Snapshots of the Balkans through Ethnographic Investigation of the Linguistic Landscape

Costas Canakis

Punctum, 2(2): 24-65, 2016
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2016.0013


This paper investigates the linguistic landscape of Dubrovnik and Kotor on the Southeastern Adriatic coast, and Mytilene in the north Aegean attempting a theorization of its findings at the intersection of (socio)linguistics, ethnography, and semiotics, which has gained ground as the platform of choice in linguistic landscape (LL) research. I argue that the influx of both tourists and refugees, despite the obvious differences between the two groups, has had radical consequences for the LL which have so far attracted virtually no attention in the relevant literature. And yet, tourism and the arrival of new populations have considerable and lasting effects on the LL which can only be adequately investigated by systematic ethnographic studies of the semiotic means employed in inscribing it. Nevertheless, ethnography, as a methodological sociolinguistic tool, cannot substitute or supersede cognitive aspects of language. If doing LL research means doing semiotic landscape research, then we also have to consider semiosis and higher-order indexicality qua categorization. I understand ethnographic LL research as contributing to a better comprehension of the dynamic indexical relation between language and physical space (turned into place through human agency). Just as a certain accent and particular morphosyntactic choices may index the place of origin of a speaker, a specific LL may index populations and their socioeconomic relations at a certain historical moment. Focusing on these dynamic indexical relations may have far-reaching consequences for superdiversity as a way of making sense of language-in-society.

KEYWORDS: Linguistic landscape (LL), ethnography, Balkans, tourism, refugees
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