In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Linguistic Landscapes

  • Introduction
  • Key Works
  • Edited Collections
  • Journals
  • Recent Dissertations
  • Conferences and Conference Papers
  • Origins of the Field
  • Innovative Methodologies

Linguistics Linguistic Landscapes
Jhonni Rochelle Charisse Carr
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0251


Linguistic landscape studies is the investigation of displayed language in a particular space, generally through the analysis of advertisements, billboards, and other signs. A common definition used in the field is the one posited in the canonical 1997 article “Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study” (Journal of Language and Social Psychology 16(1): 23–49) by Rodrigue Landry and Richard Y. Bourhis: “The language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combines to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration” (p. 25). (See Landry and Bourhis 1997, cited under Origins of the Field.) The study of the linguistic landscape (LL) is a fairly new area of investigation, with the establishment of its first international conference in 2008 and first international journal in 2015. An especially interdisciplinary field, it incorporates work from camps such as anthropology, linguistics, political science, education, geography, and urban planning. While the majority of research focuses on particular geographical places, the area of study has expanded to include the linguistic landscape of the Internet. This article highlights diverse works from male and female scholars, researchers of color, and scholarship on minority languages by scholars from all over the globe. Key texts include research presented in various forms including books, articles, conferences, conference presentations, and dissertations. The first half of the article is organized by contribution type. It begins with Key Works and then turns to Edited Collections. It then moves on to journals that commonly feature linguistic landscape work or special issues and then some of the latest dissertations that have been published. Finally, the article turns to conferences dedicated to the subject and important conference papers that have been discussed recently among scholars in the field. The second half of the article is organized topically in the following order: Origins of the Field, Innovative Methodologies, Applications and Approaches in the Field (including subsections Multilingualism, Global English, Minority Languages, Anthropology, Language Policy and Planning, and Education). In the subsection Anthropology, three central themes are considered: Language Attitudes and Ideologies, Identity, and Ethnography. Finally, the article reviews important works from a newer subcamp: The Linguistic Landscape of the Internet.

Key Works

This section discusses several key works in the field of linguistic landscape studies. Scollon and Scollon 2003 is one of the crucial works that has had a large influence on the direction of scholarship, even though it predates the naming of the field and the canonical article Landry and Bourhis 1997 (cited under Origins of the Field) is not cited in it. Scollon and Scollon 2003 provides a clear presentation of methodology to study geosemiotics and complements this with an array of examples of public signs in multiple countries including Austria, China, Hong Kong, and Italy. Ultimately, it shows how physical and social context play a large role in our understanding of signage as a social semiotic. Kelly-Holmes 2005 focuses on the internationalization of advertising, in contrast with brand indexation of more local and national identities. It contains examples of advertisements from several countries that incorporate multiple languages as well as a chapter dedicated to English and its ever-growing presence in marketing in non-English speaking countries. The short manuscript Backhaus 2007 is comprised of original research conducted in Tokyo. Its introduction would be of great interest to new scholars, as it contains a thorough review of literature from the early period of linguistic landscape research. The book also provides an excellent example of a mixed methods approach that includes both quantitative and qualitative analyses of urban signage. Bhatia 2007 is a revised edition that was originally published in 2000. New to this edition are thirty interviews conducted with business executives from large-scale companies throughout India. One of the important contributions of this manuscript is its focus on rural ads, since the majority of scholarship focuses on urban signage. Blackwood and Tufi 2015 examines the linguistic landscape of ten coastal cities in France and Italy. Apart from national and regional languages and dialects, it also describes cases of English, Slovenian, Catalan, Castilian, Occitan, and Arabic in urban signage. In addition, it notably provides in-depth backgrounds related to each city’s history and sociolinguistic situation. Pennycook and Otsuji 2015 also recognizes the importance of historical and sociolinguistic context in a study of the linguistic landscape in Sydney and Tokyo. It presents the concept of metrolingualism, which takes into account the constant interchange going on between individuals, space, and their historical backgrounds. Other key works include Blommaert 2013 and Lou 2016, cited under Ethnography and Martin 2006, cited under Global English.

  • Backhaus, Peter. 2007. Linguistic landscapes: A comparative study of urban multilingualism in Tokyo. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

    Backhaus presents an excellent review of linguistic landscape scholarship and operationalization of terminology for the moment and then offers a mixed methods analysis of 2,444 images of signs in twenty-eight areas in Tokyo. He addresses concepts including code preferences, top-down versus bottom-up signage, and availability of translation or transliteration, in addition to linguistic idiosyncrasies and layering of signs.

  • Bhatia, Tej K. 2007. Advertising and marketing in rural India: Language, marketing communication, and consumerism. Tokyo: Macmillan.

    This book was first published in 2000 with the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Bhatia analyzes signage for language and script choice, as well as the purpose of the advertisement and the size of text. He investigates languages and combinations of languages used in signs (e.g., Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Urdu) from the author’s perspective.

  • Blackwood, Robert J., and Stefania Tufi. 2015. The linguistic landscape of the Mediterranean: French and Italian coastal cities. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137314567

    Blackwood and Tufi present an extensive study on the linguistic landscape of ten cities located on the coast of Italy and France such as Nice, Marseilles, Genoa, Trieste, Palermo, and Naples. In addition to French and Italian, they discover differing degrees of a variety of languages including Slovenian, Catalan, Castilian, Occitan, and Arabic. They also describe their comparative analysis of English in the two countries.

  • Kelly-Holmes, Helen. 2005. Advertising as multilingual communication. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230503014

    Kelly-Holmes shows how advertising uses multiple languages and cultures to index an international identity as opposed to a traditional local or national identity. The first chapter describes the characteristics of advertisements using different languages. The second and third chapters deal with the symbolic function of multilingual signs, while the third and fourth chapters analyze their communicative function. The last chapter reviews the advantages and challenges of employing different languages. The book also examines the fetishization of language.

  • Pennycook, Alastair, and Emi Otsuji. 2015. Metrolingualism: Language in the city. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315724225

    Pennycook and Otsuji showcase the role of history, architecture, and the city, in addition to residents and migrants and their languages in a comparative study of the linguistic landscape of Sydney and Tokyo. The authors examine the mundane use of language for communication in different urban realms including in restaurants and cafés, on the street and in shops, and at places of work. The results are contextualized within the fields of pedagogy and language policy.

  • Scollon, Ron, and Suzie W. Scollon. 2003. Discourses in place: Language in the material world. London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203422724

    In one of the most heavily cited linguistic landscape works, Scollon and Scollon argue for the importance of physical and social context in understanding signs. Throughout ten chapters, they include several examples from Austria, China, Hong Kong, Italy, and North America, along with activities and a glossary of key terms.

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