Returning to the Linguistic Landscape of Asian Immigrant Communities in the Valley of the Sun: Further Evidence from Multi-modal Representation in P...

Presented at: Sociolinguistics Symposium 19: Language and the City

This paper presents new findings from a follow up study to DeKlerk and Wiley’s (2009) multi-modal linguistic landscape analysis of three sub-urban centers of multi-Asian immigrant commercial activity in Phoenix, Arizona, the fifth largest city in the United States.

It analyzes public and informal signage and announcements located in public or private business space as indicators of linguistic vitality (Barni & Bagna 2009). Theoretically, it draws on Shohamy and Waksman (2009) viewing the linguistic landscape as a form of meaning construction in public space where multiple modes of representation come together.

The study analyzed U.S. Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data to determine Asian immigrant population densities proximate to Asian commercial sites as an initial indicator of linguistic vitality. Next, within the commercial sites, an analysis was undertaken of external signage on commercial buildings, internal signage as well as print advertising and news media within those buildings, and informal print announcements posted on bulletin boards, noting which languages were used in each context.

Through this analysis of formal and informal signage, advertising, and announcements, the paper argues that the linguistic landscape of ‘anchor’ commercial centers in suburban Asian communities provides evidence of the vitality and persistence of ethno-linguistic social networks despite the lack of high density ethno-linguistic populations among Asian immigrant groups (as indicated by recent American Community Survey, ACS and U.S. Census data), and despite a political environment that is generally hostile to languages other than English. Arizona is a state with a history of English-only and restrictive language policies.

The paper concludes that, despite low population density, there is strong evidence of linguistic vitality for Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese in suburban environments in Arizona, which demonstrates the resilience of these Asian immigrant communities in maintaining strong social networks. Whether these social networks will be sufficient to maintain community languages overtime remains a question for ongoing research.