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The role of language in segregation and gentrification processes: linguistic landscapes in Gothenburg, Sweden

Research project, funded by the Swedish Research Council 2019-2022.

Researchers: Johan Järlehed (project leader), Maria Löfdahl, Tommaso Milani, Helle Lykke Nielsen, Tove Rosendal

The aim of this four-year-project is to explain the overlooked role of language in segregation and gentrification processes. Gothenburg, as many cities, is characterised by spatial, social, and linguistic segregation, where people with different backgrounds, jobs, and languages seldom meet. By analyzing the linguistic landscape (LL) in six neighbourhoods, the research team aims to clarify how segregation and gentrification processes interact with each other, and how they are (re)produced in the LL. In three interconnected working packages - signs in place, experiences of place, and texts about place -, we develop a multi-sited, embodied and mobile linguistic ethnography in order to investigate the visibility of specific languages in different neighbourhoods, explain how these languages are used for different functions, and how people’s lived experiences of language values and usage affect their actions and patterns of movement.

Previous research has shown that segregation limits opportunities for socioeconomic mobility and interaction. However, economic and political forces may combine to increase the status of particular neighbourhoods. Such gentrification is often portrayed as positive by entrepreneurs and politicians, while critical voices claim that it displaces poorer residents and businesses. This project contributes a novel, linguistic perspective to social sciences by unveiling the role of language in processes of social exclusion and inclusion in urban space.

Page Manager: Annika Andersson|Last update: 12/10/2018
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