Multilingualism and linguistic landscapes across space and time in the public railway system in South Africa: A multisemiotic analysis
Johnson, Ian Lyndon
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During apartheid, the infrastructure in South Africa was built by the government and was designed to keep Blacks away from White areas. This infrastructure comprised inter alia the public railway system which was intended to benefit mainly the White minority population, as it momentarily allowed Blacks to provide the cheap labour needed in White areas and businesses. While Whites predominantly resided within the suburbs adjacent to the railways, Blacks were relegated to the outskirts of the cities to areas which became known as townships and homelands. Racial segregation was rigorously enforced and consequently, the signs displayed in trains and on railway infrastructure primarily served to demarcate spaces and places that were designated for use by either Whites or Blacks, respectively. Against this backdrop, the main aim of this research was to present an ethnographic, multisemiotic study of the linguistic landscape (LL) of the public railways in post-apartheid South Africa across space and time. The study focussed on the languages used on signs displayed in the individual research sites. A mixed-methods research design was employed which entailed consideration of both quantitative and qualitative data. Thus, data was collected during ethnographic fieldwork over a six month period and was analysed using a multimodal/multisemiotic approach. The results reveal insights into the social structuring of languages and the mobility of linguistic and semiotic resources across regional and national boundaries in space and time since the end of apartheid.