Linguistic Landscape: Language Diversity, Awareness and Attitudes

Marieke H.N. Hanenburg, Durk Gorter

Fryske Akademy, Netherlands, The


As part of a larger study into the economic value of the linguistic landscape (Cenoz & Gorter, to appear), we study language diversity and the awareness and attitudes of tourists and locals in the city of Leeuwarden/Ljouwert, the capital of the bilingual province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. In this city Dutch is the predominant written language on the signs in public space. The use of the minority language Frisian and the presence of English and other languages are also taken into consideration. The paper consists of two parts.

First, in the line with previous research (Cenoz & Gorter, 2006), a detailed look is taken at the distribution of the languages that are being used on the signs based on taking digital pictures of all signs in a number of central shopping streets. These pictures are analyzed using an existing coding scheme which was further elaborated. The scheme includes variables such as the type of sign, top-down vs. bottom up signs, amount of information, number of languages, composition and size of languages on bilingual and multilingual signs.

Second, we asked people about their awareness of the linguistic landscape and their opinion about their preferences: which languages should be used in the signs? Standardized questionnaires were used during short street interviews with a sample of locals and a sample of tourists. Primarily we have been considering the attitudes towards the use of different languages (how many and which ones) in signage. The following factors are considered: origin, first language, multilingualism, age and gender.

The results of our study give an ecolinguistic view (Hult, 2003) of the linguistic landscape of the city of Leeuwarden/Ljouwert. In that way an indication of the degree of language diversity is established. Compared to a few years ago, we observe an increase in the number of bilingual and multilingual signs (especially signs with Dutch in combination with English). The results also show a slight decrease in the use of Frisian on the signs.

From the questionnaires it becomes clear that people often are not aware of the linguistic landscape that surrounds them (“no idea”). An additional difficulty for foreign tourists is to distinguish between the different languages Dutch, Frisian or German. Many respondents share the opinion that at least two (Dutch and Frisian) or three languages (Dutch, Frisian and English) should be used in the linguistic landscape. The outcomes of the study have applied value for the development of language policy (Landry & Bourhis, 1997).


Cenoz, J. and Gorter, D. (2006). Linguistic Landscape and Minority Languages. International Journal of Multilingualism, 3, 1, 67-80.

Cenoz, J. and Gorter, D. (to appear). Language Economy and Linguistic Landscape. In: E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (eds.) Linguistic landscape: expanding the scenery. London: Routledge.

Hult, F.M. (2003). English on the Streets of Sweden: An Ecolinguistic View of Two Cities and a Language Policy. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 19, 1, 43-63.

Landry, R. and R.Y. Bourhis (1997). Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 16, 23-49.

Session: Paper session
Linguistic Landscape 1
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 07