Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Roman obelisks and the convergence of historical and contemporary linguistic landscapes – A pilot study

Roman obelisks and the convergence of historical and contemporary linguistic landscapes – A pilot study

Amber Aschwanden

This pilot study examines two of central Rome’s thirteen obelisks as elements of their contemporary linguistic landscape and as elements of various historical linguistic landscapes. Linguistic landscape studies traditionally consider all textual elements in a defined space, such as every sign posted on a street in an urban area. Gorter, Landry and Bourhis, and Dal Negro, among others, use such information to discuss issues like language visibility and its relation to community vitality. This study considers texts that occur in specifically public spheres and which have various historical contexts in order to investigate their changing roles through time. Borrowing methods from Gorter, who has written extensively on the linguistic landscapes of Rome; Coulmas, who discusses historical linguistic landscapes; and Kallen, who outlines linguistic considerations in tourist areas, this study develops a new method through which historical elements, their histories, and their contemporary contexts are considered. To this literary data are added photographs of the obelisks and their contemporary linguistic contexts. This information provides context for their current function within the contemporary linguistic landscape, while historical considerations open up a new level of analytical richness for linguistic landscape studies that include historical texts. This study also shows that a future study considering all thirteen obelisks in central Rome would be fruitful, and that the methods applied here could lend themselves to studies in cities with similar juxtapositions of ancient and modern signage, such as Athens, Istanbul, and Jerusalem.

Keywords: linguistic landscape, obelisk, Rome, historical linguistic landscape, historical inscriptions, Egyptian artifacts, hieroglyphics

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April 9, 2014 - Posted by | abstract

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