Interrogating Socio-Contextual Meanings of Slogans and Mottos on Bicycle Taxis in Malawi: A Linguistic Landscape Analysis

Author: Victor Chikaipa (University of Malawi, Malawi)
Speaker: Victor Chikaipa
Topic: Applied Sociolinguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The study interrogates the linguistic and cultural meanings of the slogans and mottos inscribed on bicycle taxis operating in Malawi. It analyzes and compares the linguistic landscape of different bicycle taxis to understand the particularities and functions of different slogans. Specifically, bicycle taxis are a microcosm of the everyday mode of transport and their slogans represent underlying social, political, historical and cultural meanings. They are platforms where slogans and mottos are transformed for expanded production and consumption of meaning. The study collected 200 unique slogans from bicycle taxis at different ranks throughout Malawi. It also used in-depth interviews to collect data from bicycle taxi owners, and a qualitative thematic method for analysis. The findings reveal that slogans and mottos are syncretic creative socio-cultural symbols and styles that operators use to express their innermost feelings and ideologically link their identities to specific languages and cultures. The article argues that slogans on bicycle taxis represent a larger linguistic landscape of varied transformed meanings revolving around salient topics of lifetime experiences, the sociopolitical economy, linguistic and cultural diversity. Thus, the linguistic landscape analysis diagnoses the sociolinguistic situation of specific public places, specifically where the bicycle taxi ranks are situated, to understand different social-cultural actions and changes in Malawi ethnographically.

Keywords: Slogan, motto, ideology, bicycle taxi, linguistic diversity, linguistic landscapes.