Article published in:Developments in Diglossic Settings in the Asian Pacific Region
Edited by Marinus van den Berg
[Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 30:1/2] 2020
► pp. 273–289
A quantitative investigation of the linguistic landscape of Chinatown in Singapore
The current study reports a quantitative investigation of the linguistic landscape (LL) in Singapore’s Chinatown. The database of the study comprises a total of 831 instances of signs in the form of photographs that were collected in Chinatown. The study finds that English dominates the LL while Mandarin Chinese is ranked as the second frequently used language. The study also identifies significant differences in LL features between top-down and bottom-up signs. Specifically, these differences include what languages are used; monolingual, bilingual and multilingual compositions; code preference; and forms of Chinese scripts. The present study suggests that English now dominates the linguistic landscape of Chinatown. Even though many scholars have described the sociolinguistic situation in Singapore as being ‘English-knowing’, the data shows a shift towards being ‘English-dominant’, suggesting a gradual but sustained dilution of its multilingual ethos. The study also complicates our understanding of the dominance of English in multilingual societies such as Singapore, where a competing dominant language (Mandarin Chinese) may be seen to continue to exert considerable influence on the dynamics of English-dominant language use but, at the same time, whose main function is shifting towards the symbolic rather than communicative.
Keywords: Chinatown, Singapore, linguistic landscape, quantitative analysis, English, Mandarin Chinese
Published online: 30 June 2020
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