Towards a material ethnography of linguistic landscape: Multilingualism, mobility and space in a South African township

  • Stroud C
  • Mpendukana S
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Thestudyofmultilingual landscapes promises tointroduceanewperspective into theories and policies of multilingualism, and to provide essential data for a politics of language. However, the theorization of space and language underlying the notion of linguistic landscape is not able to capture the manifold complexities of (transnational) multilingual mobility that is characteristic of many late-modern multilingual societies. Basing our argument on signage data from a contemporary South Africa in a dynamic phase of social transformation, we argue that more refined notions of space coupled to a material ethnography of multilingualism could provide a theoretically more relevant and methodologically refocused notion of (multilingual) linguistic landscape. Specifically, we take an approach to landscapes as semiotic moments in the social circulation of discourses (in multiple languages), and view signs as re-semiotized, socially invested distributions of multilingual resources, the material, symbolic and interactional artifacts of a sociolinguistics of mobility.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Linguistic landscape
  • Multilingualism
  • Politics of aspiration
  • Space and mobility
  • Transformation

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  • Christopher Stroud

  • Sibonile Mpendukana

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