The Linguist

The Linguist 59,4 - Aug/Sept 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 25 FEATURES are not familiar with local history will ask themselves why two languages are represented on street-name signs in an Italian town (where these signs are a recurring feature in the historic centre), and why the information carried by the two languages looks different. The two languages must point to a story that is worth telling, given that it has been inscribed in a public space and deliberately packaged to resemble an artistic endeavour – i.e. something that is precious and worth preserving. Indeed, this is not a standard sign meant purely to orient the resident or visitor to Alghero; it was placed by the municipal authorities to encompass local heritage. Alghero is on the island of Sardinia, where part of the population use a Catalan variety, the legacy of a Catalan colony established in the 14th century. Residents will know why the street names differ in the two languages, the Catalan at the top reading 'Square of the Old Well' and the Italian reading 'Civic Square'. The site of a well for public use is now a square named after the entrance to the civic (municipal) building: the town hall. Through the street-name sign, the past is recomposed and local memory reinforced. From this perspective, the sign is a hypertext (a layered element of the town map with multiple spatial and historical references), which returns not just three-dimensional space and the objects populating it, but also a fourth element: time. The multilingual sign in image 4 is not unusual in multi-ethnic areas of Italian (and other) urban contexts. It identifies a restaurant (It. ristorante) specialising in ethnic gastronomy (It. gastronomia etnica). The shop sign is populated with semiotic references to the multiculturalism of the establishment and of the clients that it caters for. In addition to Italian (a local language), it features a Senegalese proper noun (Dosa la Nesh) and the words keur serigne touba in Wolof (a national language of Senegal), meaning the House of Shaykh Touba. This phrase is frequently displayed to honour Shaykh Touba, the founder of the Muslim group of the Mourides of Senegal – an association which carries national pride. The two photographs at the sides provide additional visual support to the celebration of this iconic figure. The first flag on the left is Senegalese, and it is followed by those of the Dominican Republic, Morocco and Italy. The sign therefore constructs a wider diasporic identity that is characterised by discourses of inclusivity via the use of the Italian language and Italian symbols (the flag). By publicly marking a transnational space of belonging, this sign invites us to acknowledge alternative forms of citizenship that thrive on mutual support and solidarity – two fundamental tenets of peaceful communal living. Behind the facade A simple sign can carry multiple references to complex local stories that silently populate our public spaces – stories used to narrate the city, and its constant making and remaking, within wider contexts inhabited by local, regional, national and global populations. Observing these spaces is educational in that they remind us of the existence of different languages, peoples and cultures, and that multilingualism is the norm. Inscribed spaces can also be sites of contestation that enact alternative forms of citizenship. Graffiti and unauthorised writing acts (image 5) survive local administrations' cleaning efforts and afford groups the expression of dissent and non- compliance, and of counter forms of beauty. LL provides a lens through which to appreciate the multilingual repertoires that are available to individuals and communities, and to what extent these repertoires are manipulated to serve the interests of certain groups. It can be a phenomenal means of empowering, too, by constructing alternative spaces of belonging and citizenship. Ultimately, authoring written signs (from imposing billboards to graffiti tags) is an act of identity that relies on the ever-increasing importance of visual culture. LL research has therefore extended the focus of its investigations to include the role of writing not just in non-urban contexts and in private settings, but also in virtual spaces. The growing relevance and influence of virtual interaction practices present the LL scholar with new challenges, but also sanction LL as a versatile and fruitful field of inquiry. Reterritorializing Linguistic Landscapes (2020) by Stefania Tufi and David Malinowski is published by Bloomsbury. 1. Hotel in Sexten/Sesto; 2. An alpine town; 3. A street sign in Alghero; 4. A restaurant in Genoa; 5. A bench adorned with tags in Rome 2 1 3 4 5

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