Representations of Multilingualism in Urban Space: An Analysis of the Linguistic Landscape of Tunisia

Selim Ben Said


In keeping with a new trend in sociolinguistic research which explores the linguistic landscape (LL) and visual semiotics of bilingual and multilingual environments (Backhaus, 2007; Scollon & Scollon, 2003), this study offers to analyze the LL of Tunisia, a country characterized by a rich history of linguistic diversity. Taking up the definition of LL offered by Landry and Bourhis (1997), this investigation will involve the examination of the various languages featured in visual signs such as public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings and how they are used in Tunisia to mediate multilingualism but also to express, articulate, and negotiate existing and emerging identities. The analysis of the data from visual signs will provide an illustrative account of the complexities of the linguistic situation in Tunisia, which blends top-down and bottom-up advocacies of Arabization, vernacularization and Arabic-French bilingualism, as well as the more recent use of English as the emergent language of globalization and economic prospects.

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