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Auteur: Anastassia ZABRODSKAJA

Attitudes towards multilingual signs in monolingual from above and multilingual from below Tallinn

Abstract/Résumé: The nature of linguistic environment and the demands of the everyday social life greatly affect languages on public signs (see Laitinen, Zabrodskaja; Zabrodskaja, Milani). This paper presents a microanalysis of multilingual signs collected in Tallinn, a city composed of approximately 50% Estonian speakers and 50% Russian speakers. The purpose of this paper is to discuss features of written multilingualism in the LL of the Estonian capital. Using a corpus of photographs of advertising in Tallinn, I will demonstrate how the Language Act (passed 21 February 1995 and replaced by a new Language Act on 1 July 2011) is interpreted ‘from below’ by LL-actors. The data reveal that despite the official language policy promoting Estonian as the dominant language, “multilingualism from below” is widespread (see Zabrodskaja). The graphic representation of languages in multilingual texts sometimes involves creative forms constructed from the combination of the Estonian and Russian languages or the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets (‘script-switching’ or ‘script-mixing’). Caught between the requirements of a Language Act that promotes Estonian as the country’s official language and the real-life multilingual situation, businesses try to balance the official policy and desire of Estonian-speakers with a wish to attract the attention of local Russians and tourists towards their services and goods. This ethnographic study of the Tallinn linguistic landscape is supplemented by qualitative data regarding the perceptions of Russian- and Estonian-speaking students. Individual interviews provided information about how speakers with different mother tongues and linguistic backgrounds perceive Estonian-Russian signs. Estonian students show rather negative reactions to the presence of multilingual signs and bilingual wordplay, whereas Russian-speaking students express mainly positive responses to the Russian-Estonian hybrid signs. References Laitinen, M. & A. Zabrodskaja (guest eds.) (forthc.) Dimensions of linguistic landscapes in Europe: Materials and methodological solutions. – Series Sprachkönnen und Sprachbewußtheit in Europa/Language Competence and Language Awareness in Europe (ed. by Amei Koll-Stobbe) Volume 5. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang. Zabrodskaja, A. & T. Milani (guest eds.) (forthc.) Signs in Context: Multilingual and multimodal texts in semiotic space. – Special Issue of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Zabrodskaja, A. (forthc.) Tallinn: monolingual from above and multilingual from below. – Signs in Context: Multilingual and multimodal texts in semiotic space (Special Issue), International Journal of the Sociology of Language.