English and Arabic Inscriptions in the Linguistic Landscape of Yemen: A Multilingual Writing Approach

Anwar A. H. Al-Athwary


The present paper investigates the multilingual written texts of the signboards in the public space of Yemen. It attempts to apply Reh's (2004) typology of multilingual writing. Reh introduces four strategies of multilingualism: duplicating, fragmentary, overlapping, and complementary. They refer to the arrangement of information in the inscriptions of multilingual signs in a given linguistic landscape (LL). To achieve this purpose, a data corpus of 755 multilingual signs in the LL of Yemen has been used, the majority of which are bilingual in Arabic and English. The analysis showed that all four strategies of duplicating, fragmentary, overlapping, and complementary multilingual writings were generally employed in Sana'a's LL. While overlapping and complementary multilingualism were totally absent in the top-down signs, duplicating and fragmentary multilingualism had much higher frequency over overlapping and complementary ones in bottom-up signs. Keeping in mind that speech community in Yemen is monolingual in Arabic, the absence or low frequency of overlapping, and complementary signs in both top-down and bottom-up levels can be explained by the fact that these two types of texts presuppose multilingual readers since knowledge of all the languages involved is necessary to understand the whole message. The model of writing mimicry system proposed by Sutherland (2015) is also examined. Writing mimicry system was found to be a salient feature of the public space of Yemen performing some specific functions; it is only used for advertising and promotional purposes rather than expressing the identity of ethnolinguistic minorities. The study also revealed that Sana'a multilingual LL is characterized by the use of Arabicised English, glocalisation and multifunctional signs, all of which are employed to serve a general purpose of promoting, and advertising commodities and showing modernity and success. Standard Arabic appears on almost all of both top-down and bottom-up signs. The scarce use of Yemeni Arabic is indicative of the notion of Arab nationalism. Linguistic nationalism refers to the communicative and symbolic functions of Standard Arabic in articulating national identity in the LL of Yemen.



Linguistic landscape, duplicating, fragmentary, overlapping and complementary multilingual writing, writing system mimicry

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.6n.4p.149


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