Multilingual Practices Vs. Monolingual Language Regime. Evidences from St. Petersburg’s Linguistic Landscape

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Kapitolina FEDOROVA, European University at St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Multilingualism in urban spaces is mainly studied as an oral practice. Linguistic landscape studies can serve as a good explorative method for studying multilingualism in written practices. What is more, the resent researches on linguistic landscape (Blommaert 2013; Shohamy et. al. 2010; Backhaus 2006) shed some light on the reflection of power relations between different ethnic groups in urban public space. Multilingual practices exist in a certain ideological context, and not only official language policy but speakers’ linguistic stereotypes and attitudes as well can influence and modify those practices.

The paper deals with the situation in St. Petersburg, the second large city of Russia, where presence of foreign visitors, on the one hand, and Asian labour migrants, on the other hand, is currently becoming more and more visible in linguistic landscape. At the same time this multilingual trend is hampered by traditionally strict language policy and, even to larger degree, by monolingual ideological bias still characteristic for Russian native speakers. Linguistic landscape study conducted in 2016–2017 in central and residential districts of St. Petersburg reveals that spheres of written use for languages other than Russian and non-Cyrillic scripts are very limited. There is strong divide as well between public and private use, ‘open’ and ‘closed’ urban spaces. Both official language policy and attitudes of ethnic majority tend to ignore actual city’s diversity, maintaining therefore urban monolingual ‘façade’.


Backhaus, P. Multilingualism in Tokyo: a look into linguistic landscape. In: Gorter, D. (ed.) Linguistic Landscape: A New Approach to Multilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2006. 52–66.

Blommaert, J. 2013. Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes: Chronicles of Complexity. Bristol.

Shohamy, E., Ben-Rafael, E. & Barni, M. (Eds.) Linguistic Landscape in the City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2010.