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Language Choice and Language Functions of Official Signs: a Linguistic Landscape Study of Zhanjiang, China

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DOI: 10.25236/ILECL.2019.039


Shanshan Xie

Corresponding Author

Shanshan Xie


The visibility of languages in public space not only tells the ethno linguistic constitution of a given region, but is also an important parameter to understand government voices. With first-hand data, this study focuses on the linguistic landscape (LL) of Zhanjiang by scrutinising the language choice and language functions of official signs. The findings show that Chinese is in a dominant position and serves as an information giver. The salience of Chinese on official signs reinforces the power of the official language in China. Foreign languages on official signs perform a symbolic function because of the economic values these languages represent. English, as a most preferred foreign code, marks modernity and internationalisation of a city, while French and Korean languages deliver a government message regarding the transformation of local economic structure. The findings suggest that official signage is not simply a reflection of how language policies of a country have been implemented in public space, but also a gateway to understanding the mode that a given region adopts for economic growth and social development.


Linguistic landscape; Zhanjiang; official signs; language function; economic transformation