Language Use in the Linguistic Landscape of Wolkite

Author: Fekede Menuta (Hawassa University, Ethiopia)
Speaker: Fekede Menuta
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The purpose of this article was to provide descriptive account of language use in the linguistic landscape of Wolkite town of the Gurage Zone. The focus was to find out how signs on buildings and road sides in a multilingual setting are used to express identity (linguistic, religious and ethnic), culture and power relations, in addition to their market value, attracting clients, and to find out language use patterns. The research method followed was Qualitative; texts and pictures were collected analyzed thematically. The data were collected only in the main street with asphalted road that runs from Addis Ababa to Jima. The finding showed that Guragina, which is not used in any official settings in the zone, is highly used in signs and posters and trade marks in Wolkite. However, the Guragina language(s) used as signs was often mixed with Amharic. Though dialect variation within Gurage was reflected in a few cases, the Chaha language variety, often mixed with Amharic, was more frequently used. Semantically, the signs used showed, wishes, ambitions, successes, surprises, dilemmas and religious affiliations, traditional court symbolism, and cultural title names. It was found that signs in the town are mainly the mix of English, Amharic and Guragina. This code mixing is not random but systematically patterned. The first word is often Guragina and the second and so words are Amharic. English was more often provided as a gloss for Guragina and Amharic version of the signs.

Keywords: culture, code-mixing, identity, linguistic-landscape, power