Vigers, Dick and Hornsby, Michael
Minority semiotic landscapes: an ideological minefield?
Gorter, D., Marten , H.F. and Van Mensel , L. (eds.)
Minority Languages in the Linguistic Landscape.
(Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities).
Signage in minority languages is well established in many areas of Europe and is gradually being introduced in others. Such initiatives are based on discourses of human rights, equality and modernity and can be viewed as a reaction to the pervasiveness of globalisation. Most often this signage tends to be in local, autochtonous languages (e.g. the regional languages in France) but there is increasing evidence that languages that are majority languages elsewhere but are in the minority in transnational contexts (e.g. Polish in Poland and in the UK) are appearing on the linguistic landscape. Thus, local endangered minority languages are having to compete with contextually minority languages for visual space. This paper examines the effect of an increasingly multilingual linguistic landscape on both minority language and majority language speakers and seeks to analyse the differing (but also sometimes similar) language ideologies which these speakers hold. Drawing on work by Myhill (1999), we examine why such ideologies (particularly those centred on language and its relation to identity and territory) can result in situations of linguistic conflict and why opinions about minority signage can be diametrically opposed within the same community. In this context we refer to an ‘ideology of contempt’ (Grillo 1989; Dorian 1998; Spolsky and Shohamy 1999) will also be referred to in this context and we examine the apparent paradox that successful status planning i.e. the prominence of a minoritised language achieves in the visual landscape, may tacitly endorse an ideology of contempt in the semiosis of design, consistency and accuracy. Data is drawn from a variety of situations in several Celtic countries (Scotland, Wales and Brittany) and from Valencia and includes examples of the ideologies held by speakers of the minority languages mentioned but also those of speakers of (standard) English and Spanish. The current shift to a more multilingual linguistic landscape is happening, somewhat ironically, at a time when concerns over language endangerment are particularly heightened, but this does mean that this is a particular apt time to research the opinions and attitudes to such matters, both socially and politically.
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