Methodologies in linguistic landscape analysis

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to my blog. I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are feeling energized for the weekend. It has been quite rainy this past week here in Calgary, and due to a broken pipe in my car’s brake system, I had to leave her in the shop all week to get the problem fixed. As a result, I wasn’t able to do any field work this week but instead spent my time reading lots of interesting articles on linguistic landscape analysis (LLA) and schoolscapes. Today I want to share with you a few interesting (and experimental) methodologies for conducting LLA research.

Did you know that LLA studies can be performed within a laboratory? While much LLA research has been conducted through ethnographic field work, recent LLA researchers have been expanding the ways in which LLAs can be studied and incorporating more technologies into their research as well. In a 2017 article titled “Using eye tracking to investigate what bilinguals notice about linguistic landscape images: A preliminary study” (Vingron, Gullifer, Hamill, Leimgruber & Titone, 2017), Vingron et al. used eye tracking technologies to study 6 French-English Bilingual students’ eye movements as they viewed Bilingual signs from Montreal. In this preliminary study, the researchers tested six university-aged bilinguals recruited from an English-speaking university in Montreal who are fluent in both English and French and use the two languages in their daily lives” (Vingron et al., 2017). The students were shown “60 experimental LL images, 5 practice LL images, and 12 filler images” with the 60 LL images containing either “English-only, French-only, or English and French mixed” (Vingron et al., 2017, p. 230). The experimental results showed that with respect to fixations on objects, “all bilinguals fixated [on] objects to a lesser degree than text across all LL images” (Vingron et al., 2017, p. 234), but raised new questions about the “differential impact of semantically related vs. unrelated images and their impact on LL processing” (Vingron et al., 2017,p. 245). I found this article very interesting as it demonstrated a new and experimental way of engaging with LLs through photos and analyzing them based on how Bilinguals perceive the information they are shown.

I also read another article titled “Engaging with linguistic landscaping in Vancouver’s Chinatown: a pedagogical tool for teaching and learning about multilingualism” (Li & Marshall, 2018) which detailed some excellent ethnographic research methods for LLA research. In a small-scale research project designed as part of her graduate course, Li carried out a “linguistic landscaping project as a means to document, analyze, and engage with multilingualism in Vancouver’s Chinatown” (Li & Marshall, 2018, p. 1). Through “visual and sensory ethnography”, “walking ethnography”, and “employing ‘unconventional’ LL research methods”, Li noted that in the “locomotive aspect of walking”, the “visuality of the LL texts invited [her] not only to see, but also to hear, to smell, and to sense the place and the sights they represent” (Li & Marshall, 2018, p. 3, 8). Thus, the “multimodal nature of the LL images [she] engaged with…went beyond the mere visual experience of observing…and contributed to generating a vivid multisensory participation in the environment” (Li & Marshall, 2018, p. 8).

Relating this to my own research, I too have felt a sense of total immersion in going out to take photos of Bilingual schools’ exteriors. From the moment I get out of my car and begin walking around, the experience of noticing the signs around me, deciding on what path I should take, and walking around to take photos all allow me to develop a greater awareness of my surroundings and gradually build my familiarity with the area. After taking all my photos around a school, the field notes I make also allow me to critically reflect upon my working process and articulate the reasoning behind my choices. As Li suggests, the experience of “physically engaging in and with [a] local LL contribute[s] to…a multiliterate learning process in which meaning is constructed through all aspects of text, whether it is written, oral, audio, gestural, or visual” (Li & Marshall, 2018, p. 14). Returning to the first article on eye tracking as a method of conducting LLA, I think that while eye tracking technologies allow us to gain a different perspective of how LLs are perceived by different people, it also restricts the subjects’ perception of an LL to only the visual element. However, as the use of eye tracking is still very new in the field of LLA, it will be interesting to see how this practice is further developed in the future and the ways in which it may be adopted into future research.

Okay, I think that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for reading my blog and hope to catch you next time! Until then, stay safe and happy quarantine.

References

Li, J., & Marshall, S. (2018). Engaging with linguistic landscaping in Vancouver’s Chinatown: a pedagogical tool for teaching and learning about multilingualism. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 0(0), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2017.1422479

Vingron, N., Gullifer, J. W., Hamill, J., Leimgruber, J., & Titone, D. (2017). Using eye tracking to investigate what bilinguals notice about linguistic landscape images: A preliminary study. 3(3), 226–245. https://doi.org/10.1075/ll.17014.vin

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