Linguistic Landscape of Dublin

Linguistic Landscape


Dublin Ireland is comprised of a multitude of cultures and backgrounds which is most inescapable if any time is spent in the city. Various languages are easily observed when walking through the streets, ranging from Portuguese to Romanian. Yet, one thing continuously holds true on the same streets of Dublin; you will always find signs with both the English and the Irish languages posted, everytime. 

It becomes interesting that even though we are in Ireland for the summer, there is seemingly little to no purpose of the Irish language being so apparent. Very few Irish citizens admit to being able to understand the language, and even less are actually able to speak it fluently. As mentioned, it’s clear there is a very multicultural and multilingual presence around the city, but I’ve heard no such dialogue being spoken in the Irish language or anything even relatively close to Gaelic, with the exclusion of popular phrases. In truth, only Irish I’ve been able to find actually being useful is the term “Sláinte,” which is equivalent to “Cheers!” in the English language.

The pictures posted are able to highlight the need for cultural presence, if nothing else. Every street sign has its Irish equivalent posted, yet it is obvious that nobody will tell you they live on Faiche Cheapaí. 

The Irish language truly only seems to play into the discussed article’s ideas; as it has become a way to more so and evermore commodify both the city and the country. As argued, that despite consumption not being the “totality of social and cultural life” it still plays into the atmosphere of commercialization, and the presence of such a linguistic landscape only furthermore pushes this dialogue along. (Leeman & Modan, pg.2) In such a multicultural city and large tourist destination, it becomes apparent that the Irish language may have once been used indefinitely, but now more so holds the purpose of enlarging this ‘atmosphere of commercialization.’ Dublin has been able to grow, modernize, and therefore commercialize almost everything due to the possibility and reality of such a linguistic landscape and furthermore has been able to influence the public sphere through such means. This idea has been brought to light by the constant, yet mostly unnecessary usage of the Irish language on every street sign, pub, or restaurant. On every corner, one is easily able to spot just another Irish Gift Shop filled with people from all over the world, seeking to include a bit of the Irish culture and language in their everyday lives, if only for the means of falling victim to the commercialized society.

The Leeman and Modan article later makes the point that signs in a specific language can serve a symbolic function that is more so connected to the commodification of ethnically defined places, and only goes to show the “adventurous spirit and openness to other places and cultures as indicative of the current trend in themed environments. (Leeman & Modan, pg.19) In such a themed environment as Ireland, and specifically Dublin, the adventurous spirit mentioned seeks that which is assumed to be Irish culture; anything in green, Gaelic use, Guinness, or whatever aspect of the heritage it may be. And so, again, Dublin, as many cities do, have been able to commodify themselves and their industries to such a degree that the literal use of the Irish language is almost no use, more so a vehicle to push the commercialization of the city, and hold onto whatever piece of history available in the meantime. 


Linguistic Landscape in Tokyo

Linguistic Landscape in Tokyo

George Saito

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan, and it is certainly the most global city in Japan. By examining the public signs and notification around the city, it is easy to find that the linguistic landscape in Tokyo is very simple and is also containing some “simplifying thought”.

Here is the visitor information panel for foreign visitors which is set at the front of disaster preparedness training center, Bosaikan Ikebukuro.

The languages shown on this panel is English, Korean, and Chinese. Bosaikan Ikebukuro is a life safety learning center established by Tokyo Fire Department where visitors are able to experience disasters such as fire and earthquake, using the simulation equipment, and to learn how to behave correctly and how to use the emergency products such as fire extinguisher during the disaster. The center is used for mandatory education for company employees, students, and some neighborhood associations ( Thus, this panel infers that the general visitors of this life safety learning center consists of English, Korean, Chinese, and certainly Japanese speakers.

However, there is another “hidden” common language exists in Tokyo. As the training session comes to learn how to use the fire extinguisher, there are four options showed for the language subtitles for introduction videos.

The four options are “Japanese-English”, “Japanese-Chinese”, “Japanese-Korean”, and “Japanese-Vietnamese” from left to right. Although it is quite rare to see Vietnamese words all around Tokyo, there exists the subtitle for Vietnamese, which is made by official Japanese government organization, Tokyo Fire Department. This is a crucial evidence of the existence of Vietnamese culture. They are common enough to have an official subtitle for them, but the community is not as large as other four main languages communities.

The shape of linguistic landscape is also shown in several different places.

This is a picture taken in the restroom of Tokyo Sunshine City, which is located at Ikebukuro. The panel shows how to use the Toilet Seat Cleaner in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Tokyo Sunshine City is a huge shopping mall near the Ikebukuro JR station. There is also one of the three Pokémon Center in Tokyo located here.

This is a sign set outside of a famous Ramen restaurant, Mutekiya, which is also located at Ikebukuro. The notification is written in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.

Those two signs in Tokyo Sunshine City and Mutekiya show that the general languages except Japanese which are used in Tokyo are English, Chinese, and Korean. Vietnamese is really rare in this city, but from the subtitles we see in Bosaikan show that Vietnamese is also part of the linguistic landscape of Tokyo. I am also able to see some Vietnamese people speaking Vietnamese near the Warabi JR station. Also, in the shared house where I am living right now, there are several German students studying abroad to Japan, but the notification in the shared house is written in only those four main languages. Languages other than those four main languages do exist, but they are not the main part of the linguistic landscape in Tokyo.

Here comes to the problem that why Vietnamese and those other languages do not belong to the linguistic landscape of Tokyo. The answer is very simple, according to my analysis. It is because they are the minorities.

Japanese people learn English from their middle school, so English is very common for Japanese and there do exist many loan words come from English in Japanese. For Chinese and Korean, they are the two biggest countries near Japan, and there are thousands of Chinese and Korean students coming into Japan for study. Thus, these three languages are certainly the part of the linguistic landscape of Tokyo.

However, those Vietnamese, German, and people coming from other countries are minorities compared to those three language communities. At the same time, most of them from those minority groups can speak English. So, in my opinion, Japanese people “simplify” the language shown on the road signs and the information panels.










Citation:, Tokyo Fire Department,

New York’s Linguistic Landscape – Ibaad Khan

Melting pot. Big apple. Gateway to freedom. All of these phrases, among many others, can be used to describe the vast array of ethnicities and languages that mix and mingle in New York City. Like a vast, interconnected web, each of them plays a distinct role in the rich culture that defines the city that never sleeps. Walking through the streets, I couldn’t help but consider history’s impact on the current landscape of NYC. Uniquely forged by immigrants, the city maintains a special status as the epicenter of American diversity and a shining example of the magnificent power of the American Dream. This is exhibited in prominent landmarks, such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, but it’s also clearly visible by taking a look at the city’s demographic data. According to the NYC Department of City Planning, half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and over 200 languages are spoken in the city. As I performed my own analysis of New York’s linguistic landscape, I concluded that, while there is an overarching theme of multilingualism throughout the city, English and Spanish tend to be used in official signage, while other languages are often used for commercial signage.

As I scanned the streets and signs of East Village, I first looked at official signage to gain a sense of how city officials were communicating their messages to non-English speakers. While I noticed that many of the signs are primarily in English, as the US is still by-and-large an English-speaking country, Spanish is the most common secondary language used when communicating critical information to a wider audience. Many of the city’s biggest ethnic enclaves are completely outside of Manhattan, much less East Village, so the fact that official signs, such as one “Hard Hat Area” sign I found near Lafayette Street, are written in both English and Spanish (Figure 1). It speaks to the status of Spanish as a quasi-official language the city government uses when they want to reach as many New Yorkers as possible to communicate, for example, that one should absolutely not enter a certain area without proper protective gear. There is another layer to this, though. Leeman and Modan, in discussing the idea of landscape as a crafted perspective, write that it is “a way of carefully selecting and representing the world so as to give it a particular meaning” (Leeman and Modan, pg. 337). New York City officials, in including Spanish in official signage, are sending the message to Spanish-speaking communities that they are welcomed, that they are included, and that they are an important part of this city. It provides a reassurance that those who speak a different language are heard and accepted by government higher-ups, in addition to common citizens. It sends the message that diversity is not simply tolerated; it’s embraced.

Next, I took a look at commercial signage to truly gain a sense of the city’s linguistic landscape. My approach involved observing what languages I saw while walking through the streets of the East Village, and, unbeknownst to me, I ended up stumbling upon Little Tokyo. It struck my attention that I’d often see signs in which English and Japanese were both displayed very prominently. One sign I found, which was for a Japanese restaurant called Village Yokocho, placed the Japanese text above the English text and in a larger font. Additionally, the Japanese characters were lit up in a bright, neon color, which made them much easier to spot from afar as compared to the plain, unexciting English letters (Figure 2). Not far from that street, I found a sign for a Japanese specialty market that placed Japanese characters in jagged, green font to grab peoples’ attention (Figure 3). The use of Japanese in this way for commercial purposes contrasts with that observed by Leeman and Modan in DC’s Chinatown, as, in this case, the businesses seemed very connected to the Japanese identity. The workers were Japanese, the products were authentically Japanese, and the people visiting the establishment were Japanese.

In my analysis of New York’s linguistic landscape, I found a city that embraces its diversity in both public and private signage, going beyond meaningless translations and instead providing space for every cultural identity to thrive and prosper.


Figure 1:


Figure 2:


Figure 3:



Leeman, Jennifer, and Modan, Gabriella. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic landscape.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 332–362.

“Population – New York City Population.” Planning-Population-NYC Population Facts – DCP,

The Linguistic Landscape of New York by Natt Jaitrong

New York City is often referred to as the hub of financial services and culture. Looking at the popularity of areas like Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Italy, it is no surprise why New York City is highly regarded to be culturally diverse. However, after experiencing these areas first hand, it was most noticeable that the majority of the language used on the signs was identical to the language spoken throughout the area. A completely reasonable explanation for many restaurants and shopping malls in regard to their usages of these languages. It was through my exploration and research on East Village that revealed the gentrification occurring within East Village, but also revealed the outside forces that come into play in a restaurant’s adoption and usage of a foreign language.


To further develop my understanding of restaurants’ signage and menus in East Village, I compared the racial demographics of Koreatown and Chinatown to East Village. The expected discovery was that in Chinatown, the majority of the population was Asian at 76.1% (StatisticalAtlas). In Koreatown, Asians were a close secondary majority at 45.5% (ThePeoplingofNewYork).  Corporations and restaurants intentional usage of multilingual signage had a purpose and they weren’t entirely for them to become a “floating signifier that [would] be used to signify, or to sell, not just things Chinese but anything at all” (Leeman and Modan, 353-354). These multilingual signages were displayed to also benefit the majority population in that area and as a result, it became increasingly difficult to identify whether gentrification was the main reasoning behind these signs.


East Village, on the other hand, told a very different story. Similar signages were used but more importantly, decorative aspects were displayed in languages fitting the cuisine of the restaurant (Figure 1). The question was whether the intentional inclusion of visual designs like Figure 1 were to accommodate the living population in the area or were they purely symbolic? Initial observations that the neighborhood mostly spoke English and not Chinese immediately leaned me towards the idea found in Leeman and Modan’s (2009) article that the “main thrust of Chinese is symbolic” (Leeman and Modan, 352). Further research revealed that Asians only accounted for 13.9% of the racial breakdown for East Village, New York, New York, while the majority was White by a longshot (StatisticalAtlas). Similar to what Leeman and Moden observed was happening in Washington DC, Chinese restaurants in East Village were employing Chinese without the need for those Chinese characters to be used in a speech situation, clearly displaying their intentions to market themselves as authentic.

Figure 1
Chinese Decorations within a restaurant. The tablets are food phrases in Chinese and aren’t actual dishes.

In support of the previous paragraph, the same targeted demographic can be revealed through the menu of a Chinese dumpling house (Figure 2). Though the menu includes both English and Chinese, it can be seen that the primary language of the menu is English with Chinese characters below each English description of the plate. However, it is critical we realize that the Chinese provided in this menu can be used “in order to participate in a service encounter” (Leeman and Modan, 352). An observation that is essential in differentiating Leeman and Modan’s discoveries in Washington DC from East Village and brings to light that a restaurant’s inclusion of cultural aspects and foreign languages may not be entirely because of a profitable desire for themselves to appear more sophisticated and cultural.

Figure 2.
Menu of Tim Ho Wan

Though the inclusion of decorations displayed in Figure 1 are purely symbolic and are utilized as cultural capital to market a sense of authenticity, Figure 2 also imperatively sheds light on how a lot of restaurants have intentions that may not be as one sided as they seem. The implementation of culture in restaurants can often be seen as an intention to make their restaurants become more appealing due to authenticity, but as seen through Figure 2, it may also serve an entirely different purpose. A purpose that can be potentially linked to respecting their homage, increasing accessibility to foreign customers, and improving convenience for their potential service men and women who may only speak a foreign language. Regardless of a restaurant’s intention, the exploration of East Village has only further revealed the complexity of New York City’s linguistic landscape and immense cultural diversity.


Works Cited

“Race and Ethnicity in Chinatown, New York, New York (Neighborhood).” The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States – Statistical Atlas,

“Race and Ethnicity in East Village, New York, New York (Neighborhood).” The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States – Statistical Atlas,

“The Peopling of New York » Demographics and Statistics.” The Peopling of New York RSS,

Leeman, Jennifer, and Gabriella Modan. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic Landscape.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, May 2009, pp. 332–362., doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2009.00409.x


I am living and working at New York City, and I consequently did some field research around the place I live, at 14th street, and the place I work, at 51st street. At these areas, English dominates these areas and unexceptionally serves English speaking population. Restaurants probably provide the only limited variations. Inspired by Leeman approach to research LL, I see the necessity to dive deeper into identifying the meaning of different languages. In addition, by analyzing the LL, I would like to study the ethnicity presence and its projection on LL. Therefore, I mainly focus on exotic restaurants to analyze LL variations at English dominant areas and how residents around those areas influence those variations.


14th street

This area used to be an upscale area in the early history of New York, and it is now mainly the aggregation of commercial streets and apartments. My first impression to this area is the lack of language diversity. Walking along the 14th street, I occasionally see only a few restaurants with foreign language facades, mostly Chinese and Japanese. The ethnicity of pedestrians on the streets perfectly matches the overall national average ethnicity percentage, mostly White, fewer Black and Latino/Latina, and even fewer Asian. Although the comparatively low percentage of Asian population, Asian restaurants have a more prominent presence around this area such as Chinese Guangdong Tim Sim restaurants, Sichuan flavor restaurants, Japanese ramen and steak restaurants… The language use in these restaurants is unanimously English, with only façade displaying Chinese or Japanese to manifest their authenticity. The functional signs inside and outside are all in English as well, such as menu, restroom signs and “take out” sign. The consumers in these restaurants are unsurprisingly English speakers, so it is very apparent that these restaurants have the same English-speaking customer base. Therefore, the usage of languages other than English is mainly symbolic rather than ideational; these restaurants in essence serve English-speaking consumers.





51st street

This area now is known as midtown area, where most new finance institutions sit. Unlike the traditional finance street at downtown, 51st street has more young technology focused venture capitals and international banks such as BNP and UBS. The population is more diverse than 14th street, more tourists and more diverse employees in international institutions. It is very interesting to observe the correlation between population and language vitality. At 51st street, between 6th avenue and 7th avenue, I observed a much higher percentage of Chinese population. I hear Chinese much more often and menus and signs in and outside the restaurants show a strong presence of Chinese.

It is very interesting to see even a Japanese ramen restaurant have all the Chinese signs (not Kanji, but Chinese characters really used as Chinese) beside the English sign! For example, one sign written “Employees only!” is right followed by its Chinese translation. In this case, Chinese signs serve specifically for Chinese customers and the ideational meaning cannot be clearer: a Chinese sign inside a Japanese ramen restaurant can have no symbolic meaning!


After finishing a bowl of ramen, I found something more surprising. A Chinese character was printed at the bottom of that bowl, “囍”.

“囍” is pronounced as “Xi”, meaning two good things happening together, often used as an auspicious sign at marriage. In this case, it is very hard to address whether it is ideational or symbolic because none of them makes sense. Ideational? I do not see the connection between marria  ge and ramen; symbolic? A red bowl, with a typical Chinese character on it, is too obvious to not to be a Chinese culture representation. I therefore bring my own idea to try to explain this phenomenon in LL. I think as the population from a certain background dominates a small area, anything overall is under the custom from that certain cultural background. Therefore, it can have no meaning but simply a good representation of an extremely strong cultural vitality and presence. Although a bowl quintessentially is different from public sign because it is too trivial to be considered public, it reflects the dominance of a kind of culture. The purveyor of this restaurants can possibly only buy Chinese bowls around this area although he or she did not intend to do so. This area was so small but concentrated that it is an enclave encompassed by financial behemoths, and the very local Chinese presence significantly influenced the local LL.



Most of the time, a lack of culture diversity is the most common case; however, by scrutinizing small details into those limited variations, LL starts to speak about cultural and discourse system landscapes. From my observation to these two areas, a concentrated discourse system or ethnicity group has a huge influence on local LL and is hardly influenced by its surroundings.




Works Cited:

Leeman, J & Modan, G. (2009), Commodified language in Chinatown: a contextualized approach to a linguistic landscape. Journal of Sociolinguistics

Ireland’s Linguistic Landscape

Before coming to Ireland, I had always known that the Irish language, Gaelic, existed, however, I never thought that it was used. Instead I was under the assumption that, similar to my native language, Greek, that it was mostly unused language that is only used locally. Once I had arrived, it was much to my surprise that while it is not commonly spoken, the Irish language is proudly announced as the first language of Ireland, rather than English. According to the reading by Leeman and Modan, a linguistic landscape can be understood as “a way of carefully selecting and representing the world so as to give it a particular meaning” (Leeman and Modan, 337). Further, it is important in constructing and maintaining an identity. When looking at the linguistic landscape of Ireland, and where the Gaelic language takes place in it, it is clear to see it is mostly a decorative language that evokes a sense of pride amongst the Irish. Through their national language, the Irish continue to maintain their identity and their pride in their culture and heritage.

Dublin in itself is an up and coming multicultural city, however, the majority of the language that I hear is English. It is very rare to hear another language unless it is from a group of tourists who are visiting from another country. This is in contrast to the way that public signs are presented all over Ireland. They demonstrate a multilingual community in that a majority of public, government mandated signs are written in Gaelic first, and underneath are the English translations. This further emphasizes how the national language of Ireland is not English, as many may assume. This is not just limited to pubic signs, but also all over public transit. However, private businesses and store signs are not see to be written in Gaelic with English translations, and instead are mostly English.

Below are examples of these signs around the city. The first is a loading bay sign, while the second is a sign for tourists that direct them to the major attractions around the city. I find this second sign to be the most interesting. The reason for this is that, while one would assume that a sign meant for tourists would be either solely in English or organized in a manner that promotes English before Gaelic, this is not the case. I believe that the reason for this is to help “commodify” the Irish culture.

Leeman and Modan explained that with the growth of suburbs, cities attempted to draw in more visitors by turning to public-private initiatives that would promote a certain type of culture (Leeman and Modan, 338). This culture was then “used to both to frame public space and to legitimate the appropriation of that space by private and commercial interests” (Leeman and Modan, 338). It is my belief that the reason that even tourist directed signs are primarily written in Gaelic is to use the Irish culture as a way to draw interest by tourists and promote more visitation. It creates an environment that is unique to only Ireland and therefore piques intrigue from those who visit. The end result then boosts tourism and commercial businesses. Overall, I believe that the use of the Gaelic language in Ireland is not only to maintain the Irish identity and pride in their heritage, but also is a means to promote tourism.

Leeman, Jennifer, and Gabriella Modan. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic landscape1.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 332–362.

Linguistic Landscape of Dublin

An overview of Dublin

Dublin is a diverse city full of many different cultures and languages. Walking down City Centre, you are bound to hear groups of people speaking Spanish, French, Polish, Chinese, Arabic and especially English. However, oral discourse is only a small factor in determining the linguistic landscape of a country. Last year in Ireland, “tourism was worth more than €6 billion, a 10 per cent increase on the previous year” and the number of visitors entering the country climbed above 11 million. A lot of these spoken native languages can be attributed to this influx of tourism. The question then remains, is Ireland as culturally diverse as it seems to be at face value? The most common language used is clearly English. Although Irish is seen almost everywhere on state-sponsored signs, there is barely any Irish spoken in day to day conversation.

As discussed in the journal, “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic Landscape”, linguistic landscapes are “embedded in larger sociopolitical processes”. On my daily commute to work, I can hear the bus announce in Irish and English the next station. I often see street signs written in both Irish and English as I walk down the city of Dublin. However, I have only heard Irish spoken between people maybe once or twice. It is important to recognize that this a common narrative only in Dublin. There are many parts of Ireland I have yet to visit, which may or may not use Irish as the colloquial language. However, Dublin is the largest city and capital of Ireland, as well as the country’s economic hub. It is a direct reflection of how the existing institutions around a city can shape its linguistic landscape.

A train stop with both English and Irish writing.

Dublin hosts many international companies from mostly English-speaking nations such as Google, Facebook, Johnson and Johnson, etc. A lot of European and American companies are willing to move to Dublin because the 12.5% corporate tax rate is the lowest in the world. In fact, many companies have already lined up to move to Dublin from the UK post Brexit. As such, Dublin is incentivized to use English in everyday life in order to bolster their economic standing. Similarly, Ireland is a part of the EU. Not only are there several trade linkages because of this political and economic union, Ireland is mandated to follow different laws and regulations. By being a part of the EU, Irish citizens are incentivized to learn English so they can travel to other EU countries looking for work or education. English is a very important part of Ireland and it will continue to be so as the country develops economically. However, the use of the Irish language as a part of a “symbolic economy” adds to its cultural importance.

When walking down Temple Bar or other touristy areas, you will notice that the Irish language is showcased more in front of bars. This specific neighborhood uses the aesthetic of pub and bar culture meant to create “distinctive urban experiences that attract tourists and residents”. In doing so, this neighborhood becomes a site of cultural consumption.

Hummus and Bread Thins with no sign of Irish in its information. 

Interestingly, it is mostly public spaces or government organizations that spread Irish language in an attempt to capitalize on tourism. Another example of this would be the Guinness factory where people are charged 18 euros for a tour and “authentic” beer which you can get for 5 euros anywhere else.

When it comes to private enterprises, there is very little attempt to use Irish as a means to garner customers. When buying groceries from Lidl or Spar, there is little to none Irish product placement.


It is clear that the Irish language is used as a tool in Dublin in order to showcase its culture and authenticity. Admittedly, it is concerning that Irish is sometimes targeted towards out-groups in order to be a more attractive area. However, this situation is not the same as the one discussed in the journal. In Ireland, the language and culture is used to bolster the country itself. In DC, the minority Chinese populations, which have already been marginalized, are taken advantage of in an attempt to bolster economic standing. Irish culture and language is very much in the power of those that created it. The Chinese culture is exotified and is put on “display largely for the benefit of out-group individuals”.  The socio-historical contexts are largely different, but it is still important to look at the linguistic landscapes of each country. Although Dublin can be very touristy, the local people here are very proud to be Irish. From what I have experienced, they are comfortable with their language and enjoy their culture. Moving forward, I think the preservation of the Irish culture and language will be a difficult topic for the country. With an international trend towards globalization, this notion of moving past the norm has affected several different countries. It will be very interesting to see how this country will change, especially with the current implications of Brexit.

A memorial on a bridge written in both Irish and English.



Dublin’s Linguistic Landscape

When I stepped off the airplane in Dublin and encountered an informational sign in Irish, I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had spent the last seven hours wide awake on a plane (despite an extra-large dose of melatonin), but I was completely dumbfounded to find an informational sign written in the Irish language. Prior to coming to Ireland, I knew very little of the Irish language, believing it to be something spoken in rarity amongst old family members or at events steeped in history and tradition. I was shocked to find as I continued through the airport, then out into streets and on to public transportation, that every street and transportation sign included both English and Irish, with Irish securing the line above the English translation.

Bus fares in Irish on a Dublin Bus.

Despite the prevalent use of Irish across government issued signage, I did not find the language being used in other types of signage, such as business or commercial signs. This makes the linguistic landscape of Dublin very unique, as the language is only used in specific, highly publicized areas. The “linguistic outward appearance” (Leeman and Modan, 333) of Dublin might seem to be multilingual at first because of the usage of Irish on street signs and transportation lines. If you examine the ‘areas of activity’ (Leeman and Modan, 335) that Irish is found in, you would discover that Irish exists in public functional areas, most notably transportation. Electronic bus signs flicker between their English and Irish translations, and bus stops and announcements are played in both languages. However, English is the primary language of speaking and commercial signage, pointing to a more monolingual community. Instead of English and Irish being interwoven in signage, advertisements, and public and private speech, Irish is regulated to existing in government-issued signage and amongst private citizens.

Street sign in Santry, Dublin.
Park entrance sign in a neighborhood in Finglas, Dublin.









The use of Irish in Dublin can be contrasted quite starkly with the example of D.C.’s Chinatown that was described at length in the piece by Leeman and Modan. Whereas the use of Chinese is a symbol and commodification of ethnicity (Leeman and Modan, 354), the use of Irish is relegated only to government-issued signage. It isn’t found on business or commercial signs, trying to lure in tourists with a promise of Irish authenticity. It also isn’t spoken casually between Irish citizens. On the rare occasion I encountered the language apart from signs or bus announcements, it has been in very private, intimate spaces. Two notable instances include a welcoming reception for the Lord Mayor, where speeches were done entirely in Irish, and a recital for Irish schoolchildren, where the emcee volleyed her speech back and forth from Irish to English.

The Lord Mayor reception in the Dublin Mansion House. Officials speaking at the reception often spoke in Irish.

After a month of living in Dublin, from reading countless street signs and hearing my bus stops called out in Irish–but still being able to communicate entirely in English–I have found that Irish is used across the linguistic landscape of Dublin in a very symbolic sense. Irish is not the primary language people use to conduct business or give directions, rather it is used by the government in specific settings to keep some semblance of the Irish language and culture not only alive, but somewhat relevant and useful. Though I can’t speak to how successful this aim is, the Irish language still has a notable presence in Dublin’s linguistic landscape.

Works Cited

Leeman, Jennifer, and Gabriella Modan. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic landscape1.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 332–362.

Dublin and Irish Gaelic – commodity or pride

Dublin is a city filled with a variety of different people from all over, however, the country has a deep respect and pride for their own native language, and this is seen throughout the city. The obvious example of language diversity in Dublin is their use of the Irish Gaelic language. Only about 5% of the population actually speaks the language, however you cannot get around the city without hearing or seeing the language. In fact, one of my colleagues who is originally from Dublin told me when people talk about what streets they have been on in Dublin she sometimes gets confused because some streets she only knows the Gaelic name and others only the English name for the streets. Luckily, most people in Dublin don’t even speak in terms of street names but rather by proximity. Overall, it is interesting to see how Ireland’s linguistic landscape differs from where I grew up. I have been so used to seeing every sign around me in English and Spanish, that it is odd to see Irish Gaelic where Spanish usually is for me. I think this difference also really changes the importance of language and learning other languages in the country. Where I am from it is seen as crucial to learn Spanish because it is all around you. However, here, it seems more crucial to preserve a language from the past in a way of retaining the pride of the country and possibly increasing the city’s tourism. This idea of altering the urban landscape in a way to promote a specific type of “culture” in order to increase tourism and commerce is exactly what Leeman and Modan discussed. Because only 5% of the population speaks Irish Gaelic, it makes little economic sense to spend the time, effort, and money on creating signs with both English and Irish Gaelic.

What I love about my office is the diversity. On a regular basis I hear everything from Spanish to Hungarian spoken. However, I do not see this as often around Dublin. Other than the kids from Spain that live at the University nearby, most people who live in Dublin seem to only speak English. A girl from Dublin joked that people from Dublin can never speak another language because their accent gets in the way. I was curious if that was actually true, so I did a bit of research and actually found statistics showing that one in ten homes in Dublin speak more than one language at home. Compare this with the United States which is one in five. I find this a bit surprising considering the country as a whole is becoming relatively diverse. This does not mean there is no other languages seen around Dublin city center. Places such as Parnell street have a large Chinese community where you will see signs in mostly Chinese. One place that used a different language that surprised me was the Starbucks coffee cups. On all of the to-go cups, Starbucks translates everything in English and French. This I think is ironic considering to-go coffee is not popular in France. However, after a little research I found that Starbucks is currently making a big push to advertise to the French population because it views the country as an untapped market.

Dublin is a beautiful city that is growing in diversity both culturally and linguistically. However, I think those born in Dublin have a way to go before the introduction of a new language becomes common in the City center. With the importance and commodification of Irish Gaelic and the lack of a clear secondary language, Dublin will continue to focus mostly on their connection with the English language for the time being. 

Essay 3- Linguistic Landscape

The Gaelic language appears only in parts of Dublin life. The language seems to be more for aesthetic purposes rather than something that is used heavily in daily life. Everyone in Ireland primarily speaks English. In short my time here, I have not found myself in a situation in which I was struggling due to a language barrier. The languages I have seen here are English and Gaelic. I have not heard anyone speak Gaelic, but it is present on all the road signs. It is also written on the bus every time a bus stop approaches; the automated voice says the stop in English and Gaelic. The neighborhoods are also distinguished by numbers. They also have names of the neighborhoods on signs which are both in English and Gaelic, they act more as directional signs than anything else. The signs and stops suggest that Dublin is supporting a bilingual community, but that is not necessarily the case. I was speaking with my coworkers about Gaelic, they told me that many people in Dublin do not actually fluently speak the language. Many learn it in their childhood, but do not regularly speak it in their daily lives. I have only met one person that thoroughly knows the language. There are, however, small pockets around Ireland that do speak Gaelic fluently and daily, such as in the Aran Islands, but that is not representative of Dublin at all. All of the private enterprises I have seen are written in English only. Malls, gas stations, restaurants, and small stores are all in English. It is interesting that schools are sometimes referred to in both English and Gaelic, but it is not a big change. For example, the school my center is located at is called St. Collmicles, but it is also referred to as Scoil Colmcilles. The publically written language is mostly the same as the speech you hear on the street. English is spoken everywhere, but I have yet to hear Gaelic in casual conversation throughout.

Similar to Washington DC’s Chinatown, I believe the usage of the Gaelic is a part of the sociohistorical context. Dublin’s history would in fact have many people who spoke Gaelic reside in the city. As the city grew in population and became more modernized, English became more popular. Honestly, it does not make much sense that Gaelic is used only for street signs, and not for any businesses or in daily usage. Similar to Chinese writing on Chinatown’s streets is “indicative of the geographically informed concept of landscape in that the force of such writing is overwhelmingly aesthetic; thus, it works to privilege the visual.” (Leeman & Modan, 358). Gaelic is used very freely on signs throughout the City Centre and Temple Bar district, which are very tourist heavy areas. Like Chinese writing in DC’s Chinatown, it is less of a means of communication and interaction, but just something that is an “ornament” in the larger landscape. It is more of a small way to be reminded of culture. Gaelic culture is preserved more through things such as sports rather than language.

It is interesting that the diversity in Ireland is increasing, so maybe in ten or twenty years, different languages can be implemented into the landscape as a means of legitimate utilization, and not something that is merely ornamental.