorter, Heiko Marten and Luk
Van Mensel (eds.), Minority Languages in the Linguistic Landscape, 1–18. Bas-
ingstoke: Palgrave-MacMillan.
Milroy, James. 1992. Linguistic Variation and Change. Oxford: Blackwell.
Nevalainen, Terttu and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg 2003. Historical Sociolin-
guistics: Language Change in Tudor and Stuart England. London: Pearson
Palfreyman, David and Muhamed al Khalil. 2003. “A funky language for teenzz
to use”: Representing Gulf Arabic in instant messaging. Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication 9:1, 18–48.
Pavlenko, Aneta. 2013. Multilingualism in post-Soviet successor states. Lan-
guage and Linguistics Compass 7:4, 262–271.
Scollon, Ron and Suzie Wong Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place: Language in the
Material World. London/New York: Routledge.
Sebba, Mark. 2010. Discourses in transit. In Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thur-
low (eds.), Semiotic Landscapes: Language, Image, Space, 59–76. London,
Shohamy, Elana. 2006. Language Policy: Hidden Agendas and New Approaches.
London: Routledge.
Shohamy, Elana, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.). 2010. Linguistic
Landscape in the City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Shohamy, Elana and Durk Gorter (eds.). 2009. Linguistic Landscape: Expanding
the Scenery. New York/London: Routledge.
Shohamy, Elana and Durk Gorter. 2009. Introduction. In Elana Shohamy and
Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the Scenery, 1–10.
New York/London: Routledge.
Shohamy, Elana and Shoshi Waksman. 2009. Linguistic landscape as an ecologi-
cal arena. Modalities, meanings, negotiations, education. In Elana Shohamy
Dimensions and dynamics of sociolinguistic landscapes in Europe 25

and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the Scenery, 313–
329. New York and London: Routledge.
Stroud, Christopher. 2003. Postmodernist perspectives on local languages: Afri-
can mother-tongue education in times of globalisation. International Journal
of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 6:1, 17–36.
Zabrodskaja, Anastassia and Tommaso M. Milani. 2014. Signs in context: Mul-
tilingual and multimodal texts in semiotic space. International Journal of the
Sociology of Language 288, 1–6.
Part I:
Mobility, globalization and signs in space
Hagen Peukert, University of Hamburg

Urban linguistic landscaping:

Scanning metropolitan spaces

1. Introduction
Coping with the steady influx of worldwide migration movements is a common
challenge among metropolitan areas in Europe (Vertovec 1998).1 Although im-
migration per se is not a recent phenomenon, having existed in the development
of all larger cities in the world for centuries, some of the ramifications of today’s
migration patterns have never been witnessed (Buckow 2010; Häußermann and
Oswald 1997). The apparent differences in today’s immigration patterns rest on
the large number of different regions where people migrate from. This char-
acteristic entails cultural diversity, or better yet superdiversity (Vertovec 2007),
which is most notable in the range of languages one encounters in metropoli-
tan centers. Languages are reliable indicators of cultural identity (Buchholtz and
Hall 2004; Eastman and Reese 1981; Spolsky 1999), and thus an investigation of
linguistic landscapes of a multicultural, multilingual city space should also draw
from studies in sociology.
The basic tenet of this study builds on the research work carried out at the
Linguistic Diversity Management in Urban Areas (LiMA) research cluster at the
University of Hamburg (see Siemund, et  al. 2013). The previous research at
LiMA has suggested that diversity in general and linguistic diversity in particu-
lar are valuable resources that should not remain unexploited. This approach
to diversity often runs contrary to public opinion, which considers diversity a
problematic theme that underlies a range of cultural clashes. Therefore, the po-
tential benefits of linguistic diversity need to be made clear so that public opin-
ion would shift away from rather undifferentiated views and so that political
leaders would be pressured to issue supportive legislation for cultural diversity.
Yet, LiMA as a research cluster is a coalescence of several disciplines itself. In the
first place, several branches of linguistics and education sciences form the back-
bone of the entire enterprise. In addition, economics, law, sociology, psychology,
ethnology and urban sociology contribute additional theoretical perspectives to

1 This research was carried out at the Cluster of Excellence LiMA (Linguistic Diversity
Management in Urban Areas).
30 Hagen Peukert

the research. This large number of disciplines mirrors the fact that diversity is
the main object of investigation in the research cluster.
This study investigates linguistic diversity in a city space, and it combines a
set of methods from linguistics and urban sociology. The linguistic approach
draws from linguistic landscaping, understood here as the presence and visibility
of languages in space (Shohamy and Gorter 2009). From urban sociology, the
study adopts the concept of usage structure, namely the actual utilization of a
concrete spatial unit involving social actions and practices independent of the
functions of language (Friedrichs 1995; Häußermann 2004; Löw 2012; Rostal-
ski 2011). The two concepts are brought together in such a way that they allow
making reasonable inferences about language and society. The spaces in some
of Hamburg districts are particularly suitable because they display a promising
environment for linguistic landscapes. At the same time, they reveal an identi-
fied area of study for urban sociologists. The physical location selected for this
study is the neighborhood of St. Georg since the cultural diversity there is char-
acterized by a peaceful coexistence of a range of cultures and languages in close
proximity. In what follows, I will first sketch the conceptual framework, discuss
the methodology, present the results of the study, and finally discuss some of the
consequences of the findings.

2.  Conceptual framework

2.1. Motivation
Today’s metropolitan cities exhibit the dynamics of diverse cultural interactions.
One can experience such interactions by taking a walk through the streets of a
multicultural district. On the one hand, one will see hundreds of multilingual
shopping signs and signposts for information. On the other hand, a less obvious
but intuitively existent perception is the way social actions take place; that is,
how the spaces are used and which goods/services are offered there (henceforth
referred to as usage structure). Comparing these usage structures with other,
more monocultural shopping areas in Hamburg, it seems reasonable to assume
that multilingual signs and their specific locations in multicultural districts is
interrelated. Leaving such intuitions behind, this study investigates whether such
interrelations exist and, if so, what characterizes them.
Since language is a social phenomenon, sociolinguistic research has long
drawn from a rich repertoire of sociological research. While variationist socio-
linguistics studies the impact of independent variables such as gender, age, edu-
cational background, or social status on language use, the sociology of language
approach puts emphasis on how language features impact society, as revealed by
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 31

Bourdieu’s (1990) or Luckmann’s (1979: 5, 17) contributions. Thus, the sociology

of language is a branch of sociology that focuses rather on the effect of language
on society, not on the social variables on language as in variationist sociolinguis-
tics (Fishman 1972; Fishman 1971: 8–9).
This approach adopts an elaborated sociological perception of space, which,
to the best of my knowledge, has never been employed to a comparable extent of
granularity in sociolinguistics. However, while the crossroads of linguistics and
sociology followed here cannot be completely absorbed by the field of the sociol-
ogy of language, I believe that the effects are mutually interdependent. That is,
societal factors impact language in use and language in use impacts societal fac-
tors. Since it is impossible and perhaps irrelevant to know what initiated this cy-
clic process, I resolve this “chicken and egg” problem by striving after a detailed
description of language in space. The spatial component is particularly impor-
tant because it functions as the unifying element between the two approaches of
language of society and sociology of language.
Independent of the approach taken here, language manifests itself in certain
spatial settings, as well as in social actions (cf. Pennycook 2010: 64). Both the so-
cietal and linguistic variables can be lumped together when exploring language
use in physical space. In essence, space serves as an auxiliary variable that off-
sets the difficult choice between dependent (explanatory) and independent (re-
sponse) variables in a research design in which one does not know how possible
variables influence each other. If I asked how language manifested itself in space,
one could think of both linguistic and social impacting factors without being
able to say which of these factors is dependent on one another (see also Penny-
cook 2010: 141 for a sociolinguistic account). Since language always occurs in a
certain space at a certain time, the focus on space at a certain time is acceptable.
A similar procedure is an established methodology in mathematics (see Fraser
1992 on the so-called Lagrange multipliers), which has been adopted in disci-
plines such as economics (see e.g. Weise, et al. 2005: 77 on the optimization func-
tion) and is also made use of in logic and computational linguistics (see Church
1932 on lambda calculi). In sum, the idea of using auxiliary variables is not new,
but rather common in many scientific branches. Thus, this study suggests that
space is the common denominator that unites linguistic and social variables.

2.2.  The key concepts

According to Läpple (1991), the notion of space has been investigated inten-
sively in urban sociology in recent decades. Throughout the last few centuries
however, theoretical thinking about space has been dominated by discussions
32 Hagen Peukert

from the field of physics (Renn 2006). Feynman (2005: 172) illustrates that the
Newtonian concept of absolute space was modified by Einstein’s space-time that
cannot be conceived intuitively by observation, i.e. energy is on par with inertia.
This finding inevitably links space and time (by velocity). Inertia bends space
and, hence, space can no longer be understood in absolute terms but is instead
defined in relative terms by the sum of all geodetic lines. As an illustration, drop-
ping a stone from the top of a house and measuring the length of the path to the
ground defines the geodetic line spanning the space of the house to the ground.
If one makes the same measurement from a far-away ideal planet that does not
rotate, the geodetic line and, thus, the space will be larger, since the planet that
rotates prolongs the path of the stone at a constant time (see e.g. Hawkins and
Mlodinow 2005).
Sociological thinking parallels the scientific evolution in physics, although
for different reasons. The sociological counterpart with the Newtonian space
can be associated with the notion of a ‘container space’ (Läpple 1991), and,
similar to physics, such an absolutely fixed space has also led to methodologi-
cal problems in sociology for its analytical ambiguity since space can be per-
ceived as a theoretical construct or as a delimiter of social domains (Breckner
2005; Breckner and González 2003). Shifting to a relational concept of space,
which is defined by the dependence on the involved actors and their behav-
ior, circumvents the ambivalence (cf. Pennycook 2010: 54; Thrift 2008: 89).
However, although this definition could account for a holistic study of space,
it is too general and has to be further specified in how it evolves (parallel to
the linking of time in physics), transforms, and reproduces in a set context
(Schroer 2006; Sturm 2000). To solve this problem, Läpple (1991) suggests
a ‘matrix space’ spanning the space under investigations to its properties on
three different layers of detail. So a space matrix allows describing space on
micro, meso, and macro levels that are each defined by a set of properties.
The first two properties comprise the physical conditions and the normative
rule system. The other properties elaborate on the social practices and the sign
system. The sign system is yet another dimension in the matrix. It involves
the oral and written codes of communication. These codes can be analyzed
in a variety of ways. In Peirce’s (1994) semiotic theory the codes are related to
symbols, indices, and icons.

2.3.  Linguistic landscaping

Linguistic landscaping is a method that captures multilingual signs in ur-
ban areas. It is an established method within sociolinguistics (Backhaus 2007;
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 33

Ben-Rafael, et al. 2006; Gorter 2006; Shohamy, et al. 2010; Shohamy and Gorter
2009), and it has been adopted in the present study to help in the endeavor of
locating multilingualism in spatial settings in Hamburg. The original idea of
linguistic landscaping, as its name implies, was to offer tools for detailed de-
scriptions and documentations of urban visual sign systems that feature several
languages. There are two layers of descriptions that are different in principle.
First, top-down signs are official signs (e.g. signposts to an art gallery or to the
airport). Second, bottom-up signs (e.g. goods on sale, advertisements) are based
on private interests (see Backhaus 2007; for a criticism see Jaworski and Thurlow
2010: 13 and Shohamy and Waksman 2009).
In the case of top-down signs, the tangibility, intelligibility, and positioning
are motivated by infrastructural concerns, but also by organizational matters or,
often, by language power relations (especially in the case of post-Soviet space,
see Pavlenko 2009). The nature of bottom-up signs seems to follow the principles
of self-organization. While the organization of top-down signs involves a mas-
ter plan that consciously aims at steering masses of people or cars in the most
efficient direction, bottom-up signs take a different path of evolvement. Shop
owners put up signs that attract customers, communicate images, and attract
attention in general. Tenants like to be clearly identified. The specifics of the
strategies chosen here could depend on the neighbor next door, so that attention
can be gained by emphasizing differences.
The linguistic analyses of such signs differ, but the very core of all inquiries
can be roughly summed up to questions about the annotation and denotation of
the sign, its referential frame, power relations, and its original function and cur-
rent functional use. The idea undertaken here is different in that I am trying to
give evidence for how the diversity of usages collides with the linguistic diversity
visible in signs on the street.

2.4.  Usages and usage structures

Social practices with respect to the interactions that take place are important
in characterizing and understanding space. Among such practices, the actual
uses and function of the location indicate which social actions are likely to
occur there. I adopt the concept of usage to describe the various social func-
tions of linguistic resources (e.g. Rostalski 2011). These usages are naturally
manifold, but one can restrict them to apparent instantiations such as the
kind of business carried out there, the usage as a meeting place, the usage
as a form of prestige presentation, or the usage related to living and private
34 Hagen Peukert

Table 1: The categories of usage (Handelskammer Hamburg 2012)

Commercial Noncommercial
Shops ­Gastronomy/ Services Entertain- NPO Housing
hotels ment
food restaurant finance theater education apartment
non-food snack health movie sports community
durables café law dance religion
bar architecture gambling social
hotel consulting art other
hostel media/IT other

As a concrete illustration, social practices in a café or a bar point to getting in-

volved in talks with friends and establishing and maintaining social ties. Busi-
ness consultants on the other hand will probably prefer a usage like a restaurant
that has a more formal setting when talking to their clients. What is important
is that neither of these two social actions is likely to occur primarily in a grocery
store, which is reserved for other social functions. To analyze the different uses, I
follow the arrangement of categories proposed in the official record of the trade
office (Handelskammer Hamburg 2012; also see Statistisches Amt für Hamburg
und Schleswig-Holstein 2012). Table  1 provides a summary of the applicable
The usage structure of the space is simply the sum of all usages per spatial
unit. These structures can be homogeneous or heterogeneous. Homogeneous
structures feature several of the same or similar usages. An example is given in
Figure 1.
For instance, similar usages, such as financial services and tax accountants,
often share a certain spatial unit. The same is true for different health services.
Heterogeneous structures, on the other hand, display usages of very different
branches, e.g. gambling, law, and business consultancy. These usages can occur
right next to each other.
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 35

Figure 1: An example of a range of usages in one physical location (with three
different usages)

3.  Data and the research questions

This interdisciplinary study combines the collection of different kinds of data.
The data collection first of all involves information on usage structures (i.e. the
actual functions in which linguistic resources are used). Secondly, it consists of
the presence of the range of languages in the signs. The processes of gather-
ing this information are resource-intensive and necessitate the application of
a research method that enables gaining access to both kinds of data at once.
Linguistic landscaping with its focus on visible signs envisages the potential of
complying with these demands to a certain degree. Figures (2)–(4) illustrate ob-
servations used to infer what languages and particular usages are present.
36 Hagen Peukert

In short, the inventory and the analysis of signs grants us insights into the lan-
guages in use in multicultural settings, as well as the types of usages that exist in
those settings. Still, the usage data have to be supplemented with some additions
from the official records of the trade office to reach meaningful conclusions con-
cerning the various usages.
Figure 2: A range of doorbell panels offers entry to the various usages in a neighborhood

Figure 3: Mobile signs that reveal both the presence of languages and the actual usages

Figure 4: Store fronts that reveal both the presence of languages and the actual usages
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 37

This article addresses the question of whether the diversity of usages corre-
sponds with the linguistic diversity visible in signs on the street. In brief, do
diverse linguistic landscapes predict diverse usage structures? The relevance of
this question cannot be understood intuitively. In a nutshell, usage structures
are deemed to be indicators of social background variables and social practices
whereas linguistic diversity indicates the number of different languages displayed
on commercial signs. Given that both assumptions prove right, a positive cor-
relation between the two indicators allows us to bring together social variables
(prestige, profession, average income) as well as variables on language (language
use, language features) in well-defined spatial settings. Perceiving language as
both a social practice and an entrenched system enables us to relate social ac-
tions that are defined by usages to the language that are likely to be used there.

4.  Methodology and the research procedure

To implement a pilot, a district known for its multicultural appearance was iden-
tified at first. St. Georg is an example of multicultural and multilingual land-
scapes in Hamburg. Secondly, the concept of a relational matrix space (Läpple
1991) was applied to the spatial layers of the district, and the street level was cho-
sen as an appropriate level of investigation. From the perspective of a relational
space, the street level was further defined as the meso-level. In comparison, the
city of Hamburg is perceived as a macro space, and the details of houses, floors
and flats in the district of St. Georg belong to the micro-level. At the present
stage of research, a correlation between the number of different languages and
the number of different usages is applied solely to the meso-space. The relational
design of space accounts for various analyses on the different layers of space.
Using a form of backward induction, it is possible to derive valid data on each
identified spatial level given that the data was collected at the lowest spatial di-
mension of interest. To be precise, the sum of the languages and usages on the
house level generates the data needed for the analysis on the street level, but also
on the level of districts and so on.
The third step included the practical work of collecting the language and us-
age data in the streets of St. Georg. In a systematic manner, each house was pho-
tographed, the house number was noted down and, if applicable, the various
usages were identified on the basis of the categorization presented in Table  1
Lastly, an analysis of the photo material was carried out. Here, the procedure
was as follows. Differentiation between signified and signifier of each sign was
made, i.e. the written script/alphabet was recorded separate from the semantic
38 Hagen Peukert

meaning. Expressions that could not be traced back to one or any language re-
ceived a separate treatment and were put in additional categories. Mobile signs
(Figure 3) or smaller signs (e.g. price tags) located in showcases or display win-
dows were not included as units of analysis. The analysis of usage structures
was unproblematic. Having agreed on the official allocation and scaling of usage
types, each recorded usage could be categorized. Ambiguous cases were clas-
sified according to their official standards. Finally, all instances of each of the
categories were counted (as illustrated in Figure 5).

Figure 5: An example of the analysis recording the languages (four) and the
usages (two) present

5. Results
Figure 6 depicts a scatterplot of the observed diversity (both linguistic and usage).
This diversity is represented by the number of differing language occurrences.
Each point represents a street and the resulting correlation of the information on
the two axes results in the meso-level. As specified in the framework used here,
the data were collected at the spatial micro-level, that is, at the flats and floors of
each single building. All of them can be classified in the larger group of streets
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 39

by backward induction. The streets themselves could then be analyzed in terms

of the necessities of a macro space as well. For the present research question,
however, the meso-level seemed the most suitable level of analysis.

Figure 6: Scatterplot of the languages and the usages on the street level

No effects of multicollinearity could be found for languages or usages. The Pear-

son correlations are never violated in the significance table. However, the Pear-
son correlation index between the two variables turned out to be exceptionally
high (r = 0.8). This index naturally indicates a strong relation between the usage
structure of the micro-space and the languages occurring there. The raw num-
bers clearly point to the fact that usage diversity and language diversity are inter-
dependent. Still, at this point more fine-grained analyses have to be carried out.
In Figure 6, three clusters could be identified. The first cluster centers around two
languages and five different usages. The epicenter of the second cluster can be
located at around ten usages and three languages. Most unambiguously, the third
cluster shows two extreme cases of spatial usage diversity and language diversity.
It should be noted that treating the third cluster as an exception and exempt-
ing it from further analysis will result in the correlation index which is barely
significant. Subsequently, the slope of the trend line becomes too even. It is
40 Hagen Peukert

therefore important to look at the members of the third cluster in more detail
and investigate them both quantitatively and qualitatively.
In Figure 7, the names of the streets are given on the x-axis. The y-axis speci-
fies the number of absolute occurrences for the two variables. Two exceptional
streets in the scatterplot (Figure 6) can be identified as the two highest peaks.
They are Lange Reihe and Steindamm. After analyzing these two streets in detail,
it quickly became apparent that they share a common property, namely that they
are shopping areas, which none of the other streets are.

Figure 7: The languages and the usages according to the points of observation2

Shopping areas in general exhibit a rich linguistic landscape in multicultural set-

tings. They also tend to results in a high usage diversity: businesses of various
kinds are located on the ground floor (retailers, restaurants), and hotels, apart-
ments and services such as tax accountants and lawyers are housed on the higher

2 The first twelve streets from left to right belong to the subdistrict 5007, the rest to sub-
district 5004 of St. Georg. These subdistricts are administrative units that had to be
maintained in the design of the study for reasons of consistent data collection. Some
of the important data are only available at the level of administrative subdistricts (see
Breckner, et al. 2013). Two streets ‘Danziger Straße’ and ‘Rostocker Straße’ go through
both subdistricts. Therefore these streets appear twice in the scatterplot, but are really
treated as separate streets in the study.
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 41

floors. All businesses desire to be seen by potential customers. Hence, in addi-

tion to advertising their products and services through signs, they also com-
municate their existence in the same signs. These communication strategies are
target-group-dependent. In the diverse multicultural setting, the target group is
attracted by different linguistic stimuli. Strategies of homogeneity do not show
the desired success of attracting potential customers since customers do not un-
derstand their messages and, even if they did, they are not necessarily attracted
to those businesses. The niches that come along with cultural diversity are best
approached by specific communication strategies as an attractor (cf. Andrew
For understanding spatial environment, this qualitative explanation means
that the intervening variable is the kind of shop within the micro-space. To
prove that, let us look at two further streets provided in our data in Figure 7. It
displays two smaller peaks in the usage structures. These are Danziger Straße
and Spadenteich. The investigation of these scenarios confirms our expecta-
tion. Even though the usages are mainly businesses, the communication strat-
egy deviates in principle from the appeal to emotions addressed to walk-in
customers. Unexpectedly in this case, it is typical of retailers in shopping areas.
The linguistic landscape is much poorer at Spadenteich and Danziger Straße.
Only few different languages could be found respectively on the displayed
signs. What is interesting here is that activating the consciousness of iden-
tity as an emotion has become a sales strategy at large shopping areas rather
than – as marketers would expect – at the niches and side streets next to the
overcrowded centers. The question for further analyses is why the businesses
at Spadenteich and Danziger Straße would not use a similar appeal to attract
customers. Of course, they might simply be monolingual. Even if assumed to
be true, it would not explain the divergence to the diversity of usage structures
in side streets. Yet, it raises the question why diverse linguistic landscapes
tend to occur at a particular kind of space such as Lange Reihe, but not at
Spadenteich, even though the diversity still occurs at similar usage structures
in both streets.
Since I use a relational concept of space that only prescribes time being con-
stant here (see section 2), it allows me to zoom in (micro space) and out (macro
space) while directly assigning possible explanations to any spatial dimension. It
is unnecessary to redefine spatial boundaries when changing the concreteness
of explanation, i.e. one can use economic arguments, which apply to the city
space as a whole or to a single business as valid means of explanation in the meso
space. In the following section, I will discuss some of the issues that still exist
even if a relational concept of space is used.
42 Hagen Peukert

6. Discussion
The methodological framework presented here reveals opportunities as well as
challenges. Before discussing the opportunities, I would like to address two is-
sues that I believe are foremost to be solved: one methodological and the other
analytical. The methodological criticism is due to the explorative nature typical in
fields in which little research has been carried out. While language as a reflector
of culture has not been questioned, other indicators, such as the interplay of us-
ages, are less clear. From first sight, the choice to analyze usages seems arbitrary.
Considering the number of potential candidates, the argument is comprehensi-
ble. However, in the domain of urban sociology, the quality and quantity of usage
structures as a social practice has already been identified and sufficiently explored
(Häußermann and Oswald 1997), so that the choice of usage is well-founded.
This is not to deny that other possible candidates such as multilingual actions and
actors, habits, or customs are less eligible (Pennycook 2010), but they are hard to
operationalize quantitatively. Future research will have to identify further poten-
tial candidates and develop models that are capable of measuring their impact.
Now, one is left with the question why the diversity of usages, i.e. the number of
different functions per spatial unit, would be important in the endeavor of learn-
ing about languages in space. This diversity implies the usage structure of the spa-
tial unit, that is, the building in the case at hand. A high number of different usages
exhibits both a qualitative dimension (on the type level) and a quantitative one
(token). High diversity implies a different usage structure than low diversity. In the
one extreme, the number of different usages is one, which means that the usage
structure is homogeneous. In the other extreme, the number of different usages is
perhaps 20, which means that the usage structure is heterogeneous. From usage
frequencies between the extremes, it is much harder to make claims about the
structures because even five different usages can still reveal a quite homogeneous
structure when similar services cause a cluster of more or less equal usages. To il-
lustrate, in the case of offices, in which lawyers, tax accountants, financial services
and consultants conduct business, one would have four different usages, but the
usage structure is rather homogeneous. On the other hand, a building harbor-
ing a cell phone shop, a restaurant, a student apartment, and a hotel charging by
hour has a highly heterogeneous usage structure, even though its diversity index is
the same. This circumstance is not captured in the data in Figures 6 and 7 above.
Despite this, the basic idea of the model is not violated: Certain kinds of practices
imply different kinds of language use, e.g. the communication in the café is differ-
ent from the one in the tax office although some exceptions might apply. If these
practices intermingle in space and time, language use is likely to be effected as well.
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 43

The second criticism is concerned with the analysis in general and with dif-
ferent languages in particular. The identification of distinct languages through
scripts gives cause for some concern. To be precise, there is a record of cases in
which the alphabet of one language was used to transcribe another language,
e.g. Urdu script is used to transcribe German or vice versa as shown in Figure 5
above, and in some cases, Latin letters are used to transcribe Russian. Further-
more, brand names, proper names and borrowings are, in general, hard to justify
as belonging to only one language. How can one decide which language is meant
in each of those cases? These ambivalences could not be solved to the fullest since
the ambiguous cases were taken out of the model, which might skew the data.
Lastly, the analysis was functionally oriented. The possibility that linguistic
landscapes exist without a specific meaning and function regarding identity or
economic interest was excluded. It needs to be pointed out that the functional
approach makes sense in economic terms. Nevertheless, other principles of self-
organization, such as the market, or the identity concept could also account for
the interplay between languages, the usages in which languages occur, and the
monolingual or multilingual spatial settings in which both exist. In fact, there is
no reason to attribute this overall finding to chance.
Jørgensen, Karrebæk, Madsen and Møller (2011: 25) argue that it makes little
sense to classify languages in polylingual settings and to count them. For them,
polylanguaging blurs the boundaries of what was once believed different lan-
guage systems. This notion is connected with the shift in the current sociolin-
guistic thinking that involves highlighting local language practices (Pennycook
2010), linguistic repertoires (cf. also Gumperz 1972: 22; Luckmann 1979), and
communities of practice (Eckert and McConnel-Ginet 1992; Blommaert and
Rampton 2011). These notions seem to supersede the Chomskyan concept of
a language as a system despite the fact that “[l]inguistic knowledge cannot only
be characterized as a form of social action” (Blommaert and Backus 2011: 5).
There are usage-based approaches within cognitive linguistics, such as construc-
tion grammar in the Goldbergean understanding (Goldberg 1996) which are
well suited to explain the current phenomena of language contact and language
change (cf. Blommaert and Backus 2011: 7). So the “degree of entrenchment”
(Blommaert and Backus 2011: 6) is determined by actual language use as a social
action, but cannot be reduced to it. Hence, new constructions and features (in
the sense of Jørgensen, Karrebæk, Madsen and Møller 2011) become part of the
language by social and multilingual practices including all forms of language
mixing characteristic to new media, hip-hop, youth language, etc. Yet, the phe-
nomena of language contact, language change, and language mixing are not new,
but are the rule in the course of language development. Languages are dynamic
44 Hagen Peukert

and creative by definition (e.g. Fromkin et al. 2003: 27), and both criteria in the
history of all well-documented languages can be observed.
A case in point is the Middle English period in England (c. 10th–15th centu-
ries). During this time, tremendous variation persisted not only in the docu-
ments written by different scribes, but also in the work of one and the same
scribe (Burrow and Turville-Petre 2001; Crystal 2003; Horobin and Smith 2002;
Smith 2008). As an illustration, the Oxford English Dictionary lists 32 variants of
the lexeme right (OED 2012). Still, the missing standard (the standard language
emerged only after the introduction of the printing press in England in the late
15th century) does not prevent us from attributing the writings to one underly-
ing language system because the rigid syntactic system remained virtually unaf-
fected from personal spelling variation. Indeed, the much more volatile semantic
system underwent heavy borrowing from French vocabulary. Even this does not
question the overwhelming commonalities that Middle English still had and that
makes it still possible to attribute all variation to a common denominator.
By analogy, the vocabulary in a socially diverse multilingual environment is
expected to change rapidly. Blommaert and Backus (2011: 14) enlist items such
as single word learning, recognizing competence and embedded language learn-
ing as properties of multilingual environments, which leave tracks in the de-
velopment of language. Additionally, it would come as a surprise if borrowing
and phonological assimilations did not take place. However, much more time
is needed to influence the more rigid syntactic system of a language. These pro-
cesses are usually subsumed under the notion of grammaticalization (Hopper
and Traugott 2003), which as a process is gradual and slow. Long-term dia-
chronic studies have an advantage since, on the one hand, short-lived dynamics,
which affects neither the language system nor on social practices, level out. It is
these dynamics that bring about alleged complexities on the periphery which
have little chance to make lasting effects on the very nature of languages. On the
other hand, observations over time still allow us to use the relevant “pragmatic
and metapragmatic history” (Blommaert 2010: 4) of words and nexus analysis
to capture discourse practices. Together with cognitive linguistics in general and
construction grammar in particular one can explain the variation observed in
today’s multilingual city spaces. Thus the problem of classifying languages put
forth by Jørgensen et al. (2011) is a weak version of the general problem encoun-
tered in typology. In typological thinking, classifying languages is a complex
process and there will always be misconceptions of what a language, a dialect, or
some other variation of the standard language is. Fuzzy boundaries in the identi-
fication of languages at the periphery are not sufficient grounds for denying the
existence of distinct features that occur in the core of the language system. They
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 45

certainly do not prevent us from distinguishing one language from another with-
in a typological framework either. In essence, despite the dynamics in multicul-
tural environments, it is possible to define a language at a certain point in time by
displaying all characteristics of the core features at that moment. Sketching these
characteristics over a larger time span could give us a hint of a changing system.
What should therefore be learned from the results presented above (i.e. that
wherever the possible usages in space are diverse, people also make use of a vari-
ety of languages)? The results give room for two possible interpretations. Firstly,
shop owners usually communicate through the written sign and if the surround-
ing space happens to be multicultural, then these signs will also reflect this mul-
ticulturalism. By the same token, the diversity of usage structures seems to be
dependent on multiculturalism, too. Thus, linguistic diversity and usage diver-
sity occur together. And yet, one predicts the other. However, this explanation
cannot account for the deviation in the two locations mentioned in Section 5,
Spadenteich and Danziger Straße. There is sufficient evidence that both streets
exhibit a relatively high diversity in the usage structure, but this diversity is not
mirrored in the linguistic landscape. Either the higher degree of usage structures
is not due to the multicultural setting and cannot be bound to linguistic diversity,
or the interdependence of linguistic diversity and usage structures only holds in
certain spaces such as shopping areas. To make a safe claim, this bi-implicational
statement has to be rephrased as an implicational statement. A high degree of
linguistic diversity implies a high degree of different usages. The opposite is not
always true; that is, the usage structure will only under certain circumstances
predict linguistic diversity. Taking the spatial component into account, it can be
added that whenever the space is characterized by a commercially-driven, multi-
cultural environment, the number of different usages predicts linguistic diversity.

Figure 8: Linguistic landscape on Steindamm

46 Hagen Peukert

This second line of interpretation elaborates on the very nature of diversity

of the usages and the languages respectively. Whereas all businesses aim at com-
municating their existence, their products, or their services through semiotic
signs, they have different strategies on how to do that depending on their type
of usage (cf. Andrew 2012). As a consequence, focusing solely on the bare num-
ber of different usages, or to the number of languages visible in a space, leads
to questionable results. For instance, the distribution of the languages differs
substantially between the two main shopping streets. German and English are
equally dominant in the linguistic landscape of St. Georg. There are a range of
languages that occur equally frequently on Lange Reihe, which makes it more
equally distributed than Steindamm. Steindamm features a skewed distribution
of its languages (see Figures 7 and 8). These different kinds of linguistic diversity
can be captured in a set of indices that measure the particular distributions and
allow us to evaluate diversity dependent on the spatial setting (Peukert 2013).
Such indices have not yet been developed for usage structures. However, it is
fair to claim that the specific usages differ significantly in the shopping areas,
in which retailers of food, bars, and burlesque houses prevail. In a multicultural
district, these usages require the intensive reference to its identity (Buchholtz
1999). In fact, the easiest way to achieve such a relationship is by displaying a
common cultural component, that is, language. One can only speculate whether
the commitment to identity comes at the cost of excluding potential customers
who might not understand or are hostile against the presented culture, but it is
likely that the costs are balanced by a general demand of exotic appeal after all.
Indeed, it was observed that both the linguistic landscapes and the particular
usages are stable, which shows that the identity strategy is the right choice in
surviving in a competitive environment. Differentiating the kind of diversity also
explains why at Spadenteich and Danziger Straße the linguistic diversity does not
predict usage diversity.

7. Summary
This article set out to explore how diversity of languages and diversity of usage
structures interact as a relational concept in socially diverse metropolitan spaces.
There is some evidence of interrelations between these two variables in a mul-
ticultural setting that allow predictions on usage structures. However, specific
usages that typically occur in shopping areas account for our findings. Therefore,
the definition and selection of these spaces are crucial.
The results that were obtained have some consequences on our understand-
ing of the linguistic diversity in urban spaces. On the one hand, they highlight
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 47

the need for a more systematic way of investigating the interdependencies of lan-
guage in space. It is important to design systematic empirical research setups and
to develop new methodologies in the field of language in space. This article has
presented one method for such a systematic approach. On the other hand, more
specific claims concerning where and under which conditions linguistic diver-
sity emerges could be made. Using linguistic landscapes as a method, the present
results imply a shortcut in the selection and identification of multilingual spaces
provided that information on the usage structures is more easily accessible than
acquiring the information through inspectorates of businesses, as was done here.
Concerning the possible conditions under which linguistic diversity emerges,
this study has presented one factor in the conglomerate of how language is used
in space. The relationship between the usage structures and the actual presence
of signs introduces the concept of relational space, a concept that has not been
previously described in a satisfactory way. In that respect, there is a need to look
for other predictors among usage structures. These predictors should meet the
criterion of referencing language and space. It seems to be clear that the diversity
of usages is only one impacting factor. Multilingual actions are a potential candi-
date that could fulfill the referencing between language and space, as this paper
has shown with usage structures. In future studies, hopefully, the identification
of more factors that help sociolinguists to arrive at a more complete understand-
ing will be seen. The overall picture of how language manifests itself in space
could only then be answered satisfactorily.

Andrew, Hickey. 2012. Cities of Signs: Learning the Logic of Urban Spaces.
New York: Peter Lang.
Backhaus, Peter. 2007. Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban
Multilingualism in Tokyo. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad Hasan Amara and Nira ­Trumper-
Hecht. 2006. Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of the public space:
the case of Israel. International Journal of Multilingualism 3:1, 7–30.
Blommaert, Jan. 2010. Historical bodies and historical space. Working Papers in
Urban Language & Literacies 57, 2–12.
Blommaert, Jan and Ad Backus. 2011. Repertoires revisited: ‘Knowing language’
in superdiversity. Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies 67, 2–26.
Blommaert, Jan and Ben Rampton. 2011. Language and superdiversity. Language
and Superdiversities 13:2, 1–21.
48 Hagen Peukert

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. Was heisst sprechen? Die Ökonomie des sprachlichen
Tausches. Wien: Braumüller.
Breckner, Ingrid. 2005. Stadt und Geschlecht. In Helmuth Berking and Martina
Löw (eds.), Die Wirklichkeit der Städte, Baden-Baden.
Breckner, Ingrid and Toralf González. 2003. Qualitative Evaluation des ESF-
Projektes „Informations- und Beratungszentrum für ausländische Existen-
zgründer und Betriebe“. Hamburg: Unternehmer ohne Grenzen.
Breckner, Ingrid, Hagen Peukert and Alexander Pinto. 2013. The delicate search
for language in spaces: A conceptualization of multilingualism in urban plan-
ning. In Peter Siemund, Julia Davidova and Monika Schulz (eds.), Multilin-
gualism and Language Contact in Urban Areas, Hamburg: Benjamins.
Buchholtz, Mary. 1999.” Why be normal?”: Language and identity practices in a
community of nerd girls. Language in Society 28:2, 203–225.
Buchholtz, Mary and Kira Hall. 2004. Language and identity. In Alessandro Duran-
ti (ed.), A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, 268–294. Oxford: Blackwell.
Buckow, Wolf-Dietrich. 2010. Urbanes Zusammenleben: Zum Umgang mit Mi-
gration und Mobilität in europäischen Stadtgesellschaften. Wiesbaden: VS.
Burrow, John  A. and Chorlac Turville-Petre. 2001. A Book of Middle English.
Oxford: Blackwell.
Church, Alonzo. 1932. A set of postulates for the foundation of logic. Annals of
Mathematics 33, 346–366.
Crystal, David. 2003. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Eastman, Carol M. and Thomas C. Reese. 1981. Associated language: How lan-
guage and ethnic identity are related. General Linguistics 21:2, 109–116.
Eckert, Penelope and Sally McConnel-Ginet. 1992. Communities of practice:
Where language, gender and power all live. In Kira Hall, Mary Buchholtz and
Birch Moonwomon (eds.), Locating power: Proceedings of the Second Berke-
ley Woman and Language Conference Berkeley Women and Language Group,
89–99. Berkeley: University of California.
Feynman, Richard P. 2005. Sechs physikalische Fingerübungen. München: Piper.
Fishman, Joshua A. 1972. The Sociology of Language: An Interdisciplinary Social
Science Approach to Language in Society. Rowley: Newbury House Publishers.
Fishman, Joshua A. (ed.) 1971. Advances in the Sociology of Language. (Contribu-
tions to the Sociology of Language). Paris: Mouton.
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 49

Fraser, Craig G. 1992. Isoperimetric problems in the variational calculus of Euler

and Lagrange. Historia Mathematica 19:1, 4–23.
Friedrichs, Jürgen. 1995. Stadtsoziologie. Opladen: Leske und Budrich.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams. 2003. An Introduction to
Language. Boston: Wadsworth.
Goldberg, Adele E. 1996. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to
Argument Structure. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Gorter, Durk. 2006. Linguistic Landscape: A New Approach to Multilingualism.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Gumperz, John J. 1972. Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Com-
munication. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Handelskammer Hamburg. 2012. Branchenstatistik. http://www.hk24.de/ser-
vicemarken/branchen/ (28 February 2013).
Häußermann, Hartmut. 2004. Stadtsoziologie: eine Einführung. Frankfurt/Main:
Häußermann, Hartmut and Ingrid Oswald (eds.). 1997. Stadtentwicklung und
Zuwanderung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
Hawkins, Stephen and Leonard Mlodinow. 2005. Die kürzeste Geschichte der
Zeit. Hamburg: Rowohlt.
Hopper, Paul  J. and Elizabeth  C. Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. (Cam-
bridge Textbooks in Linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Horobin, Simon and Jeremy Smith. 2002. An Introduction to Middle English.
­Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow. 2010. Introducing semiotic landscapes. In
Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.), Semiotic Landscapes: Language,
Image, Space, 1–40. London: Continuum.
Jørgensen, Jens-Normann, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Lian Malai Madsen and Janus
Spindler Møller. 2011. Polylanguaging in superdiversity. Language and Super-
diversities 13:2, 23–37.
Läpple, Dieter. 1991. Essay über den Raum. Für ein gesellschaftswissenschaftli-
ches Raumkonzept. In Hartmut Häußermann (ed.), Stadt und Raum. Soziolo-
gische Analysen, 157–207. Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus.
Löw, Martina. 2012. Raumsoziologie. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.
50 Hagen Peukert

Luckmann, Thomas. 1979. Soziologie der Sprache. In René König (ed.), Hand-
buch der empirischen Sozialforschung, Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag.
OED. 2012. “right, s.”. Oxford University Press.
Pavlenko, Aneta. 2009. Language conflict in post-Soviet linguistic landscapes.
Journal of Slavic Linguistics 17:1–2, 247–274.
Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1994. The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce.
Charlottesville: InteLex.
Pennycook, Alastair. 2010. Language as a Local Practice. London: Routledge.
Peukert, Hagen. 2013. Measuring language diversity in urban ecosystems. In
Ingrid Gogolin and Joana Duarte (eds.), Linguistic Super-diversity in Urban
Areas - Research Approaches, 75–95. Hamburg: John Benjamins.
Renn, Jürgen. 2006. Auf den Schultern von Riesen und Zwergen: Einsteins unvol-
lendete Revolution. Weinheim: Wiley.
Rostalski, Michael. 2011. Gelebte Orte - geplante Stadt: Informelle Nutzung urba-
ner Räume und partizipative Stadtentwicklung. Würzburg: Königshausen &
Schroer, Markus. 2006. Orte, Räume, Grenzen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Shohamy, Elana, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.). 2010. Linguistic
Landscape in the City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Shohamy, Elana and Durk Gorter (eds.). 2009. Linguistic Landscape: Expanding
the Scenery. New York: Routledge.
Shohamy, Elana and Shoshi Waksman. 2009. Linguistic landscape as an ecologi-
cal arena: Modalities, meanings, negotiations, education. In Elana Shohamy
and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the Scenery, 313–
331. New York: Routledge.
Siemund, Peter, Ingrid Gogolin, Monika Schulz and Julia Davydova (eds.). 2013.
Multilingualism and Language Contact in Urban Areas. Acquisition - Identities -
Space - Education. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Smith, Jeremy  J. 2008. Varieties of Middle English. In Haruko Momma and
­Michael Matto (eds.), A Companion to the History of the English Language,
198–206. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
Spolsky, B. 1999. Second-language learning. In Joshua Fishman (ed.), Handbook
of Language and Ethnic Identity, 181–192. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Statistisches Amt für Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein. 2012. Statistisches Jahr-
buch Hamburg 2011/2012. Hamburg: Statistikamt Nord.
Urban linguistic landscaping: Scanning metropolitan spaces 51

Sturm, Gabriele. 2000. Wege zum Raum. Methodologische Annäherungen an ein

Basiskonzept raumbezogener Wissenschaften. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.
Thrift, Nigel. 2008. Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (Interna-
tional Library of Sociology. London: Routledge.
Vertovec, Steven. 1998. Multicultural policies and modes of citizenship in Euro-
pean cities. International Social Science Journal 50:2, 187.
Vertovec, Steven. 2007. Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial
Studies 30:6, 1024–1054.
Weise, Peter, Wolfgang Brandes, Thomas Eger and Manfred Kraft. 2005. Neue
Mikroökonomie. Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag.
Amei Koll-Stobbe, University of Greifswald

Ideofiers in the commercial city:

A discursive linguistic landscape analysis
of hairdressers’ shop names

1. Setting the stage: from the writing to the discursive city

in sociolinguistics and linguistic landscape studies
Linguistic landscape studies (LLS) as a subfield of sociolinguistics has for the last
fifteen years contributed to our knowledge of linguistic diversity in a growing
bi- and multilingual world of urban environments. LLS foregrounded the writ-
ing city and thus extended the scope of sociolinguistic research on the talking
city to studies of written language use in the cityscape.1 LLS was setting the scene
for analyses of linguistic messages written in the public sphere in the 1990s and
evoked a still on-going debate on adequate operative methodologies to study
written messages as municipal or private and commercial, static or transgres-
sive signs, multimodal texts with varying scripts – signs in various forms and on
various media from municipal street name signs and traffic signs to commercial
signs and flyers, chalkboards, placards and stickers in the public sphere.2
LLS explored urban communicative spaces as multilingual spaces with power
imbalances of majority and minority languages by connecting linguistic data to
demographic data.3 Through this innovative turn, LLS have convincingly docu-
mented to which extent ethnic and regional cultures are visible in the writing

1 See Backhaus (2007: 1) who opts for a shift from the structuralist tradition of the
priority of the spoken word to written signage in the sociolinguistic study of language
variation in the city. Spolsky in his foreword to Backhaus 2007 (p. ix) claims that city-
scape might be a more preferable term than linguistic landscape for the study of public
signs in urban spaces.
2 See the programmatic LLS by Landry and Bourhis (1997), Backhaus (2007), McCor-
mick and Kant Agnihotri (2009), and the geosemiotic conceptions of signage devel-
oped by Scollon and Wong Scollon (2003).
3 A recent collected volume on the topic is Gorter, Marten and van Mensel (2012). LLS
proved to be a valuable scientific method to critically reflect political changes as social
processes in phases of transition as in the emerging post-Soviet East-European and
Pan-Asian new nations or unrecognized states with linguistic and social power shifts
after independence, see also Muth (2012 and this volume).
54 Amei Koll-Stobbe

urbanities, and foregrounded the ways minority groups are able to find a “voice”
in the written information setting of a city. Frequency and visible distribution of
languages in the city with its ethnically fragmented districts and neighborhoods
also gave evidence to how language policy agendas have materialized in multi-
lingual municipal signage.4
Recently LLS tried to open up for sociolinguistic shifts towards analyses (or
re-analyses) of discourse functions of city signage in a changing world of glo-
balization, where the modes of occurrence of language and languages them-
selves change, and where aspects of deterritorialized and translocal patterns of
language are visible next to or inserted into local patterns (Blommaert 2010: 5,
188ff.). LLS thus shift their attention to aspects of semiotic and discursive diver-
sity in the cities (cf. Jaworski and Thurlow 2010, Kallen 2010).
Blommaert opts for a sociolinguistics of mobility to complement the socio-
linguistics of distribution in the Labovian tradition. He sees the global world
as a complex web of villages that is connected by material and symbolic ties in
often unpredictable ways (Blommaert 2010: 1). Consequently he conceptualizes
multilingualism as a complex of specific resources that speakers or writers have
at hand. They may control these resources in their own creative ways.5 Creative
ways as discourse modes that are highly visible in the writing city will be fore-
grounded in this article.
Creative ways as situated ad hoc formations in public spaces have been docu-
mented as indexically meaningful semiotic resources by studies of vernacular
literacy or public English in African and Asian cities.6 Blommaert (2010) gives
as examples of such creative ways Shokilango Nescafé for a local café on Shok-
ilango road in a suburb of Dar es Salaam, or Sliming food in an advertisement

4 For distributive municipal regulations, cf. Backhaus (2009). Various contexts of lan-
guage regulation in Europe, Asia and North-Africa are addressed in part III of Sho-
hamy and Gorter, eds (2009).
5 I use the notion own creative ways as a programmatic red thread in this article which
explores situated verbal ways as discursive creations which index two discourse
modes in the writing and reading city, based on two different literacy skills that stem
from normative shifts in written genres (Section 3 below).
6 Cf. Blommaert (2008: 10) who conceptualizes grassroots literacy as a label for a wide
variety of ‘non-elite’ forms of writing, resulting from restricted educational access to
standard varieties of English and Pennycook’s (2007) discussion on specific intercul-
tural domains. In European contexts educational access to Standard English is not
restricted, albeit with normative inconsistency (Koll-Stobbe and Zieseler 2014). I see
grassroots literacy as a mode of bottom-up vernacular writing with English that can
also be spotted in European contexts of writing with English (Section 5.4).
Ideofiers in the commercial city 55

for a health food shop in Dar es Salaam. From a more variationist-oriented so-
ciolinguistic and systemic perspective, based on conceptions of language as a
(standardized) rule-governed static object, these creative ways would be labeled
as ungrammatical, or (with a more prescriptive attitude) stigmatized as “corrupt”
English. For Blommaert (2010) these shop names index the value of English as
translocal and transnational imaginary semiotic potential rather than ungram-
matical language use:
Seen from the angle of monoglot normativity, the people who wrote and used these in-
scriptions display incomplete insertions in economies of linguistic forms. In that sense,
they testify to some of the crucial problems of language policy in Tanzania: the lasting
prestige functions attributed to English combined with the extremely restricted access
to its prestige bearing, standard varieties. (Blommaert 2010: 188f.).

Restricted access to Standard English varieties in many African nation states

gives way for creative ways to encode associated meanings with English as a so-
cially symbolic code, using English not as a grammatically codified resource,
but as incomplete or truncated English language repertoires. These repertoires
can consist of spoken, vernacular and non-native varieties of languages, and an
overlay of differently developed literacy skills (Blommaert 2010: 9).
Does the linguistic landscape have a normative influence on linguistic prac-
tices as it operates in the social world (Cenoz and Gorter 2009)? The names
of small shops in African urban linguistic landscapes, which are not encoded
by attending to the normative expectations valid for top-down signage such as
street names or municipal signage, do not compete for the same territory: they
live, in a very real sense, in different, if parallel, universes (cf. Kallen 2010: 42).
Kallen proposes to analyze the linguistic landscape not as a single system, but as
a confluence of systems, observable in a single visual field, but operating with
different elements:
What gives the landscape its discursive, and even at times chaotic, appearance is that
these systems are not hierarchically nested within each other …The frameworks in the
landscape can be defined by the functions of discourse entered into by interlocutors
and by the language choices and forms of expressions available to these interlocutors.
I suggest that it is necessary to see the visual field in terms of separate visual discourse
frameworks. (Kallen 2010: 42f.)

Can the linguistic landscape of hairdressers’ names in European urban contexts

illustrate parallel visual discourse frameworks as a confluence of standard and
vernacular, of decontextualized and contextualizing discursive practices? Non-
standard writing and incohesive texts, visible in African urban writing as post-
colonial fragmented English as a second language, may position new or situated
56 Amei Koll-Stobbe

identities not transparent to the uninitiated reader because of their constrained

(lexical and semantic) mobility and features of heterography that tend to be in-
terpreted as erroneous deviances from standard orthography.7
What about European public discourse contexts where English as a foreign
language is undergoing a status shift to an international lingua franca (English
as a lingua franca, ELF)? Grassroots English can be spotted in the city signage in
German urbanities, such as hair-top team or cut for man (examples of hairdresser
shop names in Greifswald), or Outfit Style (a hairdresser shop name in Kiel), all
of which are only valuable as local shop names.8 And what about the creative
ways to name hairdresser shops in England off your head (in Lancaster)? Does
ambiguous and colloquial English signage constitute a parallel discourse uni-
verse that complements the codified lexical repertoire for shop names?
The concept of key in Huebner (2009) captures the discursive mobility in the
postmodern city as marketplace. Shop names constitute two types of discourse
keys that fulfill functions of hard sell strategies and soft sell strategies (estab-
lished for advertising discourse)9 to promote the shops as place where specific
services or products as a craft are on offer, or as place where services are on offer
as life-style products or social commodities (cf. Papen 2012). It is the amount
and grammaticality of the text, the explicitness of the message and the choice of
code that determines a more direct or referential reading versus more creative
ways of indirectness that need inferential decoding work done by potential read-
ers in order to understand the message of the shop signage.
I assume then that shop names reflect (inside and outside of Africa) a conflu-
ence of at least two discourse modes in the city as postmodern marketplace, a
discourse system of direct keys for the city as conventional spatial marketplace,

7 Cf. features of ‘non-elite’ (or vernacular) writing such as heterography, or vernacular

language use in Blommaert (2008: 11f).
8 See Blommaert’s (2010: 28f) discussion of emblematic versus linguistic meaning of
signage in public spaces. In my interpretation he foregrounds the associative transfer
of the symbolic meaning of English as a demographically and economically powerful
code, not of the semantic meaning of an encoded sign as systemic unit of the code,
as an essential aspect of grassroots literacy as vernacular literacy. From a normative
perspective the examples of German hairdresser shop names do constitute truncated
non-standard English, from a social perspective the Englishness contributes to the
identity of the shop, on the level of situated locality.
9 For hard sell versus soft sell advertising strategies, see Huebner (2009: 79), Fox (1985)
and Koll-Stobbe (2000: 85) and also Section 4 below.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 57

and a system of indirect discourse keys for the city as social marketplace in a
global consumer culture.
Before looking into the direct versus indirect keys to name a hairdresser shop,
the following section outlines the investments into potential code-choices that
are socially appropriate to attract potential customers in a globalizing urban

2. Language in the cityscape: global and local

investments in English
Frequencies and functions of languages employed in city signage characterize
the city as a marketplace of and for languages. LLS have verified empirically the
current reality of English as the global language visible in all urban areas associ-
ated with the dominant material culture (e.g. Schlick 2002, Backhaus 2007, Hult
2009, McCormick and Kant Agnihotri 2009, Kallen 2010, Papen 2012). World-
wide accumulated investments in English are made with regard to time, money
and effort expended for acquiring language skills and investments in language
teaching materials and technology (Coulmas 2005: 225f.).10 Because English lan-
guage teaching is an objective in primary to tertiary education systems world-
wide, modern Western city dwellers, residents, shoppers and/or visitors, may be
expected to have acquired basic or advanced literacy skills in English. Literacy
skills complement oral productive and receptive skills in native, and maybe sec-
ond or other local or foreign languages, enabling city dwellers to choose and
switch between languages which they are able to identify in the cityscape. Com-
mercial establishments and shops make use of multilingual or gradual bilingual
competences by encoding signage on and in their shops and stores in local and
(national, international, ethnic or educational) link languages.11
The national language, or a local variety, and the international lingua franca
of commerce may fulfill different functions in the multilingual city signage. With
regard to the linguistic cityscape of Tokyo, Backhaus stated that information
on municipal signage in English may be reduced to core information setting,

10 Cf. attitudinal and policy-preferred agendas for particular national Englishes in the
market of English language teaching in Blommaert’s (2010) critical account of accent
teaching as commodification of the American English accent.
11 See Hoffman (1996) for the concept of gradual bilingualism, and Knospe (2014) for a
more detailed account of competence in English as a complementary, i.e. education-
ally implemented code in European contexts that were “traditionally” modelled as
monolingual (ch.2).
58 Amei Koll-Stobbe

lacking the more detailed information elaboration given in Japanese (Backhaus

2007: 143). Hult (2009) in his studies on bilingual storefronts in two Swedish
cities found evidence, however, that English was primarily used as an index of
values associated with the global consumer culture and not as an international
lingua franca in the cityscape.
The use of English as a language of the cityscape may serve various cognitive,
symbolic or emblematic functions. Intelligibility and comprehensibility of stand-
ard national English(es) may not feature as sole objective, since the symbolic
function of a language may have determined the choice, as we saw above.
Nobody, be they native speakers or speakers of English as a second or foreign
language, knows all of a language, but everybody has expertise in some domains
or modes of a language:
Our ‘real’ language is very much a biographical given, the structure of which reflects our
own histories and those of the communities in which we spent our lives. (Blommaert
2010: 103)

Urban people with varying linguistic, ethnic and social backgrounds mingle in
the city, live side by side in their neighborhoods, and explore public spaces of
their environment as semiotic spaces in the real world. Urban storeowners and
potential shoppers can be seen as writers and readers of the cityscape, process-
ing whatever they can access as resources for meaningful interpretations. Do
Western-city shop names trace vernacularly-driven creative ways of public Eng-
lish in African cities as a layer of discourse practices in a globalizing world, or
do the (often) better educated Western city dwellers discover other resources of
languages as storehouses of cognitive and cultural knowledge, and render the
heterographic and vernacular instantiations of shop names (cf. section 1) to the
status of peripheral, messy local messages?
Koll-Stobbe and Zieseler (2014) documented a normative inconsistency
towards the targets of Standard British English versus American English, and
a penchant for hybridization and innovations across all researched language
modes in a multidimensional analysis of German students’ language skills and
awareness of English as a pluricentric world language. The innovations of ELF
users of English are known in educational contexts as fossilization, but inno-
vations can also be symptoms of nativization in ELF as a mode of commu-
nication, which may develop into various local varieties. English in Europe,
according to the sociolinguistic framework of ELF studies, is increasingly used
as a language of socialization. This implies that ELF users pick up discursive
skills, and subconsciously learn to use Anglophone discourse modes as mobile
discursive keys.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 59

Grammatically organized language modes have been, according to Kress and

van Leeuwen (2001), the most powerful modes, but there is a tendency to sup-
plant them by lexically organized modes:
More and more linguists… now conceive of people’s knowledge of language not in the
way Chomsky did, as a small, economical set of rules that can generate an infinite num-
ber of linguistic utterances, but, as a vast, maze-like storehouse of words and colloca-
tions of words, of fragments of language, idioms etc. (Kress and van Leeuwen 2001: 113)

Looking into hairdressers shop names will imply a quest into the confluence
of a grammatically-organized system of discourse and a lexically-organized dis-
course system as parallel universes of different discursive keys in the writing and
reading city.
In which way have modes of writing changed over the last 50 years? Norma-
tive shifts in genres of public writing, I shall argue, trace the advent of discursive
diversity in the writing city of our time.
Before studying discourse modes in the writing city, I shall discuss stylistic and
normative changes in writing as literary practice towards writing and reading as a
joint social activity type12 with a focus on the dimension of formality to informality.

3. Discursive diversity in the 20th century: formality

and informality as discourse modes
Within a cognitive linguistic framework, languages are understood as sets of re-
sources available to language users for the symbolization of thought and for the
communication of these symbolizations (Taylor 2002: 30). The basic building
blocks of language as resource and repertoire are signs. A descriptive meaning
of a sign as “inscribed surface displayed in public space in order to convey a
message of wider concern to a non-specified group of readers” (Backhaus 2007:
5) foregrounds the transactional message construction in the process of writing
and reading. Signs are the building blocks of discourse and text, which according
to Hoey can be defined as:
…the visible evidence of a …purposeful interaction between one or more writers and
one or more readers, in which the writer(s) control the interaction and produce charac-
teristically most of the language. The interaction between the writer and reader can be
called a discourse. (Hoey 2001: 11)

12 Cf. Clark (1996: 30ff) who elaborates on dimensions of joint activity types (related to
Wittgenstein’s notion of language games) as scriptedness, formality, verbalness, coop-
erativeness and governance.
60 Amei Koll-Stobbe

In addition to attending to LLS as a methodological potential to study discursive

diversity in the city, I also rely on corpus-linguistic analyses of on-going changes
in English discourse norms in the 20th century (cf. Mair 2006: 181–199). Drawing
on findings of various empirical studies, Mair detects a major stylistic shift in the
public discourses in contemporary Anglophone cultures which can be summa-
rized as a leveling between the more formal registers of written language and the
more informal registers of spoken language. He stresses that this change is not
restricted to informal choices of linguistic means that characterize formal versus
informal writing. Rather, a general informalization of cultural rituals (not con-
strained to Anglophone cultures) has been observed by the sociologist Norbert
Elias, and the historian Eric Hobsbawm, who point out a “demotic turn in the
tastes of the middle- and upper-class young” as one of the most significant trends
in the post-World War II industrialized world.13 This shift towards a greater in-
formality, with a subsequent attestation of informality as a cultural value, can, in
oral and literate contexts of communicative practices, be characterized as a shift
towards a colloquialization of contemporary English speech practices (cf. Mair
2006: 183ff.). As has been documented in representative corpus-linguistic stud-
ies, a preference for a colloquial over an elaborated written style extends from
popular written registers to more formal writing as well (Mair 2006: 185).
The concept of colloquialization is tied in with a significant normative shift of
what is envisaged as acceptable written English:
Away from a written norm which is elaborated to maximal distance from speech …
towards a written norm that is closer to spoken usage, and away from a written norm
which cultivates formality towards a norm which is tolerant of informality and even al-
lows for anti-formality as a rhetorical strategy. (Mair 2006: 187)14

If one accepts this corpus-based generalization, one may expect a layered conflu-
ence of discourse modes in the city reflecting on-going changes in literacy prac-
tices as discursive practices: a confluence of a more orally-oriented discourse
mode of assembled texts and acceptance of covertly-prestigious (colloquial)
variability, and a discourse mode adhering to the norms of standard writing, or
formal writing.

13 The discussion in Mair (2006: 185–6) is based on Elias, N. Der Prozess der Zivilisation,
1939; Studien über die Deutschen, 1989, and Hobsbawm, E. Age of Extremes: A History
of the Short Twentieth Century, 1994.
14 The colloquialization of English is also attested by critical discourse analysts. Fair-
clough (1992), for example, sees the on-going colloquialization of discursive activities
as a key change that characterises communicative practices of the recent past.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 61

Huebner (2009: 74) claims that the forms that language takes in the linguistic
landscape (LL) are influenced in part by the writer’s perception of the intended
audience. Informal or more oral norms of language use may be invested in and
thus complement more traditional norms of naming a shop to designate a shop
type. In the writing city of the 21st century we thus might expect formal and
informal names of shops indices for two discourse modes.
Since I shall look into the discourse diversity of shop names, a verbally repre-
sented genre, I can neglect a second on-going change in the dimension of verbal-
ness (Clark 1996: 30). Kress and van Leeuwen (2001) and Iedema (2003) analyze
the on-going change of displacing language and the scripting of joint activities
in writing as multimodal writing, which challenges and changes the established
representational order:

…the logics of linear progression and contiguity associated with language and linguistic
expression are seceding in part to more disparate, non-linear, non-hierarchical… circu-
lar and serialized kinds of representation. (Iedema 2003: 38)

The challenge to the representational order may also surface in one of the two
verbal discursive keys that I shall study in the genre of shop names: writing based
on an oral informal mode may have to trigger non-linear processing of informa-
tion in order to be interpretable. But this aspect of information processing and
discursive diversity in the writing city will be envisaged in section 5 of this arti-
cle. The following section outlines in more detail the two discourse modes that I
expect in the genre of shop names.

4. The genre of shop names: fragmented discourse

as identifier and ideofier
Following Huebner (2009), I study shop signage as genre: a class of communica-
tive events identified by both its traditionally recognized form and its common
functions with a shared set of communicative purposes and constraints on al-
lowable contributions in terms of content, positioning and form. Shop names as
products of linguistic and stylistic choices between traditional forms and stylistic
innovations can fulfill a commonality of functions that have been attested for
advertising discourse:
• to inform, to report, to describe or to assert,
• to express feelings and emotions,
• to establish, maintain and terminate contact between addressers and add-
62 Amei Koll-Stobbe

• to communicate meanings through a code which could not otherwise be

• to persuade or offer recommendations.
Advertisements and its sub-genre shop signs are used to promote a product. How-
ever, there is one major difference: Advertisements are published in print media,
on television, the radio or the Internet, whereas shop signs are displayed in the
public space (Edelman 2009: 142) on store fronts. Beyond the cognitive function
of information setting, the function of a shop name may be more than to inform
the potential customer in a direct and codified way about the shop type. In the
cities as socially stratified marketplaces in the 21st century, a shop name will also
have to fulfill more indirect phatic and meta-communicative functions that were
established in the persuasive discourse of advertising in the early 20th century by
professional communication agencies as soft-sell strategies.15
According to Kress and van Leeuwen (2001: 21), people have several alterna-
tive discourses available, and will use the most appropriate for the communica-
tion situation they are in. Kallen (2010) conceives of the potential alternatives as
non-hierarchically organized parallel universes of discourse in the city. In our
case of fragmented discourse in the form of shop names, the name of the shop
can serve as an important index for the business or craft as well as the shop
owner’s or creative director’s business aspiration. Successful hairdressers who set
up chains of hairdresser shops in various parts of the city or across cities nation-
wide, or internationally, use their proper name as a brand to attract customers.16
This is important because the names of business establishments are very often
meant to entice passers-by or potential customers to enter the shop (see Hueb-
ner 2009:75), and names may thus index a successful hairstylist, but also images
and themes relevant for the fashion-oriented city dweller.17 Postmodern hair-
dresser shop names may therefore not only function as referential signage for

15 See a critical overview of language functions in Robinson (2003: 41), Huebner (2009),
and Kelly-Holmes (2005: 8f) for the context of international advertising as commu-
nication. Whereas discursive modes and keys of shop signage have not been studied
extensively, advertising discourse according to Spolsky (2009: 3) has been. There is
no space to deal with aspects of advertising discourse in-depth (see Fox (1985), Koll-
Stobbe (2000) for more extended analyses.
16 Cf. Edelman (2009) who studies functions and ranges of proper names in advertise-
ments and shop signage.
17 Within the context of this article I do not have space to focus on age-, ethnic- or
gender-relevant aspects of hairdressers’ shop names, but see Section 5.2 for aspects of
gender specific services on offer.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 63

the ­distribution of a shop type in the city as geospatial marketplace, but also as
semiotic signage that indexes the intended image of the hairdresser in the city as
competitive social marketplace.
How do shop owners position themselves by means of their linguistic choices
for a shop name in relation to the potential customer? Linguistic choices may at-
test an intended shared socio-cultural positioning of shop owner and customer:
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 create a desire for whatever is
being sold. (McCormick and Agnihotri 2009: 11)

Informal and creative encodings of shop names as fragmented discourse open

a chance to transfer an intended situated identity. Though shop names that are
produced creatively, disrespecting the norms of standard lexical and orthograph-
ic repertoires, bear a risk of misunderstanding, at the same time this discursive
key, based on the skill of inferencing as joint social activity of writer and reader,
represents the transformative dynamics of socially situated meaning-making
processes in the writing city.18
My objective is to investigate the extent to which the names of hairdressers
reflect diversity of discursive keys in the writing commercial city. I assume that
the name of a hairdresser fulfills discursive functions of more direct versus more
indirect identifications of the hairdresser shop. The more direct identification is
triggered via referential semantic processing, and the more indirect identifica-
tion of the shop is triggered via semantic and pragmatic inferential processing.19
In the discourse genre of shop names, I expect two diverse identifying func-
tions of the hairdresser shop name:
1. a direct identifying function to index the craft as a frequent urban market-
place service (cf. Kallen 2010: 50f). I term this referential function of the shop
name identifier.
2. an indirect identifying function that indexes an intended image transfer to the
hairdressing shop to attract specific target groups of customers to the shop as
life-style service. I term this social function of a shop name ideofier.
These two functions represent the layered discursive keys of directness and in-
directness.20 I intend to show that hairdresser names reflect the writing city as a

18 Cf. Iedema’s (2003) concept of re-semiotization.

19 Cf. Koll-Stobbe (2000: ch.7) on the mental lexicon as dynamic semantic processor.
20 Both Backhaus (2007) and Kallen (2010) see linguistic landscapes as reflecting layers
of coexistence of older versus newer types of signs. Kallen (2010: 42) points out how a
64 Amei Koll-Stobbe

confluence of literacy practices and discourse modes. My hypothesis is that shop

names as conventional identifiers will be complemented by ideofiers as a situated
alternative to name a hairdresser shop.
In the next section I shall analyze hairdresser names as discursive practice
in selected inner-city areas of two English cities in order to see whether my as-
sumed ideofier function as an informal and own creative way to identify a shop
can be verified in the writing English city.

5. What’s in a name? Hairdressers’ names as discursive

keys in Lancaster and London
5.1. Methodology
Although the signage of storefronts has been included in empirical studies of
the LL of cities, or granted analytical space with a focus on commercial stores
(cf. Schlick 2002, Edelman 2009, Hult 2009, Kallen 2010, Papen 2012), to my
knowledge there are no representative studies of the signage of a specific type
of store or shop in cities. I shall focus on the indexical function of language
and lexical choices as discursive practice to name a shop of a particular ser-
vice in the city, hairdressers.21 I collected data according to the LL methodol-
ogy of hairdresser shop signage in Lancaster City, selected West End areas of
London, and considered supplementary data from a yellow pages directory
of hairdressers’ names in a German city as sample data for the discussion of
the results of my LLS on direct versus indirect modes to identify a hairdresser
shop by its name.
My LLS consists of a documentation of the hairdressers’ cityscape of Lan-
caster with a similar size sample of street areas from London (WC 2) as con-
trol data.22 I collected data in central Lancaster in the pedestrian shopping zone

linguistic landscape … contains within it remnants of different stages in its development.

I follow Kallen who wants to overcome the LL-metaphor as spatial metaphor, and
intend layering to include various conceptual or cognitive models for a shop name as
representing direct and indirect discursive layers to name a hairdresser shop (cf. also
Clark 1996: 353 on layering).
21 However, there is no space for an overview of changes in the socio-cultural history
of hairdressing, and its development from medieval bathers to national/international
chains of businesses (Corson 1965, Sherrow 2006).
22 Lancaster is a North English town with a population of 47,159 (Lancaster Urban Area,
Census Apr 2001). The control data were restricted to Covent Garden and Blooms-
bury in order to gain a comparable sample size of shop name signage.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 65

i­ ncluding Dalston Square, Market Street [to British Railway] and the central bus
station including the shopping centers Market, Marketgate, St. Nicholas Arcades
on two days in December 2011 with a digital camera. The London data were
collected on two days in December 2011 in the WC2 areas of Bloomsbury and
Covent Garden. In this article, I abstract from analyzing London and Lancaster
hairdressers’ shop signage (Lancaster: n=358; London n=345) and selectively
foreground the names of the shops (n= 31).23
Cenoz and Gorter (2009) classify entire store fronts as a single token, whereas
the type or kind of store, are their types (see discussion in Huebner 2009: 70ff.).
Within my research framework the focus will shift to data analysis of a type of
shop, and the respective shop names will be taken as language tokens. Since I fo-
cus on the discursive function of shop names, every name will be documented as
one sign irrespective of the morphological and syntactic complexity of the shop
names. The hairdresser shop will be seen as type; and the individual shop names
categorized as tokens. Chains sharing a name will be considered only once. I
documented a sample of 18 hairdressing shop-names in Lancaster. Most hair-
dressers were individual local businesses. Only three hairdressers belonged to a
chain operating at various locations. The name was thus regarded as a brand and
counted as one token, reducing my data base to n=15.
The London control data sample consists of 18 tokens with two tokens as
brands, which were considered as one token each (n=16). The similar-sized data
extract covers selected London WC2 area, including shopping streets and streets
of the theatre district.
I focused on the selected city areas as economically upward and competitive
social marketplaces with a high burden to attract affluent customers among the
mobile, professional city dwellers. For this article I could not study the whole
range of hairdressing facilities in complex and ethnically diverse housing areas
of Lancaster and London. Data of hairdresser shop names and hairdresser shop
signage in various inner city areas and suburbs will be considered in a follow-
up study. My small samples will thus not be revealing the visibility of discursive
modes of ethnic minorities, or the discursive keys used in the growing market
segment of shops offering the best price for hairdressing services.

23 I focused on the main name signage on the shop front (largest sign above, or next to
the entrance above the main display area facing the street). My database from a total
of 703 signs (overall Lancaster and London hairdressers’ storefront signage) will thus
be reduced substantially in number, see Tables 1 and 2 below.
66 Amei Koll-Stobbe

5.2.  Hairdresser shop names as codified identifiers

I hypothesized two major discursive functions of shop names as genre in the
writing city.24 If the informative function of the shop name is foregrounded, it
functions as direct identifier. The direct identifier has been the conventional
shop name in the city of pre- (and early) consumer culture and reflects the his-
tory and cultural heritage of hairdressers. I will trace these conventional identi-
fiers as documented in the New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE) and the
OED online, to illustrate identifiers as codified lexical repertoire.
Identifiers as shop names referring to hairdressers have been continuously
visible in the early modern to postmodern cityscape. Direct identifiers as lexico-
graphically documented resource represent the origin of hairdressing as a craft
in medieval and early modern France since most of the codified lexical catego-
ries are borrowings from French into other languages.
1. Coiffeur is a generic term which today has connotations of an upmarket busi-
ness, catering to the needs of middle-class elderly ladies, or affluent younger
ladies. See in NODE, s.v. coiffeur: “a hairdresser”, borrowed from 19th c. French.
2. A second lexical category borrowed from French is salon, which is rooted in
early modern establishments that attended to the beauty needs of custom-
ers. It designates the fuzzy semantic edge between a hairdresser and a more
general beautician. Compare the NODE, s.v. salon: “an establishment where a
hairdresser, beautician, or couturier conducts trade.” Compound lexical cate-
gories such as hair salon or predictable collocations such as Hair Salon Rachel
specify the services on offer.
3. Another general name for the shop, also originating in French, and popular
until the 19th century is friseur. Friseur has no entry in the NODE, but an entry
in the OED including citations that document its prevalence in the 18th and 19th
century. Friseur is still a highly visible identifier for the shop type in Germany.
4. The generic identifier hairdresser is a hybrid compound (with a Germanic
and French etymology of its two lexical components) prevalent since the late
18th century. A hairdresser is, according to the OED, someone “whose busi-
ness is to dress and cut the hair.”
5. The lexeme barber, which has been borrowed early into English from French,
refers to the medieval beginnings of the profession directed to male custom-
ers. Compare the NODE, s.v. barber: “a person who cuts men’s hair and shaves
and trims beards as an occupation.”

24 The lexical category of a shop is taken as a generic term for a local hairdresser,
hair-stylist, barber, or hair salon (cf. Sherrow 2006).
Ideofiers in the commercial city 67

The hypothesis that hairdresser shop names directly identify the shop type could
be verified in the Lancaster and London data. About two thirds of hairdresser
shop names fall into the category of direct identifier. The direct identifier func-
tion indexed the type of shop, or the shop owner or artistic director, which is re-
flected as two subcategories of identifiers for my data samples below (cf. Tables 1
and  2). There is also evidence that the conventional identifier category salon,
which reflects the historical roots of hairdressers as general beauty and fashion
establishments, is revived to designate new services and an expansion of the busi-
ness or shop into the direction of (a) hair and beauty salons, offering hair and
other beauty services, or (b) hair and nail styling. The gender-specific identifier
barber is visible, though only as one name each in my sample corpus of inner-city
Lancaster and London. But there is evidence that the meaning of the codified lexi-
cal category is extended to index attention for grooming needs of males including
waxing unwanted body hair. This potential revitalization (or re-semiotization, cf.
Iedema 2003) of the barber shop has to be considered in my follow-up and more
refined study with a larger data base. A new hairdresser shop named Gentlemen
in Greifswald25 indicates that a hairdresser who exclusively attends to the needs of
male customers can also be indirectly re-imagined by a non-codified shop name.

5.3. A hairdresser is a hairdresser is a hairdresser is a hairdresser:

names as ideofiers26
Five out of 15 shop names do not adhere to the function of direct identifier, but
rather foreground ideas of the hairdresser and customer as joint actors in the city
as social marketplace (Table 1). They are produced to trigger an intended image
as situated identity for the hairdresser shop. These shop names verify my second
hypothesis as the shop name can also function as indirect identifier if its social
function is foregrounded.

Table 1: Sample of Lancaster city hairdressers’ shop names (n=15)

Discursive Function Frequency (n=15) %

Identifier of craft/business 6 40
Identifier of owner/art director 4 27
Ideofier of shop as social aspiration 5 33

25 Gentlemen opened on the main shopping street of Greifswald in January 2013.

26 Alluding to Gertrude Stein’s famous dictum “a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. The
truncated discourse is to symbolize the complexity of the construction of meanings
in a lexically-organized discourse mode (cf. Section 1).
68 Amei Koll-Stobbe

About a third of the names in my Lancaster data served the function of a name
as social identity marker or ideofier. The name of the hairdresser as potential
index to the hairdresser as a life-style commodity was thus reflected as a relevant
analytical category.
Looking into my London control data (n=16) we can see that the similar-size
sample confirms the tendencies for a shop name to fulfill a discursive ideofy-
ing function. What surprised me was that the ratio of identifiers to ideofiers is
almost identical (33% Lancaster, 35% London data), which documents that the
creative ways of indirect association with a hairdresser shop in the city seems to
be an effective and popular strategy to attract customers.

Table 2: Sample of selected London West End area hairdressers’ shop names (n=31)

Discursive Function Frequency (n=31) %

Identifier of craft/business 9 30
Identifier of owner/art director 11 35
Ideofier of shop as social aspiration 11 35

Combining the case study data from Lancaster and London, I was able to con-
firm that hairdresser shop names are intended as identifiers of the trade, but
also as an index to urban life-style values condensed into a name as fragment-
ed discourse. Hairdressers’ names as ideofiers are the product of investments
in hairdressers’ and their potential customers’ shared encyclopedic knowledge.
Ideofiers are the products of investments in language as semantic repertoire that
triggers meaning in absentia or “behind the scenes” of grammatical or lexical
structures in praesentia:
Language, as we use it, is but the tip of the iceberg of cognitive construction. As dis-
course unfolds, much is going on behind the scenes: … links are forged, abstract mean-
ings operate, internal structure emerges and spreads, viewpoint and focus keep shifting.
Everyday talk [and “writing”, AKS] and common sense reasoning are supported by in-
visible, highly abstract, mental creations, which …[language] …helps to guide, but does
not by itself define. (Fauconnier 2004: XXIIf)27

Shop names that invest in reasoning and mental creations demand a re-interpre-
tation of what is written. The semantic repertoire that language guides through
its complex maze of lexical layers is highly visible in my data. Ideofiers (such as
off your head and Gentlemen) are products of transfer between lexical layers such

27 Cf. also Koll-Stobbe (2000: ch. 7), and Evans (2009: ch.3).
Ideofiers in the commercial city 69

as polysemy and partial homonymy, and thus challenge the established order of
linguistic expression as grammatically and ordered representation.28
I consider partial homonymy an effective strategy for creating discursive
meaning in absentia via lexically organized, fragmented representations of lin-
guistic expression in praesentia. Conceptual blends, emerging as creative ad hoc
word-formations, represent an indirect discursive strategy to attract customers
who like to explore lexical categories as vertically organized semantic resources
(linking multiple, related or unrelated meanings). An example form the London
data is the shop name bladerunners with an intended blend of the shop context
and a film context (‘blade’ triggering a metonymic relation to hairdresser, and
an intertextually triggered, semantically unrelated, ideofying transfer to the cult
sci-fi film of the 1980s, Blade Runners, which can typically be inferred from cin-
ematic encyclopedic knowledge).
Evans (2009: 151) reflects homonyms as “unrelated in current usage”. This is
what I mean by creative own ways of designing a shop name as ideofier: a sense
of relatedness is triggered contextually, complementing grammatically organized
discourse modes with lexically organized discourse modes that can be read in
and out of context by those who feel attracted to the social game of contextual-
izing fragmented discourse in the writing city.

5.4.  Ideofiers as bilingual repertoires

To support my thesis that shop names as genre reflect a direct and an indirect
discourse mode in the writing city, I want to look into supplementary data from
German hairdresser shop names in order to test the visibility of the potential
resource of two languages in a gradual bilingual contact culture of a local and
global code. In addition to the German lexical repertoire of codified identifiers
of the shop type, we can expect alternative choices from the English language
repertoire, as well as code-blending of German and English into a shop name as
loan-blends.29 In the context of this article I focus on aspects of alternative code-
choices between English and German, and the discursive modes of the writ-
ing city in an ELF context, characterized by normative hybridization (Standard

28 There is no space to discuss the notions of polysemy and homonymy. A cognitive

semantic position models polysemy as an “underlying” conceptual phenomenon (not
a “surface” phenomenon) (Evans 2009: 148ff; Koll-Stobbe 2000: ch.4).
29 Cf. contact linguistic conceptions and analytical categories in Winford (2003),
Muysken (2000) and Knospe (2014) for a contact linguistic study of English-German
lexical transference and the Englishization of German in print media discourse.
70 Amei Koll-Stobbe

BrE and AmE) and nativization of English as a local ELF code (Koll-Stobbe and
Zieseler 2014).
I took a services and business directory corpus of hairdresser names in the city
of Kiel as my data base.30 The absolute number of tokens was 121. Two tokens
represent names of chains, and as a brand are considered only once. Ten shop
names document other languages than English and German and are excluded,
so that my analysis of code-choices represented in Table 3 is based on a corpus
of 109 hairdresser shop names in Kiel. 56 tokens of shop names give evidence for
the national language as a dominant resource (Table 3 below).
In my sample the direct identifier mode is the preferred discursive key in
the identifier category, but German is also used as a linguistic resource for the
ideofier mode. Compared with the Lancaster and London data the ratio between
identifiers and ideofiers as discursive keys for the national language character-
izes all samples: roughly a third of the names in the English inner-city and the
German Kiel city data are ideofiers.

Table 3: Hairdresser shop names in a German city of Kiel (n=109)

Language Choice Discursive Function Frequency (n=109) %

German 56 51
identifiers 41 73 (out of 56)
ideofiers 15 27 (out of 56)
English 18 17
identifiers 5 28 (out of 18)
ideofiers 13 72 (out of 18)
German/English ideofiers 35 32

If one looks at the alternative choices in English, there is a clear tendency to

use English as a repertoire for symbolic imagination (as ideofiers), rather than
as a grammatical repertoire (identifiers). This becomes even more evident in
the last category of shop names encoded as German/English loan blends and
native configurations of English as own creative ways. All German-English
blends function as indirect identifiers, or ideofiers, and transfer a local identity
through processes of inferencing and contextualization. Textual realizations of
shop names such as “HOT ‘N’ TOT” verify vernacular and grassroots literacy

30 Kiel is the capital of the German federal state Schleswig-Holstein with a population of
239,320 in 2012 (19.3% are immigrants and 8.0% foreigners) (Gewusstwo 2012/13).
Ideofiers in the commercial city 71

skills that Blommaert (2008) pointed out for the context of African cities (cf.
section 1 above). The shop name “HOT ‘N’ TOT is not intended as a creative
identifier for African hairstyles as a special service on offer in the shop (as the
service menu signage and a phone call with a request for information made
clear), but to trigger an imaginary, situated identity for a local hairdresser of-
fering hot services.
A critical analysis of the results yields that English and mixed German-Eng-
lish shop names taken together does not support the default choice of a shop
name in the native language German. The sample of hairdresser shop names in
a German city indexes the prominence of English as a resource for structural,
symbolic and encyclopedic writings in the city. Alternative code choices between
German and English as well as native loan-blends of English and German render
a discourse diversity in a gradual bilingual ELF city that documents the domi-
nant symbolic function of English as ideofier in cities as social marketplaces. It is
the social function of English as a resource for the fragmented discourse mode of
shop names as ideofiers that challenges the position of German in the commer-
cial city. Follow-up studies of the signage of other ELF cities will show whether
the results of my data analysis in this article can be verified.

6. Conclusion
In this article I tried to give evidence for the diversity of discourse modes rep-
resented in the writing city with the methodology of LLS of hairdressers’ shop
names. While I neglected total shop signage, aspects of multimodality of signage,
and aspects of morphological and syntactic complexity of shop names, I focused
on aspects of names as indexes for cognitive and social functions of language as
a semantic potential and discursive resource. Language as main component of a
shop name has to index not only the type of business, but also the style and aspi-
ration of the business as a unique shop in the constantly changing city as mobile
marketplace and life-style commodity. Abstracting from a programmatic, small
scale sample study, I showed that shop names may serve two indexical functions,
a direct referential one to identify the business and its services, and an indirect
discursive one to ideofy the intended hairdresser-customer relation as symbolic
As a culturally transmitted communication system and resource, language
traps its users at the same time as it offers them opportunities for development
(see Robinson 2003: 21). One such opportunity for development is the invest-
ment into “hidden” lexical complexity as discursive resource. Polysemy and
homonymy are multifaceted storehouses for contextualization that may trigger
72 Amei Koll-Stobbe

discursive meanings by non-linear processing. Hairdresser names as products of

linguistic strategies such as language play and conceptual blending reflect dis-
cursive practices of semantic upgrading that are considered important enough to
be targeted at a substantial group of city dwellers as potential customers. A third
of the shop names in my sample of English and German data were the outcome
of such creative ways to trigger a situated identity for a shop.
An analysis of shop names provides evidence for on-going changes in the
conception of the shop type and for changing discursive practices in the writ-
ing city. However, a small scale analysis is prone to anecdotal evidence.31 An
empirical analysis of a more representative corpus of shop names as a follow-up
study will result in more fine-graded insights into the diversity of hairdressing
as an economically, ethnically and gender-specific marketplace service attending
to the needs of variable groups of potential customers. In addition, it will pro-
vide further insights into the layered confluence of direct and indirect discourse
modes in the writing city.

Backhaus, Peter. 2007. Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban
Multilingualism in Tokyo. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Backhaus, Peter. 2009. Rules and regulations in linguistic landscaping: a com-
parative perspective. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic
Landscape: Expanding the Scenery, 157–172. New York/London: Routledge.
Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad  H. Amara and Nira Trump-
er-Hecht. 2006. Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of the public
space: The case of Israel. In Durk Gorter (ed.), Linguistic Landscape: A New
Approach to Multilingualism, 7–30. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Blommaert, Jan. 2008. Grassroots Literacy. Writing, Identity and Voice in Central
Africa. Working Papers in Language Diversity 2. University of Jyväskylä.
Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press.

31 Witness Mair’s (2006: 15) comments on the fallacies of anecdotal evidence. But case
study approaches based on data, or ethnographically orientated inductive reasoning,
may help to critically balance methodologically driven reductionist empirical ap-
proaches, which often cannot pay due attention to processes of contextually driven
variability of language.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 73

Cenoz, Jasone and Durk Gorter. 2009. Language economy and linguistic land-
scape. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 55–69. New York/London: Routledge.
Clark, Herbert. 1996. Using Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Corson, Richard. 1965. Fashions in Hair. The First Five Thousand Years. London:
Peter Owen.
Coulmas, Florian. 2005. Sociolinguistics. The Study of Speaker’s Choices. Cam-
bridge: University Press.
Edelman, Loulou. 2009. What’s in a name? Classification of proper names by
language. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape:
Expanding the Scenery, 141–154. New York/London: Routledge.
Evans, Vyvyan. 2009. How Words Mean. Lexical Concepts. Cognitive Models, and
Meaning Constructions. Oxford: University Press.
Fairclough, Norman. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Fauconnier, Gilles. 2004. Mental Spaces. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Fox, Stephen. 1985. The Mirror Makers. A History of American Advertising and
its Creators. New York: Vintage.
Gewusstwo. Stadt- und Branchen-Info Landeshauptstadt Kiel 2012/13. Lübeck:
Gorter, Durk and Heiko F. Marten, Luk van Mensel (eds.). 2012. Minority Lan-
guages in the Linguistic Landscape. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Halliday, Michael A. K. 1978. Language as Social Semiotic. The Social Interpreta-
tion of Language and Meaning. London: Arnold.
Hilgendorf, Suzanne. 2002. Language Contact, Convergence and Attitudes: The
Case of English in Germany. Diss. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Hoffman, Charlotte. 1996. Societal and individual bilingualism with English in
Europe. In Reinhard Hartmann (ed.), The English Language in Europe, 47–60.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hoey, Michael. 2001. Textual Interaction. An Introduction to Written Discourse
Analysis. London: Routledge.
Huebner, Thom. 2009. A framework for the linguistic analysis of linguistic land-
scapes. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 70–87. New York/London: Routledge.
74 Amei Koll-Stobbe

Hult, Francis  M. 2009. Language ecology and linguistic landscape analysis. In

Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the
Scenery, 88–104. New York/London: Routledge.
Iedema, John. 2003. Multimodality, resemiotization: extending the analysis of
discourse as multi-semiotic practice. Visual Communication 2:1, 29–57.
Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow (eds.). 2010. Semiotic Landscapes. Lan-
guage, Image, Space. London: Continuum.
Kallen, Jeffrey L. 2010. Changing landscapes: Language, space and policy in the
Dublin linguistic landscape. In Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.),
Semiotic Landscapes, 41–58. London: Continuum.
Kelly-Holmes, Helen. 2005. Advertising as Multilingual Communication. Lon-
don: Palgrave Macmillan.
Knospe, Sebastian. 2014. Entlehnung oder Codeswitching? Sprachmischungen mit
dem Englischen im deutschen Printjournalismus. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.
Koll-Stobbe, Amei. 2000. Konkrete Lexikologie des Englischen: Entwurf einer The-
orie des Sprachkönnens. Tübingen: Niemeyer (repr. 2010, Berlin: de Gruyter).
Koll-Stobbe, Amei and Laura Zieseler. 2014. At sea with standards? The pluri-
centric nature of English, and its impact on non-native speakers’ attitudes and
language use. In Amei Koll-Stobbe and Sebastian Knospe (eds.), Language
Contact Around the Globe, 93–118. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.
Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen. 2001. Multimodal Discourse. The Modes
and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Arnold.
Landry, Rodrigue and Richard Y. Bourhis. 1997. Linguistic landscape and ethno-
linguistic vitality: An empirical study. Journal of Language and Social Psychol-
ogy 16:1, 23–49.
Mair, Christian. 2006. Twentieth-Century English: History, Variation and Stand-
ardization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McCormick, Kay and Rama Kant Agnihotri. 2009. Forms and functions of Eng-
lish in multilingual signage. English Today 99, 11–17.
Muth, Sebastian. 2012. The LLs of Chisinau and Vilnius: LL and the representa-
tion of minority languages in two post-Soviet capitals. In Durk Gorter, Hei-
ko F. Marten and Luk van Mensel (eds.), Minority Languages in the Linguistic
Landscape, 204–224. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Muysken, Pieter. 2000. Bilingual Speech: A Typology of Code-Mixing. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Ideofiers in the commercial city 75

Papen, Uta. 2012. Commercial discourses, gentrification and citizen’s protest:

The linguistic landscape of Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Journal of Sociolinguistics
16:1, 56–80.
Pennycook, Alistair. 2007. Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows. London:
Robinson, Peter W. 2003. Language in Social Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.
Schlick, Maria. 2002. The English of shop signs in Europe. English Today 18:2, 3–7.
Scollon, Ron and Suzie W. Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place. Language in the
Material World. London: Routledge.
Sherrow, Victoria. 2006. Encyclopedia of Hair. A Cultural History. Westport:
Shohamy, Elana and Durk Gorter (eds.). 2009. Linguistic Landscape: Expanding
the Scenery. NewYork/London: Routledge.
Spolsky, Bernard. 2009. Prolegomena to a sociolinguistic theory of public sig-
nage. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 25–39. New York/London: Routledge.
Taylor, John R. 2002. Cognitive Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Winford, John. 2003. Contact Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Karine Stjernholm, University of Oslo

Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study

of the sense of place

1. Introduction
The connections between semiotic signs and the sense of place have been widely
explored in linguistic landscape research.1 According to Coulmas (2009: 3), the
origin of writing coincided with the emergence of urban space. Earlier Haber-
mas (1991 [1962]) suggested that the first text displayed in open spaces was in
fact the seed of the public sphere. Ben-Rafael (2009: 40) specifies that in linguis-
tic landscape (hereafter LL) analysis, the focus is on the territorial-geographic
dimension of the public sphere, namely public space, which has its own rules
and regulations (Shohamy and Gorter 2009: 3). As a product and consequence of
social interrelations (Jaworski and Yeung 2010: 153, Lefebvre 1991), these rules
and regulations can in effect be understood as the place-specific (social) culture,
one that will naturally differ from one place to another. Space acquires its mean-
ing from various traces of human activity in the material world; embedding lan-
guage in a public space contributes to the creation of such meaning, or the sense
of place as it has also been called (Jaworski and Yeung 2010: 155).
This article sets two urban districts in Oslo side-by-side and examines
how local social culture is expressed in their respective LLs. It will first pre-
sent an overview of the sociocultural and economic determinants of these
districts. This overview functions as a contextualizing force for interpret-
ing how the sense of place varies considerably in each (Jaworski and Yeung
2010). This variation, as argued here, is expected to stem from sociocultural

1 I would like to thank my supervisors Unn Røyneland and Janne Bondi Johannessen
for their great support and belief in my work, and I especially thank my colleague
Elizabeth Lanza for her excellent comments on previous versions of this paper. I
would also like to thank organizers and participants at the symposium Dimensions of
Linguistic Landscapes in Europe: Materials and methodological solutions in Jyväskylä
in October 2010. A special thank goes to the editors for their patient and meticulous
work with this publication. At last, I would thank all shopkeepers I have talked with
in Grünerløkka and Majorstua who willingly have shared their stories and opinions
about naming of stores, signage, estate prices, and imperialism.
78 Karine Stjernholm

and economic differences between these two districts. The ensuing analysis
will demonstrate that these social trends observable in Oslo are similar to so-
cial development witnessed in several cities around the world. Development
that is well documented in globalization theory as global social processes
(Giddens 1990; Robertson 1992; Eriksen 2008). To describe the observed
differences in the LL of these two districts, two terms will be central, namely
disembedding and re-embedding (Giddens 1990; Robertson 1992). The dis-
cussion in the article is divided into a quantitative and a qualitative section;
the former will focus on which languages are present in the LLs, the latter
will show how iconography is useful as a method for interpreting visual ex-
pression in its sociocultural context.

2.  Theoretical aspects

Following Lefebvre (1991), sense of place is seen as a perceptible product of a
socially constructed space where people’s lives are reflected in the physical envi-
ronment, making space a contextualizing force where sociocultural meaning is
expressed. The sense of a place has also been referred to as its personality. Ben-
Rafael (2009: 42) points out that “[t]ogether with the architecture and the flows
of passers-by, LL is a major ingredient of the picture perceived by both residents
and visitors of a given locality describing its “personality” and distinguishing it
from other places”. Here, features that distinguish one place from another are
interpreted as sociocultural differences perceptible in our surroundings on both
a macro and a micro level. The distinctions on the macro level are apparent in
comparisons of, for instance, cities from different continents. They may, howev-
er, be evident in the comparison of two districts in the same city, although more
subtly. As this article will demonstrate, the sociocultural differences between the
two districts in Oslo are visible in their LL. Ben-Rafael (2009) has emphasized
LL as a gestalt in the social structuration of a place. While a space may include a
range of aspects, such as architecture, contributing to its sense and personality,
the LL is one of the constituents that is under the direct and instant influence of
social actors who shape and re-shape it constantly. By putting up (new) signs,
these actors can be seen as authors who decide what elements are present in the
LL. Further he points out how (Ben-Rafael 2009: 43):
Nothing warrants the congruence of these actors’ tastes and considerations though alto-
gether and without any preliminary consultation, each of them contributes to create this
overall picture of the place […].
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 79

Actors’ sociocultural frameworks overlap by virtue of being located in the same

geographic area, which exposes them to similar impulses from their surround-
ings. For example, by sharing a geographic marketplace, shopkeepers in a given
area automatically address the same audience,2 and it creates competition in the
LL that is closely connected to economic interests. Such a perspective is closely
related with Cenoz and Gorter’s (2009) discussion of the LL’s significance to real
economic processes, and this article stresses the link between economic markets
and the symbolism in linguistic marketplaces. In this context, Bourdieu’s (1991:
66) metaphor about the economics of linguistic exchanges becomes a literal
Linguistic exchange […] is also an economic exchange which is established within a
particular symbolic relation of power between a producer, endowed with a certain lin-
guistic capital, and a consumer (or a market), and which is capable of procuring a cer-
tain material or symbolic profit.

Even though his essay primarily addresses spoken language, the purpose in sit-
ing it here is to stress the dialectic between shopkeepers and potential customers
in the marketplace, which is intrinsically related to real economic exchanges. In
addition, Lefebvre discusses the connection between space, economy, and social
culture and suggests that “social space is produced and reproduced in connec-
tion with the forces of production” (Lefebvre 1991: 77). This perspective is of
importance for the study of LL, because in order to extract economic profit in
a district, the producers of linguistic tokens (i.e. the shopkeepers and owners)
need to be aware of the market in which the consumer identifies him- or herself.
In order to succeed economically, they must decipher their area’s local socio-
cultural code or, rather, its rules and regulations (Shohamy and Gorter 2009: 3)
with the LL acting as the visual interface between themselves and the consumers.
In the following investigation, the LLs of two separate districts will be examined
to compare how such sociocultural codes or rules are expressed in each of them.
To the end, the analysis will employ iconography, an analytic method commonly
used in art theory to interpret social and historical context. Iconography is based
on the idea that a work of art bears important qualities reflecting the social condi-
tions under which it was made. It is common in iconographic analyses to juxta-
pose different works of art to highlight their contextual differences and similarities

2 Even if shopkeepers address the same passers-by, they do not, of course, necessarily
address the same kind of customers, but they share the same physical or geographic
80 Karine Stjernholm

(D’Alleva 2005: 27–28) and to correlate the visual imagery with other (available)
cultural information that is pertinent to the reading of art (Preziosi 1998: 227). The
study of LL enables accessing the sociocultural trends, or context, of a given area
by projecting a sense of place that is more than the visual components but instead
combined the visual with the various sociocultural messages sent from authors to
their intended audiences through local signs. The visible expressions that are seen
as valuable in a specific context, can be said to reflect the ongoing social processes
and central values within that context. More specifically, signs relay the types of
ideas that are produced and reproduced at a given moment in a society. The vari-
ous components of a sign, such as design, name, symbolism and metaphor use,
are all representations of a man-made visual communication that springs from the
sociocultural contexts.
In art history, iconography is closely associated with art historian Panof-
sky who explains the ways in which artwork expresses sociocultural context as
In a work of art, “form” cannot be separated from “content”: the distribution of colour
and lines, light and shade, volumes and planes, however delightful as a visual spectacle,
must also be understood as carrying more-than-visual meaning (D’Alleva 2005: 21, after
Panofsky [1970: 205])

According to Panofsky, iconography has three levels. At the first level, viewers
carry out a basic formal analysis of the artwork. At the next, they identify the
motive before moving on to the third level, in which one deciphers the meaning
of the image. D’Alleva offers the following example: if one has a plastic object,
they will first identify the material, thereafter, its shape (let’s say a female figure).
Finally, they recognize the plastic woman as a Barbie doll, realizing its signifi-
cance as a popular toy since the 1950s and, perhaps, examining how the doll ex-
presses certain ideas about women’s bodies and their role in the society for which
it was made (D’Alleva 2005: 22).3
It is noteworthy that D’Alleva (2005) uses a commercial product to illus-
trate the iconographic art analysis, supporting the argument that signs in public
space reflect the sociocultural contexts in which these signs were produced.
As previously mentioned, a place is regulated by geographical-specific social
rules that make up the sociocultural frame acting upon authors as they choose

3 There is a discussion in art theory as to whether all these stages actually are a part of
the analysis, and especially the first level is debated (see e.g. Preziosi 1998: ch. 5) In
this article, I will not go deeply into this debate, but rather focus on how iconography
can be useful in LL analyses.
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 81

the style of their sign. Such rules thus play a significant role when LL is cre-
ated. Language is one example of those stylistic choices that are motivated by
stereotypes of readers, who form an essential part of the sociocultural frame
(Shohamy and Gorter 2009: 3). Authors follow what Spolsky (2009: 33) calls the
“presumed reader’s condition”, which assumes that they have an understand-
ing of their audience(s), or stereotypical reader(s), and more or less try to ad-
just its form and content accordingly. Remembering Panofsky’s opinion that
form and content form a unity, it is likely that language (including the choice of
fonts, letter sizes, store names, associated metaphors and symbolism) varies de-
pending on the sociocultural contexts and goods offered. This variation should
also be interpreted in the light of Bourdieu (2009 [1979]) who has shown how
taste distinctions and socio-­economic conditions in the population are closely
In the following analysis, the comparison of two districts will accentuate
the sociocultural differences between them, and the article highlights the
central role played by LL in imparting sociocultural messages to passers-by.
These messages contribute to molding the personality or the sense of these
places and support the notion that LL formation is in effect a structuration
process in its own right (Ben-Rafael 2009: 44). As noted in the introduction,
distinctions in the sense of the places examined here have similarities to social
processes that are well documented in globalization theory (Giddens 1990;
Robertson 1992; Eriksen 2008). As mentioned, the expressions disembedding
and re-embedding will be central in the analysis. Giddens (1990) describes
disembedding as a consequence of globalization whereby social relations are
taken out of local contexts and restructured, a process closely related to stand-
ardization, which will also figure prominently in this analysis. It will be argued
that disembedding and standardization constitute the main trends of the LL
in Majorstua, located in the western part of Oslo, as opposed to those found
to the east in Grünerløkka. In the latter area it is more useful to interpret the
LL in light of the term re-embedding, often expressed as glocalization, which
expresses a new focus on local identity or, rather, a globally re-embedding
trend to the local (see e.g. Robertson 1992).

3.  Points of focus

Spolsky (2009: 32) problematizes the issue of where to carry out an LL investiga-
tion and argues that, based on the fact that downtown areas vary in their pre-
ferred languages, an imprudent selection of streets can potentially lead to biased
and misleading results. This argumentation needs to be addressed. First, an LL
82 Karine Stjernholm

analysis presupposes an area with a certain density of signs, which requires a

certain density of people frequenting the area, and therefore also involves socio-
cultural exchanges. Taking into account these local social conditions, any given
place with a certain number of signs is of possible interest to an LL researcher.
Second, variation between different areas highlights the significance of LL analy-
sis in that disparity between place-specific tendencies in LLs is itself an argu-
ment for conducting an LL analysis. Ben-Rafael et al. (2006) have shown that by
comparing a range of places or districts in a city, it may be possible to reveal sig-
nificant sociocultural differences between them (also Huebner 2006; Hult 2009).
The following section presents an overview of the two districts from which my
data were collected.

3.1.  Places of investigation

Majorstua and Grünerløkka are two areas in Oslo’s inner central core. Major-
stua is located on the west side of Oslo, while Grünerløkka in east. Both districts
have long histories as local meeting places (Kjeldstadli 1990: 130), and apart
from the city center, they are two of the city’s most important shopping districts
or, in other words, “the main pedestrian arteries” (Spolsky 2009: 32) where
there are shops and where crowds gather also outside normal business hours
(Ben-Rafael 2009: 41). Figure 1 below illustrates Oslo’s inner core and the loca-
tions of these two districts, and the pedestrian arteries explored in the analysis.
Oslo has a long history of social division whereby “[t]he division between
east and west was a division between two social classes, two worlds […]”
(Kjeldstadli 1990: 130, author’s translation). The backdrop for this division was
the industrial revolution in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the new in-
dustrial areas grew near the power supplies of the river Akerselva. As a result,
Oslo’s blue-collar residents made their homes by the river in the east, while the
bourgeois population settled predominantly in the west. This development led
to the division of the city (Kjeldstadli 1990: 130) and signaled the start of the
social stratification that can still be seen in social statistics, as Table 1 below
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 83

Figure 1: Oslo’s inner central areas and the pedestrian streets of Majorstua
and Grünerløkka4

Table 1: Social stratification of Majorstua and Grünerløkka567

Majorstua (west) Grünerløkka (east)

Residents (2011)4 51,120 47,256
Average annual income (2010)5 71,900€ 40,100€
Average housing price per m2 (2010)6 7,100€ 6,100€

The analysis in this article was conducted during the spring and summer of 2010,
around the time when the data in Table 1 were collected. Majorstua and Grüner-
løkka have an almost equal number of residents, but the average annual income in

4 Source: maps.google.com, author’s modifications.

5 Statistical Yearbook of Oslo (hereafter SYO) (2011: 36).
6 www.utviklings-og-kompetanseetaten.oslo.kommune.no/getfile.php/utviklings-%20
Oslostatistikken/Inntekt/inntekt2010/inntekt08.05.11.htm (For residents aged 30–59,
July 19th, 2012).
7 finn.no (September 2010).
84 Karine Stjernholm

Majorstua is considerably higher than in the eastern district, and this is also reflect-
ed in the average housing prices that are higher in Majorstua than in Grünerløkka.
Majorstua has long been a commercial area, but Grünerløkka’s shopping dis-
trict was severely affected by the recession of the 1980s–90s, during which time
many shops were forced out of business (Børrud 2005: 278). Over the past dec-
ades, Grünerløkka has undergone a significant gentrification process and seen
a decrease in its working class population (Aspen 2005). Today, the district is
dominated by people in their mid-20/30s whose lifestyles are urban and whose
frequent meeting places are coffee shops and parks (Børrud 2005: 297). Grüner-
løkka has changed significantly, and the gentrification process has brought
Grünerløkka closer to Majorstua (Bråthen et al. 2007).
In addition to the gentrification, mobility plays a considerable role in Oslo today.
It is a city with highly mobile population, and some 25 per cent of Oslo’s residents
in 2005 had moved to the city within five years (Bråthen et al. 2007). Additionally,
immigration to Norway plays a considerable role in Oslo. Aure et al. (2011: 44) com-
pare two studies from 1972 and 2008 and show that the greatest change in people’s
motivation for moving within Norway was brought about by the increased emphasis
on “place” and “environment”. They also stress the connection between motivation
for moving and values connected to individualism, increased focus on leisure and
consumption, and how these factors are connected to identity or choice of lifestyle.
The division of the city of Oslo is also evident in the spoken varieties used there.
Historically, the dialect in Oslo has been divided into two geographical varieties of
the east and west sides (Hanssen et al. 1977: 7–8). The eastern variety is principally a
Norwegian dialect, while the western way of speaking has its roots in Danish. These
differences have however diminished significantly over the past century. Today, the
Oslo dialect can generally be regarded as a single speech variety with several distinc-
tive features used to mark either an eastern or a western identity (Stjernholm 2013).
This article will show that sociocultural and political ideologies are components
that contribute to how the western and eastern sides of today’s Oslo are socially
constructed. The local and national newspapers also contribute to this process by
repeatedly focusing on the social divisions. Aftenposten, a national newspaper, is
one of the biggest conservative publications in Oslo, and it continuously focuses on
this issue, publishing headlines such as “Differences in Wages Increasing between
West and East”8 and “This is the Divided City”.9 In 2011, the newspaper, Dagsavisen,

8 www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/oslo/Inntektsforskjellene-ker-mellom-vest-og-st-
6681649.html#.TzjcdSOpSpc (October 27th, 2011, author’s translation).
9 www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article4144477.ece#.TzjcMCOpSpc (Article about
school results in Oslo, June 14th, 2011, author’s translation).
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 85

which was previously published by the Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet),10 ran a series
of articles on “The Divided City”11 that led to a vibrant debate in several media
outlets. In addition, the national broadcasting network, NRK, has included an ex-
tensive graphic presentation of the division of Oslo in their Internet pages.12
During the spring of 2010, the Oslo Test (Stjernholm 2013), an online survey
of language variation in Oslo, showed a strong connection between place and re-
ported language variation. The survey amassed approximately 50,000 responses
from Oslo’s residents and revealed that numerous people in Oslo still experience
their city as divided, with both place and identity figuring as important factors.
Lastly, my own ethnographic observations also support the view that there
are considerable differences between Oslo’s east and west sides. I was born and
raised in this city, and my relationship to the city is an asset in this context inso-
far as it has provided me with inside knowledge of its culture. At the same time, I
am fully aware that my interpretation of the data might appear overly influenced
by my own personal views. My connections to Grünerløkka and Majorstua are
however balanced as I see myself equally attached to both sides of the city. Due
to their central locations, the two districts are metaphors representing in general
the eastern and western sides of Oslo. Thus, the sociocultural differences be-
tween these single locations may be interpreted to support the view of the city as
being divided between its east and west ends.
According to Spolsky’s (2009: 33) discussion of the presumed reader’s con-
dition, understood here as the shopkeepers’ comprehension of their audience
and subsequent attempts to adjust their communication towards potential cus-
tomers, the situation in Oslo leads to the hypothesis that if many shopkeepers
have different expectations about their audiences, and as such different ways of
communicating with them, we can expect the analysis to reveal significant dif-
ferences between the LLs in these areas, a finding that is of great importance for
the sense of these places.

3.2.  Methodological considerations

The number of signs in a given area of investigation can be overwhelming,
and it may be challenging to select on which items to focus. Huebner (2009:
70–71) discusses this problem of including all possible signs in an LL analysis

10 snl.no/Dagsavisen (August 16th, 2012).

11 www.dagsavisen.no/nyemeninger/alle_meninger/cat1003/subcat1016/thread
143516/#post_143516 (September 18th 2012).
12 www.nrk.no/nyheter/norge/1.7996583 (August 16th, 2012).
86 Karine Stjernholm

and argues for the classification of signs into genres. My methodological solu-
tion, in addition to identifying relevant districts for exploration, has been to
focus primarily on shop names. This focus is based on two assumptions. First,
compared to other signs, it is likely that names play a significant role in the
economic success of a store. The second assumption follows from the first,
positing that the store’s name, and the sign on which it appears, are often made
out to be more consistent than other signs in the LL. For example, sales posters
have a shorter lifespan and may more easily be replaced and (re)adapted ac-
cording to evolving needs, whereas choosing a successful store name demands
a certain level of effort and is typically meant to be a relatively permanent
In addition to having photographed all storefronts in the streets highlight-
ed in Figure 1, the analysis also includes an ethnographic component because
I have personally spoken with many of the shopkeepers and corresponded via
e-mail with one of them. The analysis is also supported by recordings from a
radio program on the topic of LL in Oslo. During the fall of 2010, the national
broadcasting company of Norway aired a segment about my research in which
several of the shopkeepers were interviewed, giving answers to support my own
As the analysis will show, there are salient differences in the types of stores
present in Grünerløkka and Majorstua.13 It is therefore not only signage that is
place-dependent, but also how different areas attract different kinds of stores.
This is also reflected in my argumentation that everything concerning the style
of the store’s sign, as well as the goods offered inside, will vary by context, and
that it is important for shopkeepers to be aware of the preferences of the po-
tential customers in their local market. This context-dependent nature of shop
names has also been pointed out by Blommaert (2010: 29–30) who exemplifies
his statement with the chocolate store Nina’s Derrière in Tokyo. While the literal
meaning of the name is subordinated in Japan, it would not likely find much
success in France. It is the indexical value of French that is salient in this context;
to simplify, to be successful, the name needs to be suited for local sociocultural
conditions. Even though the cultural differences between Japan and France are
quite obvious, it is likely that also cultural differences between different districts
in the same city are expressed through signs.

13 I will note here that the LL is a dynamic topic of research, and this analysis will there-
fore only be a presentation of a snapshot of Oslo. As I discussed in Stjernholm (2013),
Oslo is rather a film than a foto, a metaphor used by Bråthen et al. (2007: 36).
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 87

4.  A quantitative approach to visibility

This section will introduce the quantitative data set. At the time of investigation,
there were 199 shops facing the main shopping streets in Majorstua, compared
to 151 in Grünerløkka. Table 2 shows the shop names categorized according to
the various languages.
As illustrated in Table 2, there are two main differences in the language distri-
bution between the two districts. First, the use of English in store names is much
higher in Majorstua (30.2 per cent) than in Grünerløkka (16.5 per cent). Second,
as much as 45 per cent of the signs in Grünerløkka are in Norwegian, compared
to 29.6 per cent in Majorstua. The figures mean that the commercial landscape
is dominated by languages that Norwegians are likely to understand, and those
languages that are not obligatory in Norwegian schools, such as Italian, are not
widely visible.
The quantitative categorization presented in the table is potentially challenging
since there is not necessarily a straightforward division of languages in each case;
instead, there is some form of cultural or linguistic hybridization in the names.
One tendency in the material seems to be avoiding one specific language refer-
ence, which might in turn be interpreted as a neutrality strategy. By avoiding spe-
cific language references and resorting to hybridization or multi-referencing, the
shopkeepers can ensure a wider audience. Similar findings have been document-
ed in several LL analyses before this one (e.g. Backhaus 2007, Blommaert 2010).
In many instances, it may be particularly difficult to decide on a primary language
reference since their linguistic content is usually open to various interpretations.
This issue will be discussed further in the qualitative approach in section 5.

Table 2: The store names by languages

Majorstua (west) Grünerløkka (east)

Norwegian 29.6% (59) 45% (68)
English 30.2% (60) 16.5% (25)
Proper names 15.1% (30) 9.9% (15)
Italian 5.6% (11) 3.3% (5)
Fantasy names 3% (6) 4.6% (7)
French 3.5% (7) 2.7% (4)
Latin 2% (4) 2% (3)
Hybrid - 4% (6)
Spanish 1% (2) 2.7% (4)
Bilingual, Norwegian/English 0.5% (1) 2.7% (4)
Swedish - 1.3% (2)
88 Karine Stjernholm

Majorstua (west) Grünerløkka (east)

Bilingual, French/English 0.5% (1) -
Uncertain 9% (18) 5.3% (8)
Total 100% (199) 100% (151)

The Hybrid category consists of names that are impossible to position in a lan-
guage category, like the name no52.no, which will also be discussed further in
section 5. Uncertain names are difficult to put in a single language group, such as
the grocery chain, Kiwi (as in kiwi fruit) since the letter w is not commonly used
in Norwegian spelling and may therefore be regarded as foreign. The category
Bilingual (Norwegian-English) refers to names with both English and Norwe-
gian content, for instance, TilBords Factory Outlet, where TilBords (at the ta-
ble) is Norwegian, and Factory Outlet is in English. Fantasy refers to names with
creative spelling, like Champoo (a combination of the words Champagne and
shampoo; the Norwegian spelling would be sjampanje14 and sjampo) and qba, an
imaginative spelling of kuba (the cube), a name that will be examined further in
Section 5. The other major European languages (French, Italian and Spanish) are
all represented in both Majorstua and Grünerløkka, but with low frequencies.
Interestingly, a large part of Oslo’s population possesses language skills that are
not represented in the LL. This stems from the significant increases in immigration
from non-Western countries in particular to Oslo’s east end (Bråthen et al. 2007:
54–55). These immigrant languages are not, with the exception of one or two prop-
er names, incorporated into these LLs. The results demonstrate the low degree to
which non-western languages are admissible for marketing purposes in Majorstua
and Grünerløkka. In Grünerløkka for instance, roughly one fifth of the popula-
tion have immigrant backgrounds primarily from Africa or Asia (SYO 2011, 44),
yet from a commercial standpoint, languages from these continents are practically
non-existent. Urban researchers in Oslo have questioned this tendency, pointing
out that many traces of Grünerløkka’s role as an immigrant neighborhood appear
to be partially wiped out (Børrud 2005: 288). Lanza and Woldemariam (2009) argue
that the presence of some languages in LL, along with the absence of others, pro-
vides an ideological message as to the value and priority of certain languages over
others. The language choices found in my own material seem to represent the pres-
tigious side of Norwegian multilingualism, whereby the low value placed on immi-
grant languages appears to warrant their exclusion from these linguistic markets. As

14 In Norwegian it is optional whether to use the spelling Champagne (with an initial

capital letter) or sjampanje.
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 89

Shohamy and Gorter (2009: 2) write, “[t]he absence of languages, especially in areas
which are politically and socially contested, is important data to be studied.” Fur-
thermore, Jaworski and Yeung (2010: 154) note that by drawing linguistic bounda-
ries, it is possible to define and exclude those who do not belong to a society. After
a broad study of Norwegian official texts, Sæter and Ruud (2005: 50) concluded
that the symbiosis between political decisions, culture, and the economic market
serves to create sharply delineated landscapes for distinct groups in urban space.
As an illustration, Grønland, which is one of Oslo’s most multicultural districts, has
an immigrant population accounting for 39.4 per cent of residents.15 Yet, accord-
ing to an LL analysis conducted in that same area, African and Asian languages
are only accounted for in 13.4 per cent of the local signs and most of the instances
were either handwritten notes or a parts of shop or coffee house names (Berezkina,
2013). Moreover, the language on permanent signs was different from less perma-
nent signs, and “the use of non-Western immigrant languages seems to be restricted
to a highly unofficial part of the linguistic landscape of the area” (Berezkina, 2013).
It is reasonable to interpret the lack of non-Western languages in Oslo in the
light of the economics of linguistic exchanges since these exchanges, according
to Bourdieu (1991: 66), are established within a particular symbolic relation of
power. Considering Table 2 (and Berezkina’s 2013 findings), shopkeepers seem
to be aware of power dynamics. Again, Bourdieu’s use of metaphors is strik-
ing in connection with the findings, as “[a] language is worth what those who
speak it are worth […]” (Bourdieu 1977: 652). In this context, there is no need
to interpret Bourdieu’s statement as a metaphor because the connection between
language attitudes and real economics is clearly visible. It is essential for shop-
keepers to understand the market in which the consumer identifies him- or her-
self in order to extract any real economic profit from it, a structuration principle
also called “presentation of self ” (Ben-Rafael 2009: 46). Signs are an important
part of shopkeepers’ marketing strategies, which, if successful, will yield real eco-
nomic results. As a result, the shop will be able to maintain its position in the
local market, and be a more or less permanent fixture in the local environment.
High levels of such success may also lead to the expansion of a business, which in
turn could result in the shop taking up more physical space in the area, making
it even more visible. Large, permanent stores can eventually become landmarks
within a district as part of a developmental power spiral. As such, the dialectic

15 www.utviklings-og-kompetanseetaten.oslo.kommune.no/getfile.php/utviklings-%20
(September 4th, 2012).
90 Karine Stjernholm

situation between shopkeepers and consumers serves to structure and mold the
LL at the same time as context (i.e. the sense of place) is achieved, thus (re)
producing social trends and attitudes. This structuring process will necessarily
affect the status of the languages involved, leading to the deterioration of those
with too low a currency for the market at hand. Similarly, the results of Landry
and Bourhis’ (1997) investigation of ethnolinguistic vitality show that the display
of language in space is a major indication of language attitudes.
All in all, it can be questioned whether a quantitative categorization like this is a
useful way to analyze shop names considering how difficult it is to sort them by lan-
guage. However, as the discussion here shows, a quantitative categorization is a useful
way to visualize which languages are visible in the LL. In the following section, I will
take a qualitative perspective to the communication and marketing strategies in the
shop signs of these two districts. I will make use of iconography and the concepts of
disembedding and re-embedding to understand the role that LL play in molding the
personality or the sense of these two places.

5.  A qualitative approach

In Majorstua the shopping area is dominated by chain stores, and the district
illustrates an international trend towards what Leeman and Modan (2010: 185)
call the commodification of culture and commercialization of public space. The
majority of the newly set establishments in this area are global chains, and in-
dependent stores, according to my ethnographic interviews, have difficulties in
surviving in this context due to increasing rental prices.16 Spolsky (2009) has em-
phasized the differences between local and global signs in the urban space, stress-
ing that the existence of global signs is relevant, not primarily choice of language.
Importantly, the omnipresence of global signs at Majorstua is a dominant factor
in distinguishing it from Grünerløkka (cf. the proportions of English in Table 2).
In this qualitative analysis, I will illustrate how the LL trends contribute to create
highly different senses of place. This is done by applying methods from iconogra-
phy by juxtaposing two similar establishments from the two districts.

5.1.  Global and local

Benetton (Figure 2) is an example of an international chain store at Majorstua. The
chain has 6,400 stores in 120 countries worldwide,17 and these stores are recognizable
through standardization. The chain uses colors as the main item to be recognized

16 Personal communication with shop keepers in Majorstua (June 28th, 2010).

17 www.benettongroup.com/group/business/worldwide-presence (September 4th 2012).
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 91

and employs the slogan United Colors of Benetton.18 Their green logo is familiar to
most shoppers, and the interior appears to be more or less similar across locations.
The company’s Norwegian agent explained that Benetton tries to avoid verbal com-
munication, opting instead for more visual forms of advertising, and echoing the
hypothesis that linguistic expressions on signs are only one part of the style choices
made by and for a business.19 When verbal communication is needed in posters
or promotional material, English is the language used. Their stores are completely
standardized, which contributes to reducing the amount of resources necessary for
each venue, making them more economically profitable.
Standardization is clearly an important sales strategy, and standardization process-
es disembed these stores from their physical locations as they are adapted to a global
market and lifted out of their “situatedness” (Giddens 1990: 53). This does not neces-
sarily mean that all globalization means unification; according to Blommaert (2010:
24), “[e]ven if similar features occur all over the globe, the local histories which they
enter can be fundamentally different and so create very different effects, meanings
and functions.” The company on their web pages announces that when designing new
stores, they are “each time recognizing and respecting the value of the local culture”.20
This does not seem an insurmountable task as the company has managed to find a way
to standardize the stores in a way that allows them to fit all local environments. Even
if the effect on the local site may vary, the most affordable method for chain stores is
likely to find strategies that are able to adapt to each and every relevant location.

Figure 2: Benetton

18 www.benettongroup.com/ (September 4th, 2012).

19 E-mail correspondence with Benetton’s Norwegian agent, Linda Lorentzen (May 5th,
20 www.benettongroup.com/group/business/stores (September 4th, 2012).
92 Karine Stjernholm

This is visible in Benetton’s signage (Figure 2), where the sales posters in the
windows, produced centrally by their head office, are written in English. Eng-
lish, according to their Norwegian spokesperson, is the language used in all the
countries where Benetton is represented.
According to Cenoz and Gorter (2009: 58), the spread of English has been
a substantial part of LL’s economic dimension. For Benetton the standardiza-
tion of their business and their use of English appear to have a clear economic
motivation, evidencing once more the connection between real economy and
the economy of linguistic exchange. Importantly, in this context, the use of
English does not necessarily imply that the Norwegian language has a lower
value in the linguistic marketplace of Majorstua, but rather that it is simply
not profitable enough for international chains to use local linguistic resources.
Furthermore, at Majorstua, English does not evoke any negative associations
in Majorstua.

Figure 3: Benetton fall/winter campaign 2010

It is part of Benetton’s concept to have a global rather than local profile, as seen in
Figure 3, which shows a poster from their 2010 fall/winter campaign in which the
brand advertises itself explicitly as a global company with the slogan: It’s:my:time
Global Fashion Community. The company does not necessarily exclude local
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 93

languages, but they do choose to employ a language that is understood wher-

ever their goods are offered. If they were to print sales posters in every language
represented by the various countries in which they promote themselves, it would
entail significantly higher production costs and logistical challenges. Indeed, it
would demand considerable resources to produce posters linguistically adapted
to all the chain’s many branches, to ensure knowledge about local conditions, to
avoid spelling errors, adapt to local customs, and so forth. The use of English
makes Benetton standardized to fit in everywhere.
I will return to how the omnipresence of English among these major actors
has impacted the symbolic value of English in the LL when discussing the obser-
vation related to the Norwegian bakery chain United Bakeries below. According
to Blommaert (2010: 49), English is the language that defines upwardly mobile
trajectories; in addition to the economic argument, the use of English on Benet-
ton’s posters also communicates their role as a participant in an aspiring global
community. As such, branding becomes a form of identity construction, posi-
tioning the enterprise as a global actor, which, in this context, may be read as a
positive outcome.
Finally, it is noteworthy how Figure  2 also shows a sales poster written in
Norwegian. It illustrates a less permanent, locally produced sign that represents
the language of the local author. Someone in this store has written a special offer
in Norwegian, and this particular sales poster is directed solely to local passers-
by in a Norwegian neighborhood. So despite the fact that their global profile is
taken care of and imposed by their head office upon local actors, there is room
for local communicative acts that may be distinct from the official strategies.

5.2.  Balancing between global and local

In contrast to Majorstua’s chain stores, Grünerløkka is characterized by an abun-
dance of independent shops. One of these, no52.no (Figure 4), is a trendy fash-
ion store located in unit number 52 of the district’s main street, Thorvald Meyers
gate. As such, the name explicitly links the store to its address, where the build-
ing number is clearly visible on the outside wall. The use of such explicitly local
references can be interpreted as a reaction to the commercialization of areas like
Majorstua, and linked to what is described in globalization theory as a global
re-embedding process. Re-embedding is viewed as a response to the aforemen-
tioned disembedding, and can be briefly explained as a consequence or need for
distinctiveness in an increasingly globalized world (Eriksen 2008). It is closely
connected to glocalization (global localization), a term used to describe a new
focus on the local as seen globally (Robertson 1992: 174).
94 Karine Stjernholm

Figure 4: no52.no

Like no52.no, several shops in Grünerløkka have names directly expressing their
local conditions. Two examples may be found in Ryes (Rye’s), a bar located at Olaf
Ryes Plass (Olaf Rye’s Square), and qba (the cube), a creative take on the name
Kuba, which is a well-known place in Grünerløkka (q is pronounced /ku/ in Nor-
wegian). For the bar qba, the spelling warrants particular attention in that it can
be seen to represent the way the Oslo’s eastern spoken dialect inflects definite
singular nouns, with the suffix -a, as opposed to the traditional western variety
which would inflect this noun with -en, as in kuben. For instance, Stjernholm
(2013), reporting the results from the Oslo Test mentioned above, shows that the
respondents from Grünerløkka prefer the suffix -a over -en. I interpret the nam-
ing of this bar to be a glocalizing feature itself, as its pronunciation is also con-
tested21 and therefore reflects local linguistic circumstances in several ways. Note
also how visual, linguistic, and local features are all woven together in this name.
For Benetton, the sign’s style was part of a greater unity of profiling features, while
qba is compounded by linguistic and visual features, such as the q, which reflects
the sign’s sociocultural frame and evokes the local pronunciation. To illustrate

21 It is contested if this name is supposed to be pronounced with toneme 1 or 2.

Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 95

how the sociocultural frame is woven together with the style for no52.no’s sign,
I will return to iconography, as outlined in section 2, interpreting the sign in a
broader cultural context and discussing reasons for why precisely this sign was
chosen at its particular time and in its context (see D’Alleva 2005: 21).
A formal interpretation of the shop name no52.no reveals simply a sign with
letters on it. At the next level of analysis, these letters are recognized as the name
of the shop, as are the words Velkommen (welcome) and Grünerløkka. An even
broader interpretation of the sign reveals its context, that is, the name in connec-
tion with the store’s location in unit number 52, while the placement of Grüner-
løkka on the sign explicitly stresses the local once more. Moreover, no52.no can
be recognized as a domain name, expressing shopping possibilities on the Inter-
net as well.
The first abbreviation in no52.no makes the name visually symmetrical with
the domain name no, yet, as an abbreviation, it can be interpreted in several
ways. Number in Norwegian was in earlier times shortened to no, which lends
the name a historical flavor at the same time as the word also references the cur-
rent English abbreviation for number. However, the name is not totally ambigu-
ous; number as a concept is the most obvious interpretation of the abbreviation,
independent of what language it is meant to represent. The name can be read
as a hybrid between English and Norwegian, and further between the local and
global, as seen through its visual design. By highlighting ambiguity and hybridity
in the name and adapting its visual expression, the shopkeeper does not indicate
a preference for one language over the other but rather balances between local
and global. The aim here is to promote the online store, with all the global po-
tentials, but at the same time the entrepreneur emphasizes explicit references to
the store’s actual physical location. The shopkeeper was interviewed for the radio
program mentioned in section 3.2, where she underscored how important it was
for her to make her store fit in with its specific neighborhood. She also explained
that she had previously owned a store in Oslo’s central downtown, and this estab-
lishment had an English name, a choice that was not an option when she opened
her current store at Grünerløkka.
Taking into consideration the significant impact that the economic recession
of the 1980s–90s had on Grünerløkka’s commercial sector, and the fact that rapid
changes over the past few decades have transformed the area into an attractive
market for investments, the glocalizing trend in shop names can be considered
a sound communicative and branding strategy geared towards re-creating the
area as appealing to investors, and ensuring its continued economic growth.
The consequence for Grünerløkka’s sense of place is that the area is left with an
atmosphere or impression of being more like a neighborhood, as opposed to
96 Karine Stjernholm

Majorstua whose sense of place seems more disconnected or disembedded from

local city-dwellers. Put simply, the residents of Grünerløkka seem more directly
reflected in the shopping area.

5.3.  United Bakeries and Kontrastè

Returning to Majorstua, we find United Bakeries (Figure 5), an expanding
Oslo-based bakery chain. The choice of English as the promotional language
is not obvious for this store, and may be interpreted as inspiration taken from
the preferred language of greater international companies, such as Benetton. As
mentioned in section 5.1, the prevalence of English among these major actors
has affected its symbolic value, which may be one of the reasons why smaller
stores also choose to use the language, thus emulating the sales strategies of more
prominent chains. Stores with a much smaller degree of global orientation are of-
ten seen to adopt English as a marketing language and choose an English name.

Figure 5: United Bakeries

Section 4 discussed the fact that little value is placed on non-western languages
in the linguistic marketplace of these districts, yet at Majorstua it is obvious that
English is in fact very highly valued. It is likely that strategies employed by inter-
national companies are easily interpreted as successful, especially if we take into
consideration Blommaert’s (2010: 49) definition of English as the language that
defines upwardly mobile trajectories. The observation of United Bakeries is an
example of how strategic and symbolic choices in the advertising of major chains
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 97

also have consequences for Norwegian stores with a more local orientation. By
using this strategy, the name United Bakeries actually contributes to Majorstua’s
trend of disembedding.
Kontrastè, a Grünerløkka restaurant (Figure 6), has a hybrid name that carries
references to both the French language and re-embedding processes. Kontrast,
written without an e, is a Norwegian word borrowed from the French language; the
final e with the accent lends the name even clearer French connotations. However,
contrast in French is in fact written with a c and should either have an acute accent
(verbal use) or have no accent at all (noun). In the case of Kontrastè, the accent is
indexical in itself; the name is a hybrid between French and Norwegian, and since
this is a restaurant, it bears associations to French cuisine, with all its connotations.
Without committing to either French or Norwegian, the owner manages to
communicate Frenchness at the same time as it is possible to pronounce the
name as a Norwegian word. Again, Blommaert’s (2010: 29) analysis of the choco-
late store, Nina’s derrière, is relevant. The author points out that this name is only
barely French, and has in fact no linguistic French meaning; its significance is
merely semiotic since derriere is “a word whose origins lie in the stock vocabu-
lary of the language we conventionally call French” (Blommaert 2010: 29). Here,
the Frenchness of the name has an emblematic function. The motivation for
choosing a name like this one must be motivated by a wish to communicate cul-
tural stereotypes. As Kelly-Holmes (2000: 67) posits “it is unimportant whether
the advertisee understands the foreign words in an advertisement so long as it
calls up the cultural stereotypes of the country which the language is associated.”

Figure 6: Kontrastè
98 Karine Stjernholm

The contrasting of the final è in the design makes it easy to pronounce as a

regular Norwegian word, you can simply pronounce the word as the Norwegian
Kontrast. Once more, it becomes apparent that visual design and linguistic con-
tent are tightly interwoven, with the references in the name playing a central part
in this unity. Kontrastè refers to the unique elements of French cuisine, while also
expressing a dual reference to both French and Norwegian. Since it is important
for this neighborhood, in contrast to Majorstua, to be associated with the imme-
diate environment, the so-called Norwegian element of the spelling ensures that
patrons’ connection to the local is maintained.

5.4.  Fromagerie and Birkelundens lille franske ostebutikk

Finally, I will discuss tendencies in the naming of independent stores at Majorstua
as exemplified by the exclusive cheese store, Fromagerie (Figure 7), a name that
in no way communicates the store’s attachment to the local area. The motivation
for choosing a French name for a store like this is clearly to communicate French
cultural stereotypes similar to those evoked by Kontrastè. Fromagerie clearly refers
to the world-famous French cheese culture and industry. In addition to its evident
symbolic value and the fact that fromagerie means cheese store, the emblematic ef-
fect is strengthened by the choice to use a French name, which enhances the own-
er’s professional authenticity by signaling familiarity with such a renowned cheese
culture. Except for the brand names of some cheeses, the signs on the front side-
walk are written in Norwegian, just as with the signs outside the Benetton store.
Figure 7: Fromagerie
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 99

Like Majorstua, Grünerløkka has a cheese store with a clear French pro-
file; only this one has a Norwegian name: Birkelundens lille franske ostebutikk
(­Figure  8) (English: The little French cheese store in Birkelunden). While this
store also expresses Frenchness, it still maintains its connection to the local area
through two strategies. First, the name makes direct reference to the place where
it is situated, namely Birkelunden, a popular park in Grünerløkka; second, the
name is in Norwegian.
The language on the posters and signs outside Birkelundens lille franske os-
tebutikk is similar to those outside Fromagerie, as they are also predominantly
written in Norwegian, with the exception of some French brand names or catch-
phrases that most Norwegians already know, such as crêperie and Brie, which
contribute to the credibility of the store’s “Frenchness”. The shop has a hybrid
appearance between French and Norwegian, seeming to balance the need for au-
thenticity from both nationalities that it represents; it is French enough to claim
reliability and expertise on French cheese, while it is Norwegian enough to fit
into the Grünerløkka market.
Figure 8: Birkelundens lille franske ostebutikk

6.  Discussion and conclusions

The focus of this article has been on how the sense of place is expressed through
the LL in two districts in Oslo, Majorstua and Grünerløkka. They were chosen to
represent the west and the east sides of the city. Oslo has a historical background
100 Karine Stjernholm

of division wherein the east side has been known to be populated by blue-collar
populations, while the west tends to be associated with the bourgeois crowd.
Even though some of the social differences seem to be leveling out, they are still
visible in social statistics, and Oslo’s identity as a divided city is still of vital im-
portance (Stjernholm 2013).
In my analysis, the concept of sense of place was explored as a structuring
force. While both districts have been absorbed by capitalism, they seem to attract
a different kind of stores, a phenomenon which has clearly contributed to the
variability in the LL. This difference can also be read as a divergence in expecta-
tions related to customers in the areas. As regards to the LL, it may be seen in
relation to the “presumed reader’s condition” (Spolsky 2009: 33), meaning that
a sign’s authors have a certain concept of their audience and more or less try to
adjust the signs accordingly. These differences in the stores and in the signage
between the east and the west sides might then be interpreted as an expression of
different views about the type of customers who frequent these areas. Shopkeep-
ers in Majorstua and Grünerløkka evidently have differing expectations about
their audiences, who, in turn, have different expectations as to the stores they
prefer to visit. Such a relationship or dialectic situation between the local shop-
keepers and their audiences can be characterized as a structuration process, a
key component shaping the sense of a place.
In Oslo’s case, the differences in the sense of place have been brought about
by the sociocultural stratification. While it should be recognized that my find-
ings can indeed contribute to maintaining the notion of Oslo as a divided city,
these sociocultural differences are clearly visible in the social statistics of these
two districts. For instance, Section 3.1 discussed the high level of mobility within
Oslo’s population and referred to a study on individuals’ motivations for moving.
A study by Aure et al. (2011) highlight that the influence of place and environ-
ment have clearly become more pertinent during the last four decades when in-
dividuals make decisions on where to move and settle in. In light of my findings
on the LL, it is likely that preferences for a place make up an important part
of the structuration process in Oslo, whereby people’s expectations about place
are maintained through their shopping preferences. These expectations about a
place may also be significant for the spoken language in Oslo. The Oslo dialect
has traditionally two varieties, but the differences between these varieties seem
to have decreased. This process was already observed over a century ago (Lars-
en 1907: 14), but the leveling between the variants is still an on-going process
(Stjernholm 2013). In this process I hold that the notion of a place, the identity
connected to different parts of Oslo, has a conserving effect on the spoken lan-
guage, and the sense of a place is central for its identity.
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 101

In addition to maintaining the sociocultural content of an environment by

being central to its sense of place, this article shows that LLs also reveal another
kind of segregation in Oslo. As shown in the quantitative analysis, Grünerløkka’s
high concentration of non-western immigrants remains invisible in the district’s
LL, a finding that may also be interpreted as part of the structuration process
above. If shopkeepers feel that non-western languages have too little value in the
linguistic marketplace (see Bourdieu 1991), they will likely try to avoid the use
of these languages.
The qualitative analysis introduces iconography as an analytic method for
LL research, a framework generally used to interpret visual art. Through this
method, the analysis has aimed to highlight how linguistic features are inter-
twined with the general visual aspects of signs. In iconography it is important to
show the centrality of form and content when interpreting the context of visual
expression. The context read from the LL in Majorstua and Grünerløkka is that
international expressions, particularly in English, constitute the main trend on
the west side of town, while the opposite is true for the east; in Grünerløkka, the
tendency is for the LL to express a close connection to the local environment.
The above discussion connects these differences, and their impact on the sense
of place, to trends described in social theory as disembedding and re-embedding
(Giddens 1990; Robertson 1992; Eriksen 2008). The LL in Majorstua primar-
ily consists of signs that appear disembedded from the immediate community,
while the majority of signs at Grünerløkka focus on local references. This is evi-
dent both in the choice of a name and in frequent use of Norwegian, which thus
create what could be described as glocalizing or re-embedding trends. While
large international chain stores like H&M, Zara, and Benetton dominate the
streets in Majorstua and gives the area a global sense of disembeddedness from
the local neighborhood, Norwegian names with explicit local references ensure
that the sense of Grünerløkka is embedded to the place-specific environment.

Aspen, Jonny. 2005. Gentrifisering som kulturell diskurs. In Jonny Aspen (ed.).
By og byliv i endring. Studier av byrom og handlingsrom i Oslo, 121–150. Oslo:
Scandinavian Academic Press.
Aure, Marit, Bjørn Langslet and Kjetil Sørlie. 2011. Flyttemotiver og bostedsvalg.
Nye muligheter til å forstå norske bo- og flytteprosesser. PLAN. Tidsskrift for
samfunnsplanlegging, bolig og byplan og regional utvikling 5, 42–48.
Backhaus, Peter. 2007. Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban
Multilingualism in Tokyo. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
102 Karine Stjernholm

Ben-Rafael, Eliezer. 2009. A sociological approach to the study of linguistic land-

scapes. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Ex-
panding the Scenery, 25–39. New York: Routledge.
Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad Hasan Amara and Nira
Trumper-Hecht. 2006. Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of pub-
lic space. The case of Israel. International Journal of Multilingualism 3:1, 7–31.
Berezkina, Maimu 2013. Lingvistisk landskap i et av Oslos flerkulturelle områder.
Målblomar til Margit. Veneskrift til Margit Harsson på 70-årsdagen 9. juni
2013. Oslo: University of Oslo.
Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 2009 [1979]. La Distinction: Critique Sociale du Jugement. Par-
is: Les Editions de Minuit.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. The economics of linguistic exchanges. Social Science
Information 16, 645–668.
Bråthen, Magne, Anne Britt Djuve, Tor Dølvik, Kåre Hagen, Gudmund Hernes,
and Roy A. Nielsen. 2007. Levekår på vandring. Velstand og marginalisering i
Oslo. Oslo: Report from the Institute for Labour and Social Research, 5.
Børrud, Elin. 2005. Hva skjer på Grünerløkka? Raske endringer og stabiliser-
ende transformasjon. In Jonny Aspen (ed.), By og byliv i endring. Studier av
byrom og handlingsrom i Oslo, 273–309. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press.
Cenoz, Jasone and Durk Gorter. 2009. Language economy and linguistic land-
scape. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Ex-
panding the Scenery, 55–69. New York: Routledge.
Coulmas, Florian. 2009. Linguistic landscaping and the seed of the public sphere.
In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Expanding
the Scenery, 13–24. New York: Routledge.
D’Alleva, Anne. 2005. Methods & Theories of Art History. London: Laurence King.
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. 2008. Globalisering. Åtte nøkkelbegreper. Oslo:
Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford
University Press.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1991 [1962]. The Structural Transformation of the Public
Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Two faces of Oslo: A comparative study of the sense of place 103

Hanssen, Eskil, Ernst Håkon Jahr, Olaug Rekdal, and Geirr Wiggen. 1977. “Vanli
osjlomål vel”. Talemålsundersøkelsen i Oslo (TAUS). Oslo: Novus.
Huebner, Thom. 2006. Bangkok’s linguistic landscapes: Environmental print, code-
mixing and language change. International Journal of Multilingualism 3:1, 31–51.
Huebner, Thom. 2009. A framework for the linguistic analysis of linguistic land-
scapes. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Ex-
panding the Scenery, 70–87. New York: Routledge.
Hult, Francis  M. 2009. Language ecology and linguistic landscape analysis. In
Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Expanding the
Scenery, 88–103. New York: Routledge.
Jaworski, Adam and Simone Yeung. 2010. Life in the Garden of Eden: The nam-
ing and imagery of residential Hong Kong. In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-
Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.), Linguistic Landscape in the City, 153–181.
Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
Kelly-Holmes, Helen. 2000. Bier, parfum, kaas: Language fetish in European ad-
vertising. European Journal of Cultural Studies 31:2, 67–82.
Kjeldstadli, Knut. 1990. Oslo bys historie. Den delte byen. Vol. 4. Oslo: Cappelen.
Landry, Rodrigue and Richard Y. Bourhis. 1997. Linguistic landscape and ethno-
linguistic vitality: An empirical study. Journal of Language and Social Psychol-
ogy 16:1, 23–49.
Lanza, Elizabeth and Hirut Woldemariam. 2009. Language ideology and lin-
guistic landscape: Language policy and globalization in a regional capital of
Ethiopia. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape.
Expanding the Scenery, 189–205. New York: Routledge.
Larsen, Amund  B. 1907. Kristiania Bymål. Vulgærsproget med henblik på den
utvungne dagligtale. Kristiania: Bymålslaget.
Leeman, Jennifer and Gabriella Modan. 2010. Selling the city: Language, ethnicity
and commodified space. In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni
(eds.), Linguistic Landscape in the City, 182–198. Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
Panofsky, Erwin. 1970. Meaning in the Visual Arts. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Preziosi, Donald (ed.). 1998. The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology. Ox-
ford: Oxford.
Robertson, Roland. 1992. Globalization. Social Theory and Global Culture. Lon-
don: Sage.
104 Karine Stjernholm

Shohamy, Elana and Durk Gorter (eds.). 2009. Linguistic Landscape. Expanding
the Scenery. New York: Routledge.
Spolsky, Bernard. 2009. Prolegomena to a sociolinguistic theory of public sig-
nage. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape. Ex-
panding the Scenery, 40–54. New York: Routledge.
Statistical Yearbook of Oslo (SYO). 2011. 111th issue. The Municipality of Oslo.
Development and Improvement Authority.
Stjernholm, Karine. 2013. Stedet velger ikke lenger deg, du velger et sted. Ph.D.
dissertation. University of Oslo.
Sæter, Oddrun and Marit Ekne Ruud. 2005. Byen som symbolsk rom, bypolitikk,
stedsdiskurser og gentrifisering i Gamle Oslo. Oslo: Byggforsk.
Mikko Laitinen, Linnaeus University

English on the move: What’s beyond

modernity and internationalism?

1. Introduction
This article discusses the presence and prevalence of English in public spaces
in one country which, in the Kachru’s (1985) paradigm, could be placed in the
expanding circle.1 My observations are drawn from two field trips in Finland, a
country in which the presence and importance of English has increased consider-
ably during the past few decades as part of processes of linguistic globalization and
mobility (Leppänen and Nikula 2007; Leppänen et al. 2011). The objective is to
present evidence of how public signage with English are used in their context and
of how such signs come to be locally interpreted in socially diverse contexts (Blom-
maert 2010: 2; Blommaert 2013: 118). The broad underlying aim of this article
is to suggest areas for future studies on the presence of English in the expanding
circle. In addition, focusing on the uses of English in public space means that this
article approaches a widely-debated issue in the previous literature in linguistic
landscape/signs in space studies. However, the objective here is move beyond the
most obvious conclusions as to how English is used in advertisements and public
signs as an index of modernity and internationalism; rather the objective is to pre-
sent new ways of approaching English in sociolinguistic landscapes.2 The discussion
here draws from the notions of semiotic landscapes, as suggested by Jaworski and
Thurlow (2010), and from linguistic landscapes by Shohamy and Waksman (2009).
In their discussion of what actually constitutes linguistic landscape studies,
Shohamy and Waksman (2009: 328) end up with a broad definition. They point
out that the object of study consists of all the possible texts that are displayed
and situated in public space. For analyzing these signs, they argue for the need
to dig deeper and suggest that all visible signs should be regarded as “tips of
icebergs” that require closer analysis. This means that texts and signs require
a more comprehensive analysis for emerging and situated meanings which in

1 I wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier
version of this paper. All shortcomings are solely mine.
2 Throughout the article, I use the concept of sociolinguistic landscapes to refer to my
observations. I understand signs in space as an inherently social activity since design-
ing, displaying, encountering and interpreting signs is always done by individuals.
106 Mikko Laitinen

turn contribute to shaping and designing the public sphere (cf. also Blommaert
2013: 1–3, 118). What is crucial for their approach is that the meanings of signs
in space are intertwined in socio-cultural, political and economic histories, as
their discussion on the signs in the Ha’apala memorial site in Tel Aviv shows. For
Shohamy and Waksman (2009), an important component in public spaces is that
they are dynamic. They are constructed and semiotized through texts that are
situated and displayed there, and when signs are altered and changed by people,
these actions reshape and redefine these spaces.
This notion of change resembles Blommaert’s (2010: 30–33) discussion of signs
as objects of study in today’s globalized environment of mobility and multilingual
resources. His discussion illustrates the key role of signs for his analysis, and he
points out how signs shift functions depending on when and how they are used,
encountered and read. In addition, he suggests that not only do people move
about in space, but signs also travel, and when this takes place, they may come
to be locally interpreted. This could mean for instance that delocalized (global)
printing works may be used in a range of (unexpected) spaces. What is important
is that spaces through which people or signs travel are not empty but coded with
norms and expectations. These, in their turn, influence the ways in which people
read and interpret signs. The common element between Blommaert’s (2010) ap-
proach and that of Shohamy and Waksman (2009) is dynamism and change.
This article continues with the theme of change and focuses on public signs in
one space which is currently undergoing change as a result of linguistic globali-
zation. Finland, like nearly every nation in the world today, is influenced by the
global spread of English (see various perspectives to it in Crystal 1997; McAr-
thur 2002; Phillipson 2003; Schneider 2003; Jenkins 2006; Mesthrie and Bhatt
2008; Seidlhofer 2011). The concept of influence in the Finnish context means
that, while English has been taught as a foreign language in the school system for
decades, there are now clear signals that its unofficial role as a foreign language
might be shifting towards that of a second language and a linguistic resource
which is actively made use of alongside the national languages (i.e. Finnish and
Swedish). Similar developments are observable in a range of contexts (cf. for
instance Hult 2012, Bolton and Meierkord 2013 on Sweden), and these chang-
es have been brought about by socio-cultural and economic globalization and
technological advances in communicational technologies. English has become
a linguistic resource drawn from and utilized in a range of contexts. Various
scholars have presented evidence of this change in Finland in media language
(Taavitsainen and Pahta 2008), in large-scale survey work (Leppänen et al. 2011),
in public spaces (Moore and Varantola 2004; Pahta and Moore 2012), and in ru-
ral areas (Pietikäinen, Lane, Salo and Laihiala-Kankainen 2011; Laitinen 2014).
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 107

I will explore the uses of English in public space through two case studies in
which the observations are used as “tips of icebergs” leading to analyses of how
English comes to be locally interpreted. By doing so, I aim at contributing to the
large body of previous literature on the role of English in public spaces and lin-
guistic landscape (discussed in Section 2). As noted by Bolton (2012), the broad
conclusion of these studies seems to be that English tends to signal modernity,
fun, optimism and future-looking spirits, but my working hypothesis is that such
discussions do not (too often at least) dig deeper into the inner layers of the “ice-
berg”. English tends to be taken impressionistically at face value rather than as an
index of changing public spaces. It is high time that uses and functions of English
in public space are rethought and problematized in studies dealing with signs
in space. English is nearly everywhere and its diverse uses offer endless array of
material for analyses that should move beyond the most obvious explanations.
The structure here is such that Section 2 presents a brief overview of the role
of English in a set of previous studies, contextualizes the uses of English in Fin-
land by paying special attention to non-urban areas, and presents the theoretical
frame for the ensuing analysis. Section 3 consists of the description of my data
collection, and Section 4 presents an analysis of the two case studies.

2. Background
As pointed out in the introduction, the role of English, alongside multilingual-
ism and language policies, is one of the key themes in the previous research on
linguistic landscapes. Indeed, the implied meaning of the concept of multilin-
gualism in many articles seems to be that of the coexistence of language x and
English (or languages x, y and n plus English). For instance, a quick look at the
indexed words in Shohamy and Gorter (eds. 2009) and Shohamy, Ben-Rafael
and Barni (eds. 2010) shows that the presence of English is discussed extensively
in the majority of the contributions in these collections, which is hardly surpris-
ing, taking into account the considerable spread of English in the past few dec-
ades. For instance, Cenoz and Gorter (2009: 57) suggest that “the omnipresence
of English is one of the most obvious markers of the process of globalization” in
our modern societies (also Schlick 2003; Piller 2003).
A typical conclusion in linguistic landscape studies is that English is a sym-
bolic resource that is used to signal modernism and internationalism without
substantial communicative value (Bolton 2012), viz. it primarily fulfills what
Kelly-Holmes (2005: 8) calls the phatic and poetic communicative functions in
public signs and advertisements. As an illustration, in their discussion on public
spaces in Ethiopia, Lanza and Woldemariam (2009: 202) conclude that “English
108 Mikko Laitinen

does not have much communicative value in the signboards” but is rather used
as a decorative marker and a “marker of modernity”. Despite the fact that this
conclusion is based on their extensive quantitative data collection and on a set of
interviews with shop owners, it clearly illustrates how Shohamy and Waksman’s
(2009) metaphor of digging deeper into more detailed analyses could be made
use of in exploring the use of English in space.
This article moves from recording the presence of signs and languages to-
wards semiotization of spaces, and it thus adopts the theoretical perspectives
presented in Jaworski and Thurlow’s (2010) and Scollon and Scollon’s (2003)
discussions on the need to complicate the observations in linguistic landscape
research. Jaworski and Thurlow (2010) highlight the need for more nuanced and
context-specific analyses of texts that could provide clues of underlying ideolo-
gies which could be approached by observing spaces as semiotic entities. This
means, among other things, that space becomes a socially constructed notion
and that semiotic elements contribute to the ways people locate themselves in
space and construct a sense of place. This more prominent role of space also cor-
responds with the recent research insights in variationist sociolinguistics and in
particular with the third wave of variation studies, elaborated in Eckert (2012).
She argues that the focus in this third wave has shifted towards the idea that
linguistic variation not only reflects social meanings but also has a more central
role in constructing the social and spatial landscape. In other words, we place
ourselves in the landscape through semiotic practices, and we use linguistic fea-
tures and items to index memberships, and by spatial placement of linguistic
items and features, we also communicate these memberships to outsiders.
Visible languages and signs therefore become ideological acts that are used
to mark space, manifest ideologies and social realities, such as localness or com-
mercialism, etc. In addition, Jaworski and Thurlow (2010), drawing from Blom-
maert (1999), point out how these ideologies and social realities of signs may
also have a metalinguistic commentary function, which builds on the socio-
historical dimension of a location. This metadiscursive entextualization has a
normative element that indicates how signs in space should be read, viz. “the
preferred ways of reading …texts” (Blommaert 1999: 11). Put together, socio-
linguistic landscapes consist not only of the visible physical signs but also of the
ideological and socio-cultural components, the latter of which, to use the meta-
phor from Shohamy and Waksman (2009), could be used to uncover what lies
beneath the surface of the “iceberg”.
Teasing out these components requires that a researcher combines a range of
theoretical and methodological approaches which in this article consist of three
elements. Firstly, I will draw from the notions offered by the framework of the
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 109

sociolinguistics of globalization that approaches the use of linguistic resources in

today’s mobile and globalized era and then elaborate on the discussion embarked
on in my introduction. Secondly, my analysis builds on the previous quantitative
evidence of a survey work that tackles the role of English in Finland (Leppänen
et al. 2011). Thirdly, it builds on my ethnographic observations on the uses of
English in Finland, elaborated in Section 3 below.
As pointed out in the introduction, one of the key notions in the framework of
sociolinguistics of globalization is mobility (Blommaert 2010). People, ideas and
commodities move about in unprecedented ways today. Tourism, for instance, is
a global industry moving large proportions of the world population, and it is a
form of industry that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually (UNWTO
2012). Tourism and capitalism have led to spatial reorganization in which physi-
cal spaces are constructed and invented (and re-invented) through the placement
of text and images (see Kallen 2009 and the articles dealing with tourism signs in
Jaworski and Thurlow eds. 2010). The same mobility also applies to signs that can
easily be copied, shared, and distributed quickly because of the various electronic
communication channels, such as the Internet. Blommaert (2010: 31) points out
how delocalized printed works are one consequence of mobility. Put together,
this means that people on the move encounter signs on the move in diverse spac-
es that are filled with “codes, norms, and expectations” (Blommaert 2010: 32).
What could these notions of mobility mean for my discussion on English uses
in Finnish spaces? This study presents observations of the uses of English focus-
ing on two particular types. Firstly, I have been interested in delocalized printing
works in which English is the only language in the signs, i.e. monolingual English
posters and advertisements that have been produced elsewhere but which have
been brought into the Finnish context as part of global flows of people, ideas and
commodities. Such signs in modern consumer-centered societies are numerous
and offer interesting research material for studying the global spread of English.
In addition, they (together with their placement) are material for understanding
space, exploring how it is constructed, and investigating how physical environ-
ment and signs create a context for human actions and ideologies and how signs
enable social actors to position themselves within one space.
It is clear that these monolingual signs signal modernity and internation-
alism, but the discussion in Section  4.1 aims to show that their placement in
physical space also indexes the place (cf. Scollon and Scollon 2003: 204–208).
The social meanings of these monolingual English signs on the move are natu-
rally heavily influenced by the physical space itself and by the fact that they are
made visible, i.e. the principle of indexicality in Scollon and Scollon (2003: 205).
Similarly, a considerable part of their social meaning stems from other signs in
110 Mikko Laitinen

the location. According to the principle of dialogicality, visible signs in space

form an aggregate. If this claim holds, an impatient reader, when encountering
claims that English signs function as markers of modernity and international-
ism, would naturally want to know what those signs are that signal tradition-
alism, conventionalism and nationalist ideas in the same space. An index, let
us say a sociolinguistic marker (Labov 1972: 320–321), only becomes a marker
because there exists a range of forms with a varying degree of social prestige, and
the same principle should also hold for signs in space. Even this simple example
illustrates that there is much more to be said about the role of English that goes
beyond simplistic claims of modernity and internationalism.
Secondly, I have been collecting observations on uses of English that are re-
lated to the mobility of people, in particularly in mass tourism contexts in today’s
globalized world (cf. Heller 2003). These observations are related to my interest
in how the sense of localness and local forms of speech may or may not be re-
flected in the uses of English as a global language. In semiotic landscape studies,
Dray (2010) explores the uses of Jamaican Patois creole alongside Standard Eng-
lish in Jamaica. She presents illustrations of signs in which the local written vari-
ety tends to be used as a marker of local values and manifest allegiance with the
local culture. My interest in the Finnish context in this study centers on the local
dialect marker in the north-western Finnish dialects, and in particular on /h/ in
non-initial syllables in the spoken dialects in the Tornio river valley area in rural
northern Finland. This feature is, according to Vaattovaara (2002, 2012), one of
the most salient markers of local speech and local identity in the area. In terms of
linguistic awareness, the regional /h/ is above the level of awareness for the great
majority of the local residents, and the region is widely recognized through this
dialect marker by people elsewhere in Finland. There exists plenty of inter/intra-
dialect and morphophonetic variation, but it appears primarily in three contexts:
(a) in post-consonantal positions such as authoon (into the car) where the corre-
sponding Standard Finnish forms would be autoon, (b) as a metathetic variant in
pre-consonantal positions as in kouhluun (to school, Standard Finnish kouluun),
and (c) as an assimilated variant in double consonantal positions kauphaan (to
the store, Standard Finnish kauppaan).
What makes this non-initial vernacular /h/ relevant for my purposes of ap-
proaching mobility, dynamism, and change in sociolinguistic landscapes is that
it is a salient feature in the region where there are a number of popular winter
sport resorts. These resorts were originally remote rural villages which started
attracting tourists in the 1930s, and they have since grown to be popular centers
for winter sport activities and also hubs for growing Christmas tourism. Up to
the mid-1990s, they mainly attracted domestic tourists, but today also increasing
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 111

numbers of international visitors (see Section 3). In Section 4.2, I will provide

evidence of how this dialectal phonetic feature appears as a grapheme <h> in-
tegrated into English texts as a marker of local identity in signs in the tourism
space in Finland, and explore its social meanings.
The broad framework here is naturally the global spread of English, and my
data collection (see the next section) builds on the large-scale quantitative sur-
vey work on the role of English in Finland, carried out at the University of Jy-
väskylä in 2007 (Leppänen et al. 2011). It covered a range of thematic areas, and
our data set consisted of 1,495 respondents collected by random sampling strati-
fied according to gender, age and place of residence. One of the topics deals with
the degree of visibility and audibility of English in Finnish society (Figures 17
and 18 in the report), and it provides a quantitative backdrop for this study. The
results show that nearly everyone in Finland encounters English in the streets of
cities, towns and villages (78.8 per cent), and the visibility of English is high in
shops/stores (73.2), restaurants and cafes (69.7), means of transportation (61.2),
and in places of employment (53.8). There are, however, considerable regional
differences, and those living in rural areas report statistically significantly lower
number of encounters than those in cities and towns. The material presented
here offers a qualitative angle to the survey as I wanted to explore to what extent
systematic empirical qualitative observations would supplement the quantitative
survey results and provide a more detailed and context-specific analyses of how
people actually make use of English in various contexts (cf. Blommaert (2013:
41) on the need to understand signs in space and space itself through historical,
social, and cultural backgrounds).

3. Data
The observations presented in Section 4 are from two field trips, the first car-
ried out in summer 2009 and the second one spring 2010. The first one was a
six-day bicycle trip from Helsinki to the regional center of Oulu in June 2009
(described in more detail in Laitinen 2014). It started from the Central Railway
station in Helsinki and proceeded northwards towards the city of Oulu, which
is a regional administrative center and a hub for many IT related industries. My
route followed smaller rural roads, passing through larger cities and towns along
the way. The route was not planned ahead in detail, and the only thing known
beforehand was the end point, the city of Oulu. The decisions on where to go
and what particular routes to take were made each morning as the rationale was
to ensure that the route and the signage encountered would be as randomly se-
lected as possible.
112 Mikko Laitinen

The second data collection took place in 2010 in the winter sports center of Ylläs
in the Tornio river valley area in northern Finland. After the field trip covering sev-
eral hundred kilometers by bicycle, my objective was to focus on one space affected
by mass tourism. In addition, I grew up in the area in the 1970/80s, and my eth-
nographic observations draw from my past experiences in the area (cf. Blommaert
2013: 118ff on ethnography being “an intrinsically historical enterprise”). The ski
resort of Ylläs is located some hundred kilometers above the Arctic Circle in the
Finnish-speaking region of Finland, just south of the Sami regions. It is home to a
rapidly expanding tourism center that is located in two small villages. The popula-
tions of these villages are just a few hundred permanent inhabitants, but the tourism
center houses hotels, restaurants, and shops offering services to tens of thousands of
tourists in peak seasons. The area has attracted tourists for decades, but only during
the last 15–20 years has there been a massive increase of foreign tourists in the area.
Figure 1: Signs of mobility and tourism at the ski resort of Ylläs

In these types of circumstances, English naturally becomes the common lan-

guage of interaction. This is clearly seen in the fact that the local newspaper,
targeted primarily at tourists and visitors, also publishes an English language
version of their paper (the left-hand part of Figure 1). In addition, the seasonal
nature of tourism business also results in what Blommaert (2010: 149) has called
chaotic multilingualism that is seen in the number of unordered (and sometimes
unfinished) signage. The peak season is in winter time between early December
and late April, and much of the semiotic material in public spaces tends to non-
permanent (the right-hand part of Figure 1).
My material collection took place in the middle of the peak tourism season in
late March 2010. I was interested in tracing the uses of English, keeping in mind
that it goes without saying that English symbolizes modernity and international
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 113

4.  What’s beyond modernity and internationalism?

4.1.  Delocalized printed works
Blommaert (2005: 205) suggests that our identities are always produced and so-
cially constructed. They are performed through signs that we place in the world,
and they are identified by others when they recognize these semiotic acts. At the
same time, the same signs form a landscape, a semiotic aggregate in which the
signs and the possible meanings attached to them turn space into a space, a lived
experience. Scollon and Scollon (2003: 214) call this experience “sense of presence
in a space”. It goes without saying that the purpose for which the place is intended
sets conditions for both the semiotic acts and the aggregates. So for instance in
commercial environments, sense of a place is obviously highly important, as most
signs have been placed deliberately. They exist for a purpose. According to today’s
business-to-consumer marketing theories (Dasu and Chase 2010), the most com-
mon purpose for visible semiotic material is to create trust between the place itself
(its owners and employees) and the other social actors (customers, passers-by, etc.)
Figure 2 illustrates a commercial mass-produced poster in English. It was
photographed during the field trip from Helsinki to Oulu in 2009 in a small town
of Kaustinen in the region known as Central Ostrobotnia. The region is primar-
ily rural and agricultural with the exception of the coastal areas where most of
the biggest towns are located. In addition, the area is well-known in the Finnish
regional popular imagery as an entrepreneurial area where the proportion of
small businesses is considerably higher than elsewhere in the country.
Figure 2: A monolingual English poster in rural Ostrobotnia
114 Mikko Laitinen

The sign was spotted in a roadside restaurant that is located next to a gas station
chain, and it consists of a long stretch of English text coupled with an old photo
that is meant to support the message in the sign. Its text that describes the so-
called Murphy’s Law, a partly humorous and satirical principle which, accord-
ing to Wikipedia (2013), is paraphrasable roughly as “Anything (and everything)
that can go wrong will go wrong”. It is generally thought to refer to the haphazard
nature of human life, pointing to the idea that one has to be humble, because one
never knows what will happen next.
What is of course noteworthy is that this framed sign is entirely in English. It
contains a rather long and difficult text that requires at least intermediate read-
ing skills despite the fact that similar posters are also available in the domestic
languages Finnish and Swedish. According to Taavitsainen and Pahta’s (2008)
investigation of multilingual media practices in Finland, English occasionally
occurs without translations in a range of contexts, both informal and formal.
Apart from the international brands like Coca-Cola, and so on, that were sold in
the restaurant, the sign was one of the few English items in the place.
There were no explanations of why the sign was there, and it would be de-
ceptively easy to claim that it was there just for decorative purposes, indexing
modernity and forward-looking progressiveness. So what makes this sign an in-
teresting topic, “a tip of the iceberg” for more complex meanings embedded in
histories, socio-cultural and political-economic developments?
The sign is first of all a commercial poster, and commercialism is often asso-
ciated with English and the Anglo-American culture (Phillipson 2003). Yet, on
its face value this English sign and its message are not used to persuade anyone
(an occasional passer-by) to consume, and one might be tempted to say that it
challenges and contests a commercial space because its purpose is clearly not
to persuade anyone to consume. It is not an advertisement for products, nor is
there persuasion involved. There is no hard or soft selling involved, but it rath-
er fulfills the interactional function, aiming at contributing to the atmosphere
(Huebner 2009).
It is also a delocalized printing work which has been produced elsewhere
most likely in thousands, if not millions of copies, and it nicely illustrates a sign
on the move in today’s globalized linguistic marketplace. Such a delocalized sign
in English is clearly an illustration of semiotic material passing through not only
horizontal spaces but also vertical ones in which norms, powers, equalities and
inequalities of the surrounding societies play a considerable role (Blommaert
2010: 34–38). A sign takes its meaning from where it is placed.
In addition to the language choice, the location of this sign is important
for understanding its possible social meanings. It was placed in a commercial
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 115

establishment which logically means that it is intended to support the busi-

ness and create positive connections with the people who encounter it. Its
presence clearly points to the fact that the intended audiences are able to un-
derstand its rough meanings and establish a connection between the signs
and its placement. In this case, the discourse meanings in place are related
to how this sign might display collective identities in the region (Ben-Rafael
et al. 2010).
The location of the gas station was in a very small rural village where jobs
are most likely scarce. So the intended message an entrepreneur would want
to convey for the clientele is that of humbleness in front of the clientele and
to recognize the arbitrary nature human life. Life is, just as “Murphy’s Law”
humorously hints, capricious, and this is a message that a self-employed per-
son would want to express to his/her possible clients in rural areas. As already
pointed out, the purpose of the sign is clearly not to sell anything directly, but
rather to send a message that what is recognized is the haphazard nature of life
and that the difference between success and failure is thin. This might not be
a conscious choice, but a highly likely message, because it is difficult to believe
that the sign would be used to describe the business. A respectable business
owner might not want to transmit the more concrete meaning of Murphy’s Law
to their customers: that their products and service will certainly go wrong and
cars serviced here break down. Rather, this poster contributes to building a
collective identity.
In this particular case, this message is best expressed in English, a foreign lan-
guage in the rural context in Finland. The humorous “law” is well known in the
Finnish context, so nearly everyone should be able to recognize it, but the foreign
code ensures that the social meanings expressed the sign remain abstract, thus
reducing the likelihood of direct and undesirable connections between the sign
and the space where it is visible.
What I have aimed at illustrating here is that this type of mobility of English
signs and in particular their placement in space and time could be emphasized
more in future research focusing on the linguistic globalization and the spread of
English. The methods of semiotic landscape studies offer a useful methodologi-
cal toolbox for this type of analysis. Signs in which English appears are salient all
over the world, and it could be useful to explore how they contribute to people’s
sense of place and to the ways how we locate ourselves in space by claiming own-
ership, by excluding and including others and interacting with them. This point
is also highlighted in two observations of English signs in which local identities
form an integral part of the sociolinguistic landscape in which English is used, a
topic which I go on to discuss below.
116 Mikko Laitinen

4.2.  On the use of local vernacular elements in English texts

Figure 3 below shows a commercial outdoor sign in the tourism resort of Ylläs.
It was located outside a large building complex housing a mixture of shops, in
which tourism paraphernalia was sold, and restaurants that are primarily open
only during the tourism season. The sign consists of two lexemes in Finnish
(the proper name of the establishment Otsonpesä means a bear’s den, and lah-
jatavaratalo is literally a department store of gifts and souvenirs) with a more
descriptive English text of the articles sold. The other semiotic items include an
arrow indicating the location of the shop entrance in the building complex and
a stylized bear which highlights the connections between the shop name and the
animal bear (otso is a poetic, archaic term for a bear).
The sign seems to be of local produce and a unique creation, since the layout
and the alignment of the descriptive English lexemes is slightly uneven, suggest-
ing that it might be handmade by the owners themselves. In addition, it does
not contain any recognizable global elements such as well-known international
brand names. The most obvious conclusion of what it does show however is that
there are clear elements of truncated multilingualism in the form of incorrect
capital letters in the proper names (i.e. in the adjectival form of Lapland; this
spelling variant is discussed extensively below) and misspelling parts of the com-
pound nouns (handigrafts instead of handicrafts).

Figure 3: Using English to communicate local values

English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 117

Overall, this type of a surface-level analysis clearly supports Blommaert’s (2010:

149) conclusion of chaotic use of multilingual resources in global tourism con-
texts. However, playing with the placement of <h> in the lexeme (Lapphis instead
of Lappish delicacies) also suggests that this individual sign is more interesting
than it might seem on a quick analysis. As pointed out earlier in Section 2, h both
as a phoneme in speech and as an orthographic element in writing is the single
most salient vernacular feature in the Finnish dialect of the area. In this sign, the
designer/owner has engaged in a verbal play that makes use of the placement of
the <h> in the lexeme.
This verbal play draws from spoken and written vernacular of the area in
which the illative case of many bi-syllabic lexemes, such as the noun Lappi (Lap-
land), varies between the Standard Finnish variant Lappiin and the dialectal Lap-
phiin (or Laphiin in which the dialectal <h> appears as an assimilated form in
double consonantal positions, discussed in Section 2). According to my intui-
tion (based on my background as a native speaker of the regional dialects of the
area until my early 20s), the spoken realizations of this particular lexeme vary
between the h-full and h-less pronunciations, but the h-full form is often used
as part of enregistered styles, indicating associations to local speech, values, or
lifestyles. For instance, a Google search of the lexeme Lapphiin (carried out on
15 May 2013) resulted in 186 hits originating predominantly from various online
discussion fora. The great majority of the relevant hits were such in which the
form (Lapphiin) was used to indicate writers’ willingness to travel to Lapland and
to make a stylized reference to popular stereotypes associated with the region,
shown in (1), or by posters who identified themselves as locals and were making
hyperbolic statements indicating that they are locals, as in (2) (the illustrations
show the original postings with their rough translations and the emphases by
the author):

(1) Kysyä nyt uskonsuuntaa ja päälle todeta se Aivopesuksi? Sanoit itsekkin kuu-

luvasi kirkkoon ja nyt kehua retostelit lähteväsi Lapphiin lysthiin pithoon…
voi pyhä sylyvi ja kaikki muukki naiset? (English translation: To ask for one’s
religious beliefs and then point out that religion is brainwashing? You your-
self said that you belong to the state church (i.e. to the Evangelical Lutheran
Church of Finland) and now you’re boasting that you’re going to travel to Lap-
land to have some serious tourism fun…… o, holy Mary and other women too)
(an online discussion forum post December 2009, available at http://portti.
iltalehti.fi/keskustelu/showthread.php?p=11853787, accessed 15 May 2013)
(2) Tällä kertaa meni 3 viikkoa toimituksessa = kimallesuihkepullon takia pittää
tulla laiffalla, seilasi ekkana tuolla vanhassa osoitteessa ja sit vasta ehti tänne
118 Mikko Laitinen

ylös Lapphiin elikkä aika kohtuullisessa ajassa tuli. (English translation:

This time the delivery took three weeks = this was because of the hair spray
bottle; it was shipped by sea, and it was first delivered to my old address,
and only then made it here to Lapland, so it was a reasonably fast delivery)
(an online discussion forum post, August 2008, available at http://rouva-v.
vuodatus.net/lue/2008/07/rollikakku, accessed 15 May 2013)

Returning to lapphis delicacies in Figure  3, one possible explanation is that it

is a misspelling, similar to handigrafts in the same figure. However, in the lat-
ter lexeme, the nature of misspelling consists of altering two orthographically
closely similar graphemes (<c> and <g>, or phonemes /k/ and /g/), whereas in
the case of lapphis the nature of the spelling alternation deals with the order of
graphemes in the lexeme. In addition, considering the fact that one of the graph-
emes is a highly salient element of the regional speech, other explanations turn
out to be more likely.
So what are the possible meanings of the word play in lapphis delicacies?
It is most likely used to align oneself with the local identity and manifesting
one’s commitment to local speech and local ways of living to target audiences.
These target audiences are primarily domestic since the feature is well above
the level of linguistic awareness in Finland. The sign and the spelling are used
as metadiscursive entextualizations, mentioned in Section 2. They consist of
display of locality and local speech, and function to indicate association with
local identity (cf. Labov’s (1972: 4–42) well-known observations on Martha’s
Vineyard). It may of course be that such a display may be completely invis-
ible for an outsider observer. Moreover, the illustration in Figure 3 is similar
to the uses of Jamaican Creole in Dray’s (2010) study in which she found the
use of vernacular texts to be used as styling standard (global and commercial)
texts, such as the KFC advertisements. However, there are also considerable
differences between this illustration and the vernacularly stylized signs in her
study. What is important here is that the stylizing takes place in the English
code, and it is not the case that the Standard English (or Standard Finnish)
text would be accompanied with vernacular elements, but the vernacular ele-
ments have been merged into the English. The author/owner is engaged in
an active verbal play using English, and this verbal play balances between
informativity, credibility (as a seller of tourism paraphernalia) and a sense of
It may of course be the case that the type of mixing of linguistic resources
shown in Figure 3 was an exception and an unintentional spelling error. Figure 4
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 119

below however shows a similar use of vernacular <h> used in media texts origi-
nating from the same region. This time the illustration comes from a local news-
paper published in the two municipalities where the winter sport resort of Ylläs
is located in Lapland. The sign was spotted some year and a half after my field
trip to the winter resort.
Figure 4 shows the logo of the cultural events week in the municipality of
Muo­nio, just north of Ylläs. Muonio is a small rural municipality with some
2.500 inhabitants, and home to a smaller but equally international winter sports
resort as Ylläs. The culture events week was organized in late November 2012
with the theme of eight seasons of the year. The theme comes from the local folk
wisdom that the typical four seasons of the year are not sufficient for describing
the variations in the climate and flora of the region, and that the natural phe-
nomena are best described through eight distinct seasons.3
Figure 4 shows the regional <h> embedded in English text even though it does
not appear in the Finnish text. It consists of the event logo, which was designed
by a student from the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, some 200 km south-
east from Muonio (personal communication with the head of the educational
and cultural department of the municipality of Muonio, Ms. Elli Kangosjärvi on
29 May 2013). In addition to the pictorial elements of a stylized reindeer sur-
rounded by colorful leaves, the sign also consists of two types of textual material.
Firstly, below the logo, there is the factual information on the event itself (cf.
Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 186–193), and this Finnish text in the rectangle
stands for Muonio early winter 2012. Secondly, the text above the logo (i.e. ka-
heksan vuoenaikaa) stands for a vernacular representation of the regional dialect
in which a non-domestic <d> has been elided (Standard Finnish: Kahdeksan
vuodenaikaa = Eight seasons in English), and this text is translated into English
as eight sheasons. Here, the Finnish vernacular <h> is added to the English text
for the purpose of creating a vernacular representation of the Finnish theme
(personal communication with Ms. Kangosjärvi). So, what is noteworthy is the
fact that the Finnish version of the name does not contain the regional <h>, but
it has been added to the English version.

3 These eight seasons are discussed at the homepages of Siida, a cultural center for Sámi
culture and Arctic nature at http://www.siida.fi/contents/8-seasons?set_language=en
(accessed 15 May 2013).
120 Mikko Laitinen

Figure 4: The vernacular Finnish <h> use incorporated in English texts

Even though both the signs in Figures 3 and 4 are high stakes advertising gen-
res, one important difference between them is the level of production. Lapphis
delicacies is produced by an independent small-business owner whereas the eight
sheasons comes from the municipal sector. However, the similarities are striking,
as English is being used as resource through with associations and alignments
with local values and cultures are transmitted to both domestic and international
audiences. What one sees in these practices is creative use of norms. Some of
these uses may be accidental spelling errors, but they also illustrate conscious
exploitation of the resources in which place and locality play a considerable role.
More importantly, signs like these show that the meanings created through the
use of English in the expanding circle are far more complex than previously
thought and offer interesting material for analysis.

5. Conclusions
In this article I have approached a set of uses of English in signs in public
spaces in the expanding circle, and the broad aim has been to chart uses
and functions of English in countries where the role of English is chang-
ing. Finland, according to previous research, is clearly among these coun-
tries, and the objective has been to illustrate how the methods of linguistic
and semiotic landscape studies could, in the future, be made use of to trace
the global spread of English and linguistic globalization. At the same time, I
have tried to examine how English is used in microcontexts by aiming for a
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 121

more comprehensive analysis for emerging and situated meanings which in

turn contribute to shaping and designing the public sphere (cf. Shohamy and
Waksman 2009; Blommaert 2013). This has meant asking questions such as
what kinds of function does English use have in addition to the most obvious
ones, such as indexing internationalism and modernity, as much of the previ-
ous literature show.
Understanding the uses of English in space requires ethnographic approach
as the analyses in Section  4 show. It might have been tempting to classify the
three observations presented here only on their surface level, but as the analyses
show, there is a great deal of information related to the possible motivations for
using English and its functions in the context that can only be accessed through
the socio-cultural, political and economic histories of the locations in which
the observations took place. As for future studies, ethnographic interviews that
would focus on both the sign producers and possible audiences/readers could
provide an additional angle to the topic.

Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy and Monica Barni. 2010. Introduction: An
approach to an ‘ordered disorder’. In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael and
Monica Barni (eds.), Linguistic Landscape in the City, xi–xxviii. Bristol: Mul-
tilingual Matters.
Blommaert, Jan. 2013. Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes.
Chronicles of Complexity. Bristol/Buffalo/Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
Blommaert, Jan. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press.
Blommaert, Jan. 2005. Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Blommaert, Jan. 1999. The debate is open. In Jan Blommaert (ed.), Language
Ideological Debates, 1–38. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Bolton, Kingsley. 2012. World Englishes and linguistic landscapes. World Eng-
lishes 31:1, 30–33.
Bolton, Kingsley and Christiane Meierkord. 2013. English in contemporary Swe-
den: Perceptions, choices, and narrated practices. Journal of Sociolinguistics
17:1, 93–117.
Cenoz, Jasone and Durk Gorter. 2009. Language economy and linguistic land-
scape. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 55–69. London & New York: Routledge.
122 Mikko Laitinen

Crystal, David. 1997. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-

versity Press.
Dasu, Sriram and Richard B. Chase. 2010. Designing the soft side of customer
service. MIT Sloan Management Review Fall 2010, 33–39.
Dray, Susan. 2010. Ideological struggles on signage in Jamaica. In Adam Jawor-
ski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.), Semiotic Landscapes: Language, Image, Space,
102–122. London/New York: Continuum.
Eckert, Penelope. 2012. Three waves of variation study: The emergence of mean-
ing in the study of sociolinguistic variation. Annual Review of Anthropology
41, 87–100.
Heller, Monica. 2003. Globalization, the new economy, and the commodification
of language and identity. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7:4, 473–492.
Huebner, Thom. 2009. A framework for the linguistic analysis of linguistic land-
scapes. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 70–87. London & New York: Routledge.
Hult, Francis. 2012. English as a transcultural language in Swedish policy and
practice. TESOL Quarterly 46, 230–257.
Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow. 2010. Introducing semiotic landscapes. In
Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.), Semiotic Landscapes: Language,
Image, Space, 1–40. London/New York: Continuum.
Jenkins, Jennifer. 2006. Current perspectives on teaching world Englishes and
English as a lingua franca. TESOL Quarterly 40, 157–181.
Kachru, Braj. 1985. Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The Eng-
lish language in the outer circle. In Randolph Quirk and Henry Widdowson
(eds.), English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Litera-
tures, 11–30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kallen, Jeffrey. 2009. Tourism and representation in the Irish linguistic land-
scape. In Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter (eds.), Linguistic Landscape: Ex-
panding the Scenery, 270–283. London & New York: Routledge.
Kelly-Holmes, Helen. 2005. Advertising as Multilingual Communication. Basing-
stoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen. 2006. Reading Images: The Grammar of
Visual Design. 2nd ed. London & New York: Routledge.
Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Penn-
sylvania Press.
English on the move: What’s beyond modernity and internationalism? 123

Laitinen, Mikko. 2014. 630 kilometers by bicycle: Observations of English in ur-

ban and rural Finland. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 228,
Lanza, Elizabeth and Hirut Woldemariam. 2009. Language ideology and lin-
guistic landscape: Language policy and globalization in a regional capital of