English, the non-language

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    Much of the signage that can be found in contemporary public spaces is commercial. It is a form of advertising, and language choice in commercial signage such as shop names is a good indicator of the values associated with a particular language. The basic idea is that the connotations of the shop name are such that they will attract potential customers. From a multilingual perspective, the interesting signs are those where a language other than the default choice – the official language of a particular place – is used. In much of the non-English-speaking world, English signs, of course, hold pride of place and English has come to be widely associated with modernity, progress, globalization and consumption. Whereas languages other than English mostly index ethnic stereotypes, English indexes a social stereotype (as I discussed in detail in this review article). What that means is that English is not used to conjure up some archetypal American or British quality in the same way that French or Italian are used to imbue a business with some stereotypical French-ness or Italian-ness.
    Original languageEnglish
    Specialist publicationLanguage on the move
    PublisherLanguage on the move
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2010

    Bibliographical note

    Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • 200401 applied linguistics and educational linguistics
    • 200405 language in culture and society (sociolinguistics)


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