A case study of Gilgit-Baltistan
Linguistic Landscape and the Public Space
Keywords:linguistic landscape, linguistic ecology, public space, indigenous languages, language policy, language prestige, language maintenance
Linguistic landscape studies have gained momentum in the last fifteen years because of a serious concern for the fate of indigenous languages that are struggling to survive in the presence of a few dominant languages in multilingual contexts. The current study was undertaken to analyze the linguistic landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region rich in both natural beauty and linguistic diversity. The data for this case study were based on 450 photographs of the sign boards, road instructions, and the names of hotels, guest houses and shops. Besides gathering data in the form of photos, some local shop owners and tourists were informally interviewed to discover their opinion about the linguistic landscape of GB and how it relates to the linguistic ecology of this region. The analysis of the data based on photographs reveals that the linguistic landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan does not reflect the same richness and diversity which is characteristic of the linguistic ecology of that region. In fact, the linguistic landscape of GB is dominated by two mainstream languages, English and Urdu, while in Hunza one can also find Chinese along with these languages in public spaces. Although the findings of this study reveal different patterns of language use that constitute the linguistic landscape of GB, no indigenous language is projected in any of the texts that occupy public spaces in the region. The absence of local languages in the linguistic landscape of GB is alarming; the findings of the study reinforce the need to project the indigenous languages in public spaces. The study is an attempt to not only draw attention of the government authorities to take measures to promote indigenous languages by ensuring their projection in public spaces but also raise awareness among the locals, who can contribute in transforming the linguistic landscape of their region.
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