Redesigning Linguistic Landscape

Redesigning Linguistic Landscape


Linguistic Landscape is the salience of languages that are put on public and commercial signs within a given region or territory (Hibbert, 2016). The signs are written in different languages depending on the location to make them understandable to the people living in that particular region. An example is a place whose residents speak in English, French, and Spanish. The public or commercial signs erected in that place will be in all the three languages to make sure all the people get the message relayed (Hibbert, 2016). Public signs bear information or a message that is of public interest, from either the government or other bodies that want to pass information to people concerning an issue. Commercial signs advertise a good or service to people to attract more customers and increase sales. There are four areas of Linguistic Landscape, which include visual landscape, linguistic landscape, aural landscape and oral landscape (Chmielewska, 2010).

Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia and the largest in Victoria. The metropolitan has many people from different places residing in it. The table below is a study carried out in 2010 showing the most common ancestries (Donald, 2012).

People according to their ancestors Percentage of population in city
English 21.1%
Australian 20.7%
Irish 6.9%
Scottish 5.7%
Italian 5.5%
Others 40.1%


The table below indicates the percentage of largest residents of the city and their origin (Donald, 2012).

Nation Percentage they occupy
Australians 63.3%
British 3.4%
Indians 2.7%
Chinese 2.3%
New Zealand 1.7%
Others 26.6%


It was quoted as the country that has the highest population speaking Greek outside Europe. In this city, residents mixed vocabularies from different languages. However, Donald (2012) found out that English was the most commonly spoken with 68.1% using it at their homes. Other languages were Chinese that contributed to 3.6% of the total population. Greek, Italia, and Vietnamese were also in use at the household level with each being used by more than 100,000 speakers (Donald, 2012).

Melbourne was ranked as the livable city for the sixth time in a row in 2016 (Cook, 2016). The city has various vicinities of interest that attract both domestic and international tourists. Due to the continued interaction between the different people in the city, its residents have adopted new and diverse cultures. Backhaus (2006) and Jenkins and Leung, (2014)English is the most commonly used, especially for official businesses. Other languages used in some commercial places this town are Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Arabic. However, that is now changing, and most people are no longer using English. Statistics show that 3 out of 10 people speak a different language from English (Jenkins, & Leung, 2014). Some suburbs in the city have more people speaking other languages than the English. The Mandarin speakers increased making it the second most spoken language after English between 2001 and 2011 (Backhaus, 2006).

This paper is a project brief that recommends a set of designs and redesigns of the linguistic landscape for Melbourne in Australia. In Melbourne, languages are classified as key issues due to various reasons, as Rubdy and Said (2015) found out. This paper brings out how some languages in the city are predominant over the others and how and why some languages still exist in the daily lives of people in the city. It attempts to show the reason for redesigning the linguistic landscape for the city keeping in mind the diverse languages in the city and the willingness of the people to continue using them (In Rubdy, & In Said, 2015).

To get the linguistic landscape of the city, I decided to visit the Wharf hotel, in Melbourne. The reason was to identify the different people coming to the place. Below re pictures taken on three separate visits to the area. A close look at them shows the different people going to the place. People from UK, Australia, China, all types of people living in Melbourne visited the area. It gave me the chance to listen to their oral language that they were using (James Boyce, 1835).

Fig I: A picture outside the Wharfs hotel on my first visit to the place.

Fig II: A picture that I took on my second visit to the area. There were more people on this visit. There must have been an event at the hotel on this occasion.

Fig III: A picture on my third visit. The place was having fewer people on this particular visit.

Language Policies found in Melbourne

A language policy is designed to facilitate the use or to kill the use of a given language in an area. Policies are passed at either the local or the federal level. Melbourne is a city in the state of Victoria in Australia. Winter (2011) addressed that the systems used in Melbourne are similar to the ones used in the whole of Victoria. In this state, several policies made over the years on language use were meant for the interactions between the people living there. They must be free without discrimination against any particular individual or group due to their language (Lou, 2016).

In Melbourne, there are over 250 languages. The respective language groups use different languages as a way of identifying themselves. Languages to some of the inhabitants are employed to preserve the cultures of the groups (Winter, 2011). Abdisalam Mohamed, who is a Somali, living in Heidelberg West once stated that they speak Somali to keep their culture and heritage alive. The Somali occupy 44 out of the 1546 suburbs in Victoria. In these places, the language commonly spoken is Somali, which they hope to pass to next generations (Australia, 2008).

The existence of different languages in Melbourne and Victoria has brought the need for policies to safeguard the interests of various language groups. Winter (2011) adds that in Australia, English mono-lingualism is the identity of the nation and multilingualism are an expression of the differences in the demographics in the country. However, there have been changes in policies over the years seeking to facilitate the use of different languages in the country, as Winter (2011) recorded.

Before the mid-1870’s, Victoria was supportive to multilingualism and did not limit the use of other languages different from English (Aronin, et al. 2013).  The state gave financial aids to learning institutions that were bilingual to teach in more than one language (Angermeyer, 2005). The bilingual schools taught other languages, which included German. Some people taught German in the German settlements around Melbourne despite the lingua franca (the primary language) being English. The Education Act of 1872 was to mainstream the use of English monolingualism in education, bringing about the identification of Australia (Angermeyer, 2005). By that time, Australia was an emerging nation with English monolingualism.

During and after the World War 1, Australia had to forget the multi-lingual culture because patriotism in war was marked by aggressive monolingualism. Language groups sided against each other during the war. After the war, a policy came up that led to the ban of the publication in German. It later reemerged in 1925.  In the same year, the Education Act in Victoria outlawed the bilingual education and affected German and French. These bans were a great let down because of the predominance of the two languages in schools.

Aggressive monolingualism in the country continued for some time between the two world wars. It also connected to mass immigration from high warzones to relatively peaceful regions. Judith (1996) adds that the policy of assimilation made it difficult for the language groups to progress other than English. In addition, severe restrictions controlled the Broadcast of LOTEs. LOTEs were the community languages used by the immigrants. During this time, English was the only dialect used (Judith, 1996).

In 1972, there was a change in policy where it turned from assimilation to multiculturalism. The limitations set aside for the use of immigrant LOTEs were lifted. They (LOTEs) could now be used in electronic media and education. The federal and state governments started to finance the sustenance of languages. Rubdy (2015) posits that the state of Victoria funded the development of community languages by providing library resources, radio stations and ethnic schools. Melbourne was by then pioneering pluralistic developments in education, libraries, and media. At this point, there were other dialects commonly used by the residents in this city. In 1980, the language policies were implicit. Victorian policies favored the use of different languages (In Rubdy, 2015).

Victoria, unlike other states balanced the use of Asian and European languages. It also maintains a balance in the use of community and universal languages in education. The state has a vision for all children to study a LOTE for at least 11 years of their lives in school. The balance in multilingualism in the state is visible in Melbourne. The state achieved this by ensuring policies aimed at facilitating the use of these languages. In 2011, Norrby and Hajek wrote that these laws brought cohesion and understanding amongst the residents because no language group was inferior to the others. Additional measures were to ensure little discrimination of individuals based on their languages. An example in Melbourne is a policy at the University of the Third Age demanding no one to discriminate another person because of their language. Any citizen found guilty of such offenses faces punishment (Norrby, & Hajek, 2011).

During my walk, I discovered that English was the landscape of communication in Melbourne. The research was in the Wharfs Hotel in Melbourne. In my research, I came across several indicators to confirm this. Below are photos that I took to defend my claims that English is the language landscape in Melbourne. Below are the pictures of the research.

Fig 1: This picture is from the hotel’s website advertising some lunch services. The post is in plain English targeting Melbournian customers speking English.

Fig 2: This picture was taken at night and it shows the sign at the hotel entrance. The sign bears the name in English. This sign proves that the hotel prefers to use English, which means English is the most common language used in the city.

Current Research on Linguistic Landscapes

Linguistic landscape as earlier defined refers to the use of language in signs. The language type here is visual semantic. The writings on the signs are visible to all the people in the area because they are written in large and bright words. Linguistic landscape deals with how different languages are used in signs to passing some message to people (Winter, 2011). Some signs are written in various languages corresponding to languages spoken by the residents of the particular areas of use. Linguistic landscape as a field has had very many researches carried out on it. People in different places use different languages spoken in those locations. The reason for using a particular word in a place is conversancy or a state law demanding its use as an official language (Winter, 2011).

Using specific languages in some areas has various effects brought by the language policies put in place in the particular field. The language policies lead to linguistic landscaping. It contributes to the scope of this paper, which discusses the effects of the languages used in Melbourne in the linguistic landscape of Australia.

During the research in Melbourne, it was evident most posters, billboards and other advertisement signs are written in English, confirming it as the Linguistic Landscape of the city. The presence of the ads written in English shows the disparity in language use. Other languages commonly used by other residents in the city are left out. The research did not consider the presence of the other languages with the assumption that every resident in Melbourne speaks and reads English.

Using English in all signs shows the favor towards this language in the region, making it monolingual. Despite the existence of multilingualism policies in the city, the society has curved its linguistic landscape to monolingualism (Gorter, 2006).  It has made English a vital socio-symbolic sign where social lives of residents are coined to using English. Gorter (2006) adds that this is because of the conversancy people have with the language. It made English the emblem of the city.

Benefits of the Research on Linguistic Landscapes

It helps in coming up with views on the language use in a place. The research on Linguistic Landscapes is important because it helps the researcher to define the opinion of the people living in the particular area about languages used in the city, as Gorter (2006) posited. The researcher gets an insight into the language employed and the perspectives of the people in the given location (Gorter, 2006).  Researchers get a view of the linguistic landscape and the likely changes in the development of the same language. In Melbourne, English was the language used in signs. The people had a positive opinion on its use as they adapted to it in their transactions in the city. At personal levels, the research reveals people’s responses towards the use of English as the primary language in the city (Macalister, 2012).

Researchers also understand the roles that Linguistic Landscape plays into the people’s day-to-day lives. In Melbourne, the language landscape is English, and it is used on public and commercial signs to passing the intended message to the people living in the area. In Australia, the home of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, English is the identity of the nation. The research hence helped me understand that English plays the role of identifying the country (James, 1835).

On further analysis, I know how people react to each other. In Melbourne, the individuals in the city commonly use many different languages. Despite the presence of these many languages, English is the dominant language used on signs. It means that the other languages are ignored due to their various factors like their little attractiveness (Australia, 2008). People who are good at the languages like Mandarin may feel the neglect to their language. However, I came to a surprising and exciting realization that the people in Melbourne are positive minded. They cannot forget their indigenous languages while in the city as they adapt to English. This research is necessary because it helps in understanding how different people with different styles react to another general language used as the Linguistic Landscape (Australia, 2008).

From the research, other languages died because of the use of one language. This amazes researchers to realize how a linguistic landscape kills existence of other indigenous languages. In Melbourne, the residents use over 251 languages. English is the language used on signs and mainly spoken by the inhabitants. The use of English has not killed the use of these other indigenous languages because the different language groups use it in their homes (Macalister, 2012). They use them with the aim of preserving their culture. The Vietnamese believed that having their children speak in Vietnamese helps their children to keep a connection with their motherland and their roots. It means that English is the primary language used even though the indigenous languages still exist and are mostly applicable at the household level. The research identified that having a single language, as the linguistic landscape does not kill little dialects (Macalister, 2012).

The research on linguistic landscape aspects reveals how people interact with each other. In interaction, communication is a crucial point in expressing feelings. Communication is only effective when the two individuals share a common language so that they can understand each other (Macalister, 2012). In Melbourne, the language commonly used is English. Most people use it in business transactions and other forms of trade. The linguistic landscape in the town being English brought the residents together because they can communicate freely with each other using this more popular language. In addition, English added interest to the people who wanted to learn in learning the language. The research helped me understand the role that English play part interaction between different people in Melbourne (Gorter, 2006).

Linguistic landscape shapes the lives of people in a way that helps them relate to each other. They relate easily because of the interest in the joint language used in signs. They later make it their official language. In Melbourne, English shaped the residents in a way that even those that have another language have taken the initiative to study English and most people can speak more than one language in a place having English indigenous languages. The research in this field identifies what extent the language used as the linguistic landscape has affected the people in the area. Also, it helps in understanding the willingness of the people in the place to cope with the language (Australasian Asian Pacific Conference, 2011).

Additional Sociolinguistic Literature

Sociolinguistics is the study of effects of the aspects of society that affect the use of a language in the community. The characters are composed of cultural norms and the expectations that people in a community have. Unlike sociology of languages that focuses on the effect of language on the society, the sociolinguistics focuses on the impact of the culture on language (Scuderi, 1992). Sociolinguistics is closely related to other disciplines of study that are considered close but different in some ways. This paper will discuss how the society in Melbourne has affected the languages being used in the available literature on sociolinguistics (Bailey, et al. 2016).

The society of Melbourne has shaped the residents to despise the many languages that exist and to adapt to English for use in their day-to-day life. The residents use English in their dealings outside their homes. Indigenous and other languages are only used in their households. In sociolinguistics, the society shapes the language to be employed in the community. The culture in Melbourne developed English as the language to be employed in the community. The residents who had differences and priorities on other languages were under pressure to use English. English was the most common language readily used on promotions and advertisements making it the dominant language. This dominance is because of the society’s ideas of shaping it into the primary language (Scuderi, 1992).

The use of English in Melbourne has been maximized in all ways, and this leads to the ignorance of other languages that are not dominant. An example where the use of English has been maximized is the signs used in advertisement, which is written in English, making it the linguistic landscape of the place (Muchnik, et al., 2016). The making of English as the predominant language killed the other dialects. Some residents lost interest in learning these languages because of their little use on rare occasions. In this case, the society led to the discrimination of the other languages in its bid to make English the dominant language (Muchnik, et al., 2016).

Wharf Hotel is prominent in Melbourne and is a source of meals to all people in Australia. The hotel uses English in all its operations, which includes its advertisement. The society in which it is located has shaped in a way that English is the primary (Scuderi, 1992). Despite the fact that other languages exist, English remained the dominant language. It makes its use to be categorized under social linguistics.

The city of Melbourne had 48.53% of its population being men and 51.47% being women (Donald, 2012). However, at Wharfs, both men and women used English. In the signs that were put to advertise, English was used to be read by every person despite the gender. In linguistic landscape, gender has little to say because the language used is understandable to the people despite their gender hence the percentages of men and women had nothing to do about the linguistic of the city.


After researching on the linguistic landscape of Melbourne, it was evident that there is a discrimination of some languages. This calls for some actions the use of the dialect in this society. Below are some recommended methods that if put in place will make the use of linguistic landscape in this city fairer to all the residents in the city.

  1. Use of more than one Language on Advertisements and Promotions

The first recommendation is that in the writing of billboards, more than one language should be in use. It helps in making English less dominant and balances the perception that everyone must be good at English to transact in the country. Additionally, the message passed to the people can be clearer to more of them.

  1. Creation of another linguistic landscape

Creation of another linguistic landscape to be used together with English should be encouraged. It can even be more than one alternative language like French or German. The reason for this is to make English less dominant and ensure that residents have an alternative linguistic landscape other than English. It reduces the obligation to use English, as they will have a choice to choice.

  1. Creating a culture where a mother language is taught at home

Learning the mother language at home ensures that kids maintain the existence and use of the indigenous languages, which are not used in public and commercial places.

  1. Creation of more media platforms using different languages

The creation of more media outlets like radio, magazines that use local indigenous languages improves the speaking of the native languages. It helps the members of the respective language groups not to feel left out as they will read articles or listen to radio using their local languages.

  1. Making Policies Against Language Discrimination

The other recommendation is that the states of Victoria in which Melbourne is located to make policies that are strict to any actions that try in any way whatsoever are found to discriminate other language groups. The policies should protect the use of the other indigenous systems.

  1. Encouraging Local Events

Another recommendation is for the encouragement of local events in the area that are supposed to promote the cultural practices of the different language groups in the society. The cultural events will include presentations that will be made using local languages hence promoting their use even daily life contexts.


This person is meant to recommend the ways that could be encouraged to ensure that the other languages that are used in the society are also invited to make sure that the people who use them do not feel discriminated. The paper has also outlined the linguistic landscape that is employed in Melbourne and how it encourages the use of English as the local language in the city. It has also brought out how sociolinguistics are made with the society being the one that affects the use of language in the research.



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