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Commercial discourses, gentrification and citizens' protest: the linguistic landscape of Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>02/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number1
Volume16
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)56-81
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Since reunification in 1990, Prenzlauer Berg, located in the former East Berlin, has turned from a cheap and neglected area into a popular middle class neighbourhood. The area’s new character is reflected in its linguistic landscape. These days the signs of posh shops and trendy bars adorn its streets. But alternative views are noticeable too. Graffiti is present even on the most expensively refurbished buildings and residents put up slogans to protest against their flats being refurbished and sold to new owners. This case study of the changing graphic environment of Prenzlauer Berg shows that despite the strong influence of commercial discourses the public space remains an area of contestation between civil society and the state. The particular approach to linguistic landscape I developed combines textual and visual analysis with interviews with sign producers. This has enabled me to show how the linguistic landscape both reflects as well as shapes social change and urban development in Berlin since reunification.