Language ideology and the linguistic landscape

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Sociolinguistics as an interdisciplinary science joins language and society to provide knowledge on their relationship and interaction. Language planners and policy makers can use this science to make accurate decisions. This study examined language policy and the strategies used by the public to shape the linguistic landscape of Petaling Jaya, in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. The study focused on the patterns of language use on private and government signage to examine whether the top-down language policy, was being complied with. The samplings included 400 photographs of signboards of shops, restaurants, internet cafes, and offices. Results suggested that majority of signboards are bilingual or multilingual. Sign users apparently comply with the official policy particularly with regard to the national language Bahasa Melayu (BM) in terms of font size and language sequencing. However, some shopkeepers tend to use strategies to circumvent the policy. Simultaneous accommodation and resistance to the official policy characterizes these strategies, some of which are driven by commercial motives. A common approach is to create names in the English language. A recurrent strategy is that of using multiple codes or languages on a single signboard. We conclude that power apparently sets the tone for language ideology on signboards, and that language ideology in Malaysia ‘serves to rationalize existing social structures and dominant linguistic practices, particularly through their institutionalization in official language policy’ (Lanza and Woldemariam, 2009: 189). However, we suggest that it is important that policies with regard to linguistic landscape be based on sociolinguistic science including cultural, racial and political demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–66
JournalLinguistics and the Human Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 20 2016


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