Kurt Feyaerts (KU Leuven)


Course description
This course focuses on the growing interdisciplinary field of Linguistic Landscapes (LL), which traditionally analyses “language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings”, usually as they occur in urban spaces (Landry and Bourhis, 1997; Shohamy and Gorter, 2009). More recently, LL research has evolved beyond studying only verbal signs into the realm of semiotics (Shohamy 2018; Gorter 2018), thus extending the analytical scope into the multimodal domain of images, sounds, drawings, movements, visuals, graffiti, tattoos, colours, smells as well as people. This has led to a broader definition of LLs as “Interaction of discursive modalities with visual images, nonverbal communication, architecture and the built environment” (Jaworski & Thurlow 2010: 2).
Students will be informed about multiple aspects of modern LL research including an overview of different types of signs, their formal features as well as their functions (Auer 2010; Gorter 2018).

On the background of this paradigm, this course focuses on the realization of alternative and innovative forms of multimodal language use, as it occurs as different aspects of the Urban Linguistic Landscape. More specifically, we will look at street art, graffiti and materialized advertisements as well as foreigner talk among tourists and locals as four formats of interaction, in which different materialities (objects, locations, artefacts, buildings, …) are involved as hitherto under-researched communicative resources.
In this context, we will also analyze the impact of the covid-19/Corona pandemic on multiple dimensions of urban communication. Especially the various measures of ‘social distancing’ which were put in place, affect many aspects of the interactive situation: gesture (no handshakes; no kisses but raising hands or use of elbows or feet for greeting instead; coughing and sneezing in elbow) posture (keeping approx. 1,5 meter distance from each other), verbal elements (speaking through covered by mouth mask or scarf, shorter utterances), positioning (talking from different apartments or buildings, for example people playing Battleship by shouting coordinates through the open windows).

In the empirical track throughout this course, we will analyze case studies of Linguistic Landscapes in different cities throughout the world: Venice (Tufi 2017), Strasbourg (Bogatto & Hélot 2010), Brunei (Coluzzi 2016), Tel Aviv (Shohamy, E., Ben-Rafael, E., & Barni 2010), Oman (Buckingham 2015).

In the setting of VIU, special attention is paid to the analysis of the Linguistic Landscape of Venice, a city in constant need to strike a balance between citizens, cultural heritage and tourists. To what extent the materiality of the city has an impact on the communication process is illustrated by an incident, which took place on the stairs of the Rialto bridge in July 2019. German tourists making coffee at the foot of the bridge were arrested and fined thus showing that its very location turned this initial action into a lot more than ‘just’ preparing a hot beverage. Through its status of a unique cultural Venetian monument, the Rialto bridge actively takes part as a locally relevant resource in the semiotic process of meaning making. Taken more broadly, along with its monuments, the city of Venice itself through its release of 12 “Good rules for the responsible visitor” (#EnjoyRespectVenezia) also actively participates in the materialization of urban interactional meaning. Some of these rules [emphasis original] explicitly pertain to the impact of materialities on interaction like for example rule #6 ‘Walk on the right, do not stand at any time on bridges, do not even lead bikes by hand’, or #7 ‘Steps of churches, bridges, wells, monuments and banks of streams, canals etc. are not picnic areas. Please use the public gardens for this necessity. Consult the map’ or #8 ‘St. Mark's Square is a monumental site and excluding pertinent bars and restaurants, it is forbidden to stand at any time in order to consume food or drink’ etc. At least in their conception and their reinforcement by Venetian police, officials and even citizens, each of these guidelines affect the interaction, the verbal and embodied communication and hence its meaning, in relation with the material surroundings. In this course, we will further scrutinize these guidelines as part of the dynamic Linguistic Landscape of Venice (


Learning outcomes of the course
This course aims:
- to familiarize students with the standard tools and concepts required for collecting, annotating and analyzing data in Linguistic Landscapes research
- to make students familiar with the latest LL scholarship
- to enable students to carry out and present LL research in situ in Venice;
- to make students aware of social, economic and political issues such as diversity, racism and discrimination, in- and exclusion, activism and glocal controversies, ideologies and justice, sexual identity, gender equality, etc.;
- to introduce students to discourses and research on LL impacting the cultural profile of our cities (and Venice in particular) and affecting the way we interact with the urban environment
- to enable students to apply interdisciplinary LL approaches.

Teaching and evaluation methods
As far as teaching is concerned, this course will mix both theoretical and practical methods, with a clear increase of the latter towards the end of the semester. Students will be asked to give brief presentations about the different case studies, which will always be completed by a Q&A-session along with a discussion.
Students are also required to make relevant pictures of different aspects of the Linguistic Landscape in different parts of Venice. Finally, students are expected to hand in a written empirical research report (between 2500 and 3500 words) about their assignment regarding the LL of Venice.

- Attendance and participation (10%)
- Preparation of exercise materials (10%)
- Individual feedback & discussion session (10%)
- Oral presentation (30%)
- Empirical report (40%)

Bonadio, E. (2014). Graffiti copyright battles pitch artists against advertisers. The Conversation.
François Bogatto & Christine Hélot (2010). Linguistic Landscape and Language Diversity in Strasbourg: The « Quartier Gare » In Elana Shohamy, Eliezer Ben-Rafael & Monica Barni (Eds.). Linguistic Landscape In The City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 275-291
Louisa Buckingham (2015). Commercial signage and the linguistic landscape of Oman. World Englishes, 2015 0883-2919 doi: 10.1111/weng.12146
Paolo Coluzzi (2016). The linguistic landscape of Brunei. World Englishes, 497–508.
Day, D., Wagner, J., (2015). Objects as tools for talk. In: Nevile, M., Haddington, P., Heinemann, T., Rauniomaa, M. (Eds.), Interacting with Objects. Language, Materiality and Social Activity, 101-124. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Gorter, D. (2018): Methods and Techniques for Linguistic Landscape Research: About Definitions, Core Issues and Technological Innovations. In: Pütz, Martin & Neele-Frederike Mundt (eds.). Expanding the Linguistic Landscape: Linguistic Diversity, Multimodality and the Use of Space as a Semiotic Resource. Channel View Publications, 38-57
Hodge, R. & Kress, G. (1988). Social Semiotics. New York: Cornell University Press.
Jaworski, A. & C. Thurlow (2010). Introducing Semiotic Landscapes. In: Jaworski, Adam & Crispin Thurlow. Semiotic Landscapes - Language, Image and Space. London: Continuum Books, 1-23
Mondada, L. (2019). Contemporary issues in conversation analysis: Embodiment and materiality, multimodality and multisensoriality in social interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 145, 47-62.
Shohamy, E. (2018): Linguistic Landscape after a Decade: An Overview of Themes, Debates and Future Directions in LL research. In: Pütz, Martin & Neele-Frederike Mundt (eds.). Expanding the Linguistic Landscape: Linguistic Diversity, Multimodality and the Use of Space as a Semiotic Resource. Channel View Publications, 25-37.
Shohamy, E., Ben-Rafael, E., & Barni, M. (2010). Linguistic landscape in the city. Channel View Publications
Sonesson, G. (2010). Pictorial semiotics. T.A. Seboeot & M. Danesi (eds.), Encyclopedic dictionary of semiotics (third revised and updated edition). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.
Sonesson, G. (2013). New Rules for the Spaces of Urbanity. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 27(1). 7-26.
Stampoulidis, G. (2016). Rethinking Athens as Text: The Linguistic Context of Athenian Graffiti during the Crisis. Journal of Language Works. 1-14.
Stefania Tufi, S. (2017). Liminality, heterotopic sites, and the linguistic landscape. The case of Venice. Linguistic Landscape, 78-99.


Last update: May 11, 2023


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