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Linguistic landscaping as an RST research method: the downfall of language policies in a post-war context

Ivana Grbavac

Abstract

This paper aims at checking the eligibility of linguistic landscaping research methods for language research from the RST perspective. Linguistic landscaping has proved, so far, to be an excellent tool for documenting and delineating social changes and different cleavages in a society (Ben-Rafael et al. 2006; Grbavac 2012a; Trumper-Hecht 2009). Linguistic landscaping is capable of depicting subtle phenomena, above all, in a multilingual and multicultural setting. Linguistic landscape, as a set of ‘in vitro’ and ‘in vivo’ signs put up by new social actors, is dynamic and purposive, in the very same manner like the agency concept in Realist Social Theory (RST). It is an “ever-shifting set of conditioning relations” (Carter and Sealey, 2014 in preparation). The paper will apply agency and structure approaches of RST on language policy, which is a variable that saturates and shapes all aspects of a linguistic landscape. This case study was done in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a city that was divided after the 1992–1995 war into two parts. Today all characteristics of an unstable, rapidly changing society in transition are present in the city. The two confronted collectives have different interests, so that the linguistic landscape of the city of Mostar represents a battlefield for advancing and opposing interests. The hypothesis states that language policies that were imposed ‘in vitro’ failed to be a success in the linguistic landscape of Mostar. The characteristic features of the linguistic landscape of Mostar are the omnipresence of global English, overstated collective identity and signs with a mixture of local languages. Linguistic landscaping, as a socially situated and socioculturally conditioned activity and as a result of variegated endeavours of the actors in the linguistic landscape, supports the core claim of RST: social outcomes are the result of the interplay between agency, structure and culture. Linguistic landscape research, synchronic in its nature, could be a good tool for applying the RST postulates.

Sažetak

Cilj je ovoga rada provjeriti prikladnost istraživačkih metoda koje se koriste u istraživanjima jezičnoga krajobraza iz perspektive RST teorije (Realist Social Theory). Istraživanja jezičnoga krajobraza do sada su se pokazala kao izvrsno sredstvo za dokumentiranje i ocrtavanje društvenih promjena i različitih razdora u društvu (Ben-Rafael i sur. 2006; Grbavac 2012a; Trumper-Hecht 2009). Pomoću njih možemo opisati i najsuptilnije fenomene, prije svega u višejezičnim i u multikulturalnim okruženjima. Jezični krajobraz, kao skup ‘in vitro’ i ‘in vivo’ znakova koje postavljaju novi društveni akteri dinamičan je i svrsishodan, jednako kao i koncept agencije (agency) u RST teoriji. On je „skup uvijetujućih, kondicionalnih relacija koje se stalno mijenjaju“ (Carter and Sealey, 2014 u pripremi). Stoga ćemo u ovome radu pokušati primijeniti pristup agencije i strukture (agency and structure) iz RST teorije na jezičnu politiku, koja je zapravo varijabla koja prožima i oblikuje sve aspekte jezičnoga krajobraza. Naše istraživanje, studija slučaja (case study), urađena je u Mostaru, u Bosni i Hercegovini. Riječ je o gradu koji nakon rata koji je trajao od 1992–1995 funkcionira kao podijeljeni grad i koji pokazuje sve karakteristike nestabilnog, tranzicijskog društva koje se brzo mijenja. Dva suprostavljena kolektiva u gradu imaju različite interese, tako da jezični krajobraz grada Mostara predstavlja bojišnicu na kojoj se promiču različiti interesi. Naša je hipoteza da se jezične politike, koje su nametnute ‘in vitro’, odozgo, nisu pokazale uspješnima u jezičnom krajobrazu Mostara. Obilježja jezičnoga krajobraza Mostara su sveprisutni globalni engleski jezik, prenaglašeni kolektivni identitet i, u znatnoj mjeri, glavni dokaz pada jezičnih politika – znakovi s pomiješanim lokalnim jezicima. Prema našem mišljenju jezični krajobraz, kao društveno ukorijenjena i kao društveno-kulturološki uvjetovana aktivnost, te kao rezultat različitih nastojanja aktera jezičnoga krajobraza (LL actors) podupire osnovnu tvrdnju RST teorije, a to je da društveni rezultati nastaju ispreplitanjem agencije (agency), strukture i kulture. Istraživanja jezičnoga krajobraza, sinkronijska u svojoj naravi, mogla bi biti dobro sredstvo za primjenu postulata RST teorije.

Zusammenfassung

In diesem Beitrag wird die Angemessenheit der Forschungsmethoden geprüft, die in der Sprachlandschaftsforschung aus der Perspektive der RST-Theorie (Realist Social Theory) benutzt werden. Die Sprachlandschaftsforschungen zeigten sich bisher als ein ausgezeichnetes Werkzeug zur Dokumentation und Abgrenzung von gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen und unterschiedlichen Spaltungen innerhalb der Gesellschaft (Ben-Rafael et al. 2006, Grbavac 2012a; Trumper-Hecht 2009). Mit deren Hilfe können auch die subtilsten Phänomene beschrieben werden, vor allem in einem mehrsprachigen und multikulturellen Umfeld. Die Sprachlandschaft, als eine Gruppe von in „vitro“ und „in vivo“ Zeichen, gesetzt durch die neuen Gesellschaftsakteure, ist zweckmäßig und dynamisch, in der gleichen Art und Weise wie das Agenturkonzept in der RST-Theorie. Es ist eine „ständig wechselnde Gruppe von konditionierten Beziehungen“ (Carter und Sealey, 2014 in Vorbereitung). Daher wird in diesem Beitrag der Ansatz von Agentur und Struktur aus der RST-Theorie auf die Sprachpolitik angewandt, die eigentlich eine Variabel ist, die alle Sprachlandschaftsaspekte durchdringt und formt. Diese Forschung, eine Fallstudie, wurde in Mostar, Bosnien und Herzegowina durchgeführt. Es geht um eine Stadt, die seit dem Krieg von 1992 bis 1995 als eine geteilte Stadt existiert und die alle Eigenschaften einer instabilen und sich rasch wandelnden Gesellschaft zeigt. Die beiden konfrontierten Gemeinschaften in der Stadt haben unterschiedliche Interessen, so dass die Sprachlandschaft der Stadt Mostar ein Kampfeld für fortschreitende und gegensätzliche Interessen darstellt. Unsere Hypothese lautet, dass die Sprachpolitiken, die „in vitro“ auferlegt wurden, keinen Erfolg in der Sprachenlandschaft von Mostar gezeigt haben. Die Sprachlandschaftsmerkmale von Mostar sind die Allgegenwart des globalen Englisch, die überbetonte kollektive Identität und, im erheblichen Maße, der Hauptbeweise für den Niedergang der Sprachpolitiken – die Zeichen mit vermischten lokalen Sprachen. Unserer Meinung nach unterstützt die Sprachlandschaft, als eine gesellschaftlich verwurzelte und als soziokulturell bedingte Aktivität, sowie als Ergebnis von verschiedenen Bemühungen der Sprachlandschaftsakteure (LL actors) die Grundthese der RST-Theorie: die sozialen Ergebnisse entstehen durch die Verflechtung von Agentur, Struktur und Kultur. Die Sprachlandschaftsforschungen, ihrer Natur nach synchronisch, könnten ein gutes Werkzeug für die Anwendung der RST-Theoriepostulate sein.

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Published Online: 2015-3-10
Published in Print: 2015-3-1

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