Metaphors in Linguistic LandscapeView

Authors: Ahmadu Shehu (Kaduna State University, Nigeria), Christiane Alexandra Nsom (University of Cologne, Germany)
Speakers: Ahmadu Shehu, Christiane Alexandra Nsom
Topic: Linguistic Landscapes 
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The study of linguistic landscape (LL) – visible semiotic signs found in the environment – has become a fertile ground for scientific research in the past two decades. Signs are constituent parts of our everyday life and surround us everywhere we find ourselves in the material world and thus, cannot be considered as mere objects that have no implication in the way we perceive the world. It is in this vain that Scollon and Scollon (2003) argue that “[t]here is a social world presented in the material world through its discourses – signs, structures, other people – and our actions produce meanings in the light of those discourses”. Research has shown that, beyond answering the fundamental questions regarding the language situation of a given territory, with focus on its language ecology, language dominance, power relations of the speech communities and language policies among others, LL can offer a deeper analysis, interpretation and understanding of the signs displayed. In other words, linguistic landscape may seem to be mostly written in literal language and thus conveying a surface meaning devoid of conceptual underpinnings of emotional, social and cultural domains, of the intended audience. However, some signs actually contain figurative meanings derived from conceptual metaphors and metonymies as explained by Lakoff and Johnson (1980). The aim of this paper is to explore the use of metaphors in linguistic landscapes. The study focuses on the kinds of metaphors and the conceptual mappings used in these metaphors vis-à-vis the intended effects of the signage. The data constitutes of photographs of signs collected through purposive sampling in Nigeria and Cameroon and are analysed based on the Geosemiotic framework and Conceptual Metaphor theory. The results of the study show that linguistic landscapes exploit various forms of metaphors and metonymies as tools for communicating the authors message to the audience. Thus, some signs embody metaphoric expressions that denote emotions and social realities of the intended audience and often that of the authors.

Keywords: Linguistic landscape, sign, metaphor, metonymy