Publication details [#59745]

McLaughlin, Fiona. 2015. Linguistic warscapes of northern Mali. Linguistic Landscape 1,2 (3) : 213–242.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper shows that public writing (and its effacement) during a recent period of crisis in northern Mali constituted a powerful tool by which various factions attempted to inscribe political hegemony on the linguistic warscapes of three cities: Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu. The warscapes of these Saharan cities are linguistically complex: they are written in multiple languages, primarily French, Arabic and Tamasheq, and involve three different scripts, Latin, Arabic and Tifinagh, each of which is associated with a number of ideological stances. Within this context, linguistic warscape becomes more than the symbolic construction of the public space, it becomes symbolic control of the public space. The linguistic warscape of northern Mali stands in stark contrast to the linguistic soundscape which, in addition to Tamasheq, is dominated by languages that rarely or never appear in the LL. This paper shows that in multilingual, multigraphic contexts, LL can only be understood against the backdrop of an entire linguistic ecology and its regimes of literacy.