Friday, 26 August 2016

Linguistic Landscapes (Day 4)

It’s another beautiful warm morning here in Ohio.

On my way home yesterday, I explored the campus a little and found a beautiful memorial to the shooting of anti Vietnam protesters at Kent State University in 1970. It is a peaceful area now with information stations taking you through the events of May 4 1970, and a beautiful marble memorial too. I also biked around the neighbourhood near where I’m staying which is filled with 2 story wooden homes with porches and mainly no fences between or in front of them. To me this seems very American.

My work day yesterday saw me working through another 50 or so books, examining the different linguistic landscapes they present. Linguistic Landscape is a concept first explored by Landry and Bourhis (1997), Canadian researchers looking at how written or printed language in French Canadian surroundings tells us something about the status of these languages in a society. It’s a bottom up approach to language policy, revealing what is actually happening in a community compared with the top down official government policy on languages and their status.

So I am looking at how Spanish and English are presented in the linguistic landscape of the picturebook- which language comes first, which is bigger. How does this relate to the publisher, the author, and what effect might this have for the reader? I have a big spreadsheet and I am getting faster as I go. I had hoped to look at many different languages, but I think the Spanish English books will be a big enough project on this occasion!

As well as looking at the languages and how they are used, I am also keeping note of the topics they cover. The book I couldn’t stop thinking about when I got home yesterday was called ‘Benjamin and the Word’ published in 2005. It’s about a little boy whose mother is Russian and whose father is Mexican. A boy at his school calls him ‘a word’ which is never actually given, but is obviously some kind of racial slur, and the story is about he and his dad working through the hurt this causes and how he can work through his feeling with the boy who insulted him.

On a lighter note, I’ll end with another poem by Francisco X. Alacorn about a bilingual dog.

At home we have a bilingual dog
“guau guau” he first greets you in Spanish
And in case you don’t understand him then

“bow wow” he repeats barking in English


  1. Today is Saturday and I read your blog after we got home from the market. Thinking about the linguistic landscape and reflecting on my conversations today already - heard that students post secondary school have no place to keep progressing with Cook Island Maori language learning. So several Papa'a (Pakeha) women have been lobbying USP to provide higher education in this area. We met the new french restaurant owner and greeted his child in french, met Debi's daughter and her child and step children who are part Cook Island, part NZ Maori and part Pakeha and greeted them in 3 languages, had coffee with an Australian woman and talked of the Papa'a children who were born here and their grandparents have lived here for 30 years but they are still Papa'a although being Cook Islanders is all they have ever known.

    hence the linguistic landscape is incredibly diverse and very fascinating.

    Under the lemon tree feeling the heat and thinking about a swim - Hasta la proxima. Janette

  2. Lovely to read about your adventures Nicola, thank you for sharing your experiences. The books sound really interesting and I love the idea of the book about the boy who was called "the word" and positive ways to react to it. This is very useful. I see a lot of books about emotions at the moment - probably as Nalia is 3 and this is the kinds of books we are being ushered towards. However, the emotions seem rather narrow (for the moment at least), your book appear much more thoughtful and deeper.