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Informal signs as an expression of multilingualism in Chisinau: how individuals shape the public space of a post‐Soviet capital

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2014
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number228
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)29-53
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Informal and transient displays of written language such as graffiti, announcements and notes attached to walls and lampposts form an integral part of an urban linguistic landscape. Especially within multilingual contexts, individuals constantly shape the public space by the languages they use and make language choices that do not always reflect official language policies, commonly held perceptions or the demographic makeup within a certain area. The capital of the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau, proves to be an interesting area of research here, as – apart from a Romanian-speaking majority – the city is home to a large share of speakers of Russian, a language long considered to be the lingua franca of the country. The aim of the current study is to analyse signs made by private individuals that are not part of shop fronts or billboards, namely those that are found all over the city and advertise for language courses, work opportunities abroad or express political opinions. The quantitative basis of the study is made up of two corpora with over 750 different items from various parts of Chisinau surveyed in 2009 and 2010 both in the centre of the city as well as in suburban residential areas. For better traceability and to ensure transparency in linguistic landscape analysis, the 2010 corpus is accessible online. The survey shows that Russian is widely used as a local lingua franca, contradicting official policies that declare Romanian Moldovan the sole national language.