Constructing Identities through Multilingualism and Multiscriptualism: The Linguistic Landscape in Dutch and Belgian Chinatowns

Xiaomei Wang, Hans Van de Velde

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    Abstract

    Source: Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 119 - 145This paper examines characteristics of the linguistic landscape ( LL) in Chinatowns in Belgium and the Netherlands. Fieldwork was conducted in four cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam) and two in Belgium (Brussels and Antwerp). All these cities are situated in the Dutch language area, but Brussels is officially bilingual French-Dutch. In the study, the traditional approach in linguistic landscape studies was combined with an ethnographic approach, in which shopkeepers were interviewed about language and script choice in their signs. The quantitative analysis shows that Chinese shows up in more than three quarters of all signs and that in almost 60 per cent of the signs Chinese is the dominant language. Dutch (the language of the region) and English (the international language) show up in almost half the signs. French shows up almost exclusively in Brussels, where Dutch is less used in signs. The analysis also shows interesting differences in script types between the cities. The presence of different types of Chinese character and pinyin systems indexes the Chineseness of the community, the origin of the local Chinese population, the position of the different establishments in the host countries, and the tendency of these Chinese immigrants to localize. We will show how these small overseas-Chinese communities construct and express their new identity by means of multilingualism and multiscriptualism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-145
    Number of pages26
    JournalJournal of Chinese Overseas
    Volume11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2015

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