Linguistic landscape

Authored by: Peter Backhaus

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Sociolinguistics

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415790277
eBook ISBN: 9781315213378
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter deals with language on signs and other instances of written language in public space, the ensemble of which is now commonly referred to as the linguistic landscape. Japan was one of the earliest environments where this novel type of research has been conducted. The chapter sketches the overall development of the field, from the 1960s to the present, and identifies some major trends that concur with larger developments in Japanese language and society: the advent of a sizeable number of foreign workers in the 1980s and 1990s; an increased ethnic self-confidence of so far largely invisible minority groups, unabated popularity of English and the roman alphabet; and a new interest in linguistic variation within the Japanese language. From a methodological point of view, the chapter shows that there has been an overall trend from quantitatively oriented studies to approaches with a more qualitative edge. While earlier researchers were predominantly concerned with spotting and counting languages, more recent studies show an increased interest in scrutinizing how meaning is created in interaction between signs and sign readers. This is in line with developments in linguistic landscape research worldwide.

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