Multilingual Practices and Multiple Contestations in the Linguistic Landscape of Selected Towns in Oromia: A geosemiotic perspective



Fekede, A. & W. Tesfaye


Work Unit:

Jimma University, Ethiopia;Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia


Vol.8 No.1 (Serial No.12) 2020






This study analyzed a linguistic landscape, which is a relatively recent development in sociolinguistic research committed to the investigation of the visual manifestations of the relationships observed between language or semiosis and society in the public space. There has been less attention on the semiotic interpretations in the public environments despite the ubiquitous nature of such signs in Ethiopia. This study intends to fill this gap through Semiotic Landscape research. By means of mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative, it aims to discover the contestations in the Linguistic Landscape (LL, henceforth) of selected urban environments in Oromia. The study employed a theoretical concept of geosemiotics from social semiotics as an analytical tool. Visual data consisting of 1275 photographs of signs were collected from the main streets of Adama, Jimma and Sebeta towns from different domains of sign using bodies. Besides, data were collected through in-depth interviews with major LL actors, selected based on purposive sampling technique. The analysis demonstrated that some top-down and most of bottom-up signs showed varieties of multilingual practices, contestations, identity constructions and other related social concerns. The absence of a clear policy on language use on signs at both federal and regional levels has resulted in contestations.

Key Words:

contestation, geosemiotics, multilingual practice, linguistic landscape, Oromia, semiotic


doi: 10.26478/ja2020.8.12.7


Backhaus, P. 2007. Linguistic Landscapes: A comparative study of urban multilingualism in Tokyo [M]. Clevedon, Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.
Ben-Rafael, E., E. Shohamy, M. H. Amara & N. Trumper-Hecht. 2006. Linguistic Landscape as Symbolic Construction of the Public Space: The case of Israel [A]. 
  In D. Gorter (ed.). Linguistic Landscape: A new approach to multilingualism [C]. Clevedon, Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.
Ben-Rafael, E. 2009. A Sociological Approach to the Study of Linguistic Landscapes [A]. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (eds.). Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the 
  scenery [C]. New York: Routledge, 40-54.
Blommaert, J. & I. Maly. 2016. Ethnographic Linguistic Landscape Analysis and Social Change: A case study [A]. Language and Superdiversity [C]. London: 
  Routledge, 191-211.
Cenoz, J. & D. Gorter. 2006. Linguistic Landscape and Minority Languages [A]. In D. Gorter (ed.). Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the scenery [C]. Clevedon: 
  Multilingual Matters, 67-80.
Creswell, J. W. 2009. Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches [M]. Los Angels, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage.
Edelman, L. 2009. What’s in a Name? Classification of Proper Names by Language [A]. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (eds.). Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the 
  scenery [C]. New York: Routledge, 141-154.
ESA (Ethiopian Statistical Agency). 2007. Statistical Report for Oromiya Region [Z]. Addis Ababa.
FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia). 1991. Peaceful and Democratic Transitional Conference of Ethiopia, 50th Year No. 1 [Z]. Addis Ababa: Federal 
  Negarit Gazeta.
FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia). 1992. A Proclamation for the Establishment of National/Regional Self-governments, Transitional Government of 
  Ethiopia (TGE), 51st Year [Z]. Addis Ababa: Federal Negarit Gazeta.
FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia). 1995. Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia [Z]. Addis Ababa: Federal Negarit Gazeta.
Fishman, J. A. 1991. Reversing Language Shift [M]. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Gorter, D. 2007. The Linguistic Landscape in Rome: Aspects of multilingualism and diversity [OL]. Working Paper of the IPRS (Instittuto Psiconaliticp Perle 
  Riceerche Sociale), Roma. (
Halliday, M. A. K. 1978. Language as Social Semiotic: The social interpretation of language and meaning [M]. London: Edward Arnold.
Jaworski, A. & C. Thurlow. 2010. Introducing Semiotic Landscapes [A]. In A. Jaworski & C. Thurlow (eds.). Semiotic Landscapes: Language, image, space [C]. 
  London: Continum.
Keller, E. 1998. Regime Change and Ethno-regionalism in Ethiopia: The Case of the Oromo [A]. In A. Jalata. (ed.). Oromo Nationalism and the Ethiopian 
  Discourse [C]. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 109-124.
Kress, G. & T. van Leeuwen. 2006. Reading Images: The grammar of visual design [M]. London: Routledge.
Landry, R. & R. Y. Bourhis. 1997. Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An empirical study [J]. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 16(1):23-49.
Legesse. A. 1973. Gada: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society [M]. New York: Free Press.
Lou, J-J. 2010. Chinese on the Side: The marginalization of Chinese in the linguistic and social landscapes of Chinatown in Washington, DC [A]. In E. Shohamy, E. 
  Ben-Rafael & B. Barni (eds.). Linguistic Landscape in the City [C]. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 96-114.
Moges, Y. & B. Blackwood. 2016. Harari Linguistic Identity in the LL: Creation, legitimization, and omission in the city of Harar, Ethiopia [A]. In R. Blackwood, E. 
  Lanza & H. Woldemariam (eds.). Negotiating and Contesting Identities in Linguistic Landscapes [C]. London: Bloomsbury, 130-144.
Moriarty, M. 2014. Languages in the Motion: Multilingualism and mobility in the linguistic landscape [J]. International Journal of Bilingualism, 18(5):457-464.
Pandey, A. 2015. Mapping Yamunaji’s Linguistic Landscape Research: Cartographies in context, culture and class [J]. World Englishes, 34(1):96–113.
Reh, M. 2004. Multilingual Writing: A reader-oriented typology – with examples from Lira Municipality (Uganda) [J]. International Journal of the Sociology of 
  Language, 170:1-41.
Rubdy, R. 2015. Conflict and Exclusion: The linguistic landscape as an arena of contestation [A]. In R. Rubdy & S. B. Said (eds.). Conflict, Exclusion and Dissent 
  in the Linguistic Landscape [C]. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1-26.
Scollon, R. & S. W. Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place: Language in the material world [M]. London: Routledge.
Shohamy, E. 2012. Linguistic Landscape and Multilingualism [A]. In M. Martin-Jones, A. Blackledge & A. Creese (eds.). The Routledge Handbook of 
  Multilingualism [C]. London: Routledge, 538-551.
Shohamy, E. 2015. LL Research as Expanding Language and Language Policy. Linguistic [J]. Landscape, 1(1-2):152-171.
Shohamy, E. & D. Gorter. 2009. Introduction [A]. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (eds.). Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the scenery [C]. New York: Routledge, 1-10.
Spolsky, B. 2008. Investigating Language Education Policy [A]. In K. King & N. H. Hornberger (eds.). Encyclopedia of Language and Education (2nd edition) [C]. 
  New York: Springer, 10:27-39.
van Leeuwen, T. 2005. Introducing Social Semiotics [M]. London: Routledge.
Woldemariam, H. & E. Lanza. 2012. Religious Wars in the Linguistic Landscape of an African Capital [A]. In C. Helot, M. Barni, R. Janssens & C. Bagna (eds.). 
  Linguistic Landscapes, Multilingualism and Social Change [C]. New York: Peter Lang, 169-186.


  • Macrolinguistics(ISSN 1934-5755,e-ISSN 2473-6376)is an international academic journal w...
  • 1. Authors should submit the original work. This journal uses iThentic...
  • 1. Peer review of this journal consists of three procedures in sequence: initial review ...
  • The Learned Press, 9 East 37th Street, Suite: WL, New York, NY 10016, U.S.APhone: 646-831-8213Fa...