LL of Luxembourg and some border considerations

“Borders can  be
material or symbolic, permeable or almost impossible to cross.” (Muth, 2014). With this
definition Muth, 2014 alludes that borders can exist and perform beyond their
literal meaning that of discernible separating lines of geopolitical
territories and cultural strata. According to Newman & Paasi (1998) if we
treat the term metaphorically and not strictly in terms of “state” boundaries of
“material spaces”, borders can emerge as “instruments
through which social distinctions are constructed” (Newman &
Paasi, 1998)
(cf. Welchman). They can even be artificially constructed, arising from
multilingual, multicultural and highly mobilized dominions in and out of the
boundaries the concepts of multilingualism and multiculturalism sustain.

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Under this postmodern paradigm, the scope of the
scholar analysis of boundaries expands from the disciplines which traditionally
studied them as geopolitical manifestations to a more multidimensional,
multidisciplinary framework of inter-spatio-social narratives. These ideas,
have become particularly important in the contemporary reality where
assumptions of territoriality and borders are conjoined with the re-definitions
of the relationships between physical, social, and linguistic space and the
notions of identity constructions.

From a sociolinguistic perspective, the terms of
borders and boundaries can be articulated
through the Linguistic Landscapes especially in multilingual communities. Linguistic
Landscapes are broadly defined as “The language of public road signs,
advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and
public signs on government buildings combined to form the linguistic landscape
of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration.” (Richard & Rodrigue/Bourhis, 1997) (cf. (Purschke & Ziegler, 2014).

Under this definition, different methodological
approaches have been used to further examine the analytical, semiotic and
functional ( Presence of minority languages, Gorter et al. 2012, Dialects ,
Reershemius 2011 , Typography of signs, Wachendorff 2015, Examination of Multilingualism
with Digital Means, Purschke & Ziegler,2015
etc.) inter-relations of language and space (private, public) and the underlying
marks of such practices.

However, as Blommaert (2014) argues such efforts
demand a more holistic, ethnographic approach informed by the multimodal
contexts of the social practices and dynamics that take place in the
structuration of the postmodern “space” (Blommaert & Jan/Maly, 2014).

Luxembourg, according to the official statistics (SIP,
2018) has around 590,700 inhabitants with 47, 7 % of its residents being
foreigners. Analytically, with the Portuguese community being the largest
within the Luxembourgish borders 16,4 % and  the French, Italian, Belgian and German
communities making up the rest 16, 7 %, Luxembourg hosts around 170 different

The reasons for this cultural super-diversity are
mainly attributed to the country’s socioeconomic supremacy that favors mobility
and its historical positioning as an independent state since 1890. (Purschke
& Ziegler, 2014)

Currently, Luxembourg is officially a trilingual
country with Luxembourgish being subjected to various sociolinguistic and
sociocultural processes. (Purschke & Ziegler, 2014). According to Fehlen
& Heinz (2016), the multilingual practices both in the private and in the
public spheres of Luxembourg are heavily conditioned on the sociocultural
complexities its super-diversity generates.

More specifically, Purschke (2014) suggests three main
official categories of linguistic practices in Luxembourg: French and
Luxembourgish used in the professional and official environments, German in the
school environment and a trifold use of Fr, Ge, Ltz, in the communicative
environment (media, advertising, commerce etc.). He also acknowledges the
incremental use of English as “a bridging language” (Purschke & Ziegler, 2014).

In this essence, this complexity of such a
multilingual setting would serve as an ideal case study of its LL especially
regarding the questions of the super constructed borders that co-emerge with
the notions of such multidimensionality.


My photo expedition


In my quest around the Luxembourgish territory and
with what I already had in mind through the bibliography, I came to realize, on
a rather sensatory level, that the linguistic landscape of Luxembourg is at
least polymorphic, if not convoluted. For this reason, I have tried to locate
different types of “bottom-up” and “top-down”1,
“linguistic instances” in my effort to capture the hidden messages of what my
mobile lenses were trying to digitally decipher. Interestingly enough, after
gathering all the photos together, I was able to “easily” decide on the very
ones I was to include in my portfolio for very specific reasons. 

The social hierarchy of languages and the defied language
policies, the language use and the lettering system would appoint on the signs,
posters and other public linguistic instances, were the first boundaries
stashing behind the semiotics, I had to negotiate on a personal and perceptive
level.  For instance, Picture A-poster,
exclusively in Luxembourgish, endorsed by the Government of the Grand Duchy-
symbolically operates on a level of an implied language policy that of
Luxembourgish becoming more officially/broadly represented. According to
Shohamy (2006), the Linguistic Landscape often stands as a mechanism for the
creation of de facto language
policies in order for the message of the centrality of a national language to
be conveyed (Shohamy, 2006:110). On the
one hand, such practices of linguistic empowerment may indeed foster the public
sense of nationhood and national identity if they fall under the broader
paradigms of “One Nation, One Language”2.
In multilingual and multicultural settings, however, they may foster the
clustering and consequently the isolation of minority languages and their
communities from the public narrative as the latter may not have the means of crossing
such linguistic boundaries.

Contrariwise, in Picture B –Smoking area at Findel
Airport- the exclusive use of English can be explained in terms of
functionality regarding an internationally occupied public space, the airport.
In this case, the legal restrictions on smoking in public spaces have to be clearly
communicated as any misunderstanding, risks regulatory penalizations, ergo, the
use of the lingua franca as a bridging tactic. Here the
linguistic borders are not visible but they are rather insinuated, hence the
“bridge”. What is also interesting in this picture is the existence of a very
visible line separating smokers and non-smokers. On a sociocultural level, the
designation of specific open smoking areas not only attests the existence of
two cultural categories of people, smokers and non-smokers and their very
socio-defined borders but also raises questions about the fluidity and dynamics
of the open public spaces. Can a mere line really segment something that is contiguous
and abstract by definition? “These segmented and compartmentalized perceptions
of spatial images” (Tornaghi, 2015) are
reproduced in the modern urban paradigm and force essentialist conceptions (see
Heewon, 1999) on the socio-relational conceptions of space. (Tornaghi & Knierbein, 2015). 

In pictures C and D respectively, the (co)presence and
hierarchizing of the three official languages is emerged. As expected, French
is the dominant language “by design and typography” which can be explained by
the historical predominance of French in official administrative settings (Purschke
& Ziegler, 2014).  In picture D, the use of Netherlands is also
interesting, as the signal itself promotes the “sentiment” of the European inclusion,
however if we are to accept the semantic axiom of the binary relation of “opposites” (Crystal,
of word meanings then since “the word by itself is devoid of any meaning
without the presence of its opposite”, no inclusion can “exist” without “exclusion”.(
The term exclusion in the European “dictionary” has been associated by many
scholars with the existence of socio-spatial and social-cultural borders (Leontidou,
Donnan, & Afouxenidis, 2005; Berezin & Schain, 2003)).








1 “bottom-up” language
displays: posted by private entities, “top-down” language displays: introduced
by governments and corporations (Shohamy & Gorter, Linguistic
Landscape: Expanding the Scenery, 2008)

2 The term is
borrowed by Paul Lang’s, (1995) .The
English Language Debate: One Nation, One Language? (Multicultural Issues) 


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