Indexing the Local, State and Global in the Contemporary Linguistic Landscape of a Hungarian town in Slovakia
Laihonen, P. (2015). Indexing the Local, State and Global in the Contemporary Linguistic Landscape of a Hungarian town in Slovakia. In J. Wachtarczyková, L. Satinská, & S. Ondrejovič (Eds.), Jazyk v politických, ideologických a interkultúrnych vzťahoch : Zborník príspevkov z medzinárodnej konferencie Jazyk v politických, ideologických a interkultúrnych vzt'ahoch konanej 21.-22.5.2014 v Bratislave (pp. 280-301). Sociolinguistica Slovaca (8). Bratislava: Veda.
Published inSociolinguistica Slovaca;8
© 2015 Laihonen & Veda. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Veda. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
On the basis of photography and fieldwork, the linguistic landscape (LL) of the central square of Dunajská Streda/ Dunaszerdahely is analyzed. I focus on commercial names, which dominate the LL of the main square. The research site, a town in Slovakia of which population 80 % is Hungarian speaking, is significant, since historical minorities form the majority in very few European towns. The characteristics, functions and meanings of a linguistic landscape are best charted through a combination of methods. A distributional account provides us a basic account of what languages there are in the investigated scene. We may compare this with surveys, censuses and other similar cities, as in our case with a Hungarian town in Romania. However, the statistical account fails to examine the signs as images and it implicates a false picture of easily definable languages, whereas in practice it is particularly difficult to classify business names according to a language. In order to analyze signs as images, we need to carry out a qualitative semiotic analysis. The local language ideologies reflected in the linguistic landscape can be charted best by a discourse analytic approach. Thus we can ask, what discourses are participated in the research site by those that produce and interpret the signs. The distribution of languages in signs displays a global and national (Slovak) namescape in Dunaszerdahely, with a relatively small proportion of minority (Hungarian) company and brand names or other elements. On the one hand, local Hungarians have got used to a commercial LL without Hungarian in the socialist period, thus the use of Hungarian in such signs appeared unimportant in interviews with local people. For local Hungarians, sings in Hungarian indexed non-local firms from Hungary. On the other hand, Slovak language laws made the use of Slovak compulsory, with the exception of business names and global expressions. Hungarian could be used in bilingual signs, however, its use is not encouraged in any way by Slovak language laws. Global semiotics included the use of innovative business names with visual and linguistic features that do not belong to any language as such. There was a tendency to use special visual semiotics for letters and punctuation in global signs, it was somewhat spread to state language signs, too. Typically, the more designed and branded a business name was, the more global it appeared. In contrast to global brands, the semiotics of a frequent genre of “female” signs index localness, cheap products and a non-polished design. For local shop owners there was a need to (1) index a commitment to Slovakia through Slovak dominant commercial signs, (2) index trendiness, modern and Western values through global names, and (3) index being local through some use of Hungarian, including some substandard forms of Hungarian different from the normative practices in Hungary. ...