Linguistic Landscapes Projects in the Social Science Classroom

A handout to help instructors adapt a linguistic landscapes project from an Asian American Studies course. 

Linguistic landscape (LL) is broadly defined as “language in the environment, words and images displayed and exposed in public spaces” (Shohamy & Gorter, 2009, p. 1). This can include public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings. LL assignments are fun ways to help students develop research skills (e.g., collecting images of signages and developing claims through their analysis), see their neighborhoods as sites of inquiry and learning, and reflect on how linguistic practices in their communities are strengths, not deficits.

For an introduction to an Asian American Studies course, HCAP’s Multilingual Learner Specialist gave the students an assignment to explore the linguistic landscapes in Asian ethnic enclaves in NYC. In the project, students accessed demographic data related to a chosen Asian ethnic enclave, collected examples of public signs and language from the enclave, and analyzed how the signs represent underlying language ideologies and power dynamics.

This handout includes the assignment prompt, a classroom activity (developed by Dr. Paul McPherron), and advice on how instructors can adapt the assignment for their own purposes.

*Shohamy, E., & Gorter, D. (Eds.). (2009). Linguistic landscape. Expanding the scenery, Routledge.

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