Challenging the ‘linguistic’ in Linguistic Landscapes of Limpopo and the Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Authors: Mmatlou Jerida Malatji (Sol Plaatje University, South Africa)
Lorato Mokwena (University of South Africa, South Africa)
Speakers: Mmatlou Jerida Malatji, Lorato Mokwena
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The foundation of the field of Linguistic Landscape (LL) is the analysis of written linguistic practices of publicly displayed signage. However, areas that have villages and small town such as those in Limpopo and the Northern Cape with minimal to little written signage in the public domain trouble LL’s foundational principle. Drawing on social semiotic theory, the purpose of this paper is two-fold: Firstly, to explore how residents produce oral signage for locations that are frequently used but have no signage. Such locations include graveyards, hitch-hiking spots and taxi-stops. Secondly, to analysis how non-written signage such as a white flag and tent influence residents’ social behavior and movement. Based on conversations with residents in certain towns and villages of the mentioned provinces, findings suggest that in a bid to compensate for the lack of written signage, residents in Limpopo and Northern Cape have created an informal naming system that is maintained orally. This informal naming system is informed by cultural norms, memory and distinctive features in the immediate environments. This paper contributes to the limited literature on the LLs of both the Limpopo and Northern Cape province. Additionally, this paper boosts the call for an LL that goes beyond written text towards an LL theory that accounts for non-linguistic semiotic resources.

Keywords: Linguistic landscapes, Limpopo, Northern Cape, non-linguistic signage, orality, semiotic resources.