Sociolinguistic Aspects of Linguistic Visuals in Varanasi

Author Information

Anil Thakur,
Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi, India

Pursotam Kumar,
Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi, India

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.4-4
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


The paper presents a sociolinguistic study of the linguistic visuals (including shop signages, product descriptions, wall-posters, advertisements, graffiti, etc) of the major tourist localities in the Indian city of Varanasi. Varanasi is one of the most ancient and continuously thriving Indian cities, with rich and diverse religious, cultural, and commercial traditions. Consequently, the multi-cultural and multilingual landscape of Varanasi is the reflection of a city which has remained as one of the most sought-after pilgrimage destinations, from ancient times and until the present. The city is therefore presently a well-known tourist destination for domestic as well as international tourists, including salvation seekers and settlers from throughout India. The city’s visual displays, in the form of linguistic signs and cultural symbols across temples, stores, and streets, reflect the rich multi-cultural tradition of the city.

The present study draws on data collected by visiting the city, interacting with its people, and documented through photographing linguistic visuals across the major tourist attractions of the city; the neighbourhoods of the banks of the river Ganges. Among the interesting features of the multi-dimensional linguistic visuals are the instances of multi-lingual and multi-modal shop signages, slogans, signboards, banners, and posters across the busy lanes, boats, hawkers’ trolleys, roads, stairs, and walls. By documenting and discussing the innovative blends of illustrative instances of alphabets, spellings, scripts, and creative designs of the fonts, as well as cultural and religious symbols, the paper reports that the linguistic landscape of the city aptly represents diverse and dynamic aspects, including the regular concerns of the people; from their cultural and creative considerations to commercial compulsions, all of which are strikingly and clearly noticeable across the city’s linguistic visuals.

Keywords: Linguistic visuals, shop signages, linguistic landscape, Varanasi city, linguistic anthropology


Bhatia, Tej K. (2007). Advertising and Marketing in Rural India: Language, Marketing Communication, and Consumerism. Tokyo: Macmillan.
Heller, M., Jaworski, A., and Thurlow, C. (2014). Introduction: Sociolinguistics and Tourism- Mobilities, Markets, Multilingualism. The Journal of Sociolinguistics, 18(4): DOI:10.1111/josl.12091
Holmes, H. K. (2016). Theorizing the Market in Sociolinguistics. In N. Coupland (Ed.) Sociolinguistics: Theoretical Debates (Part II: Language, Markets, and Materiality). CUP Online.
Itagi, N. H. and. Singh, S. K. (2002). Linguistic Landscaping in India with Particular Reference to the New States: Proceedings of a Seminar. Mysore, India.
James, A. (2016). From Code‐Mixing to Mode‐Mixing in the European Context. World Englishes, 35(2): 259–275
Landry, R. and Bourhis, R. Y. (1997). Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 16(1): 23–49.
Mehrotra R. R. (1977). Sociology of Secret Languages. IIAS, Shimla.
Olteanu, A. (2019). Multiculturalism as Multimodal Communication: A Semiotic   Perspective. Springer.
Shanga, G. and Guo, L. (2017). Linguistic Landscape in Singapore: What Shop Names Reveal about Singapore’s Multilingualism. International Journal of Multilingualism, 14(2): 183–201. Routledge.
Wang, J. J. (2015). Linguistic Landscape on Campus in Japan: A Case Study of Signs in Kyushu University. Intercultural Communication Studies, XXIV(1).
Xu, Z. C and Farzad, S. (2018). Cultural Conceptualizations of Chinese Zodiac Animals in Chinese English. World Englishes, 37(4): 590-606.
Yang, P. (2019). Language and Visual Communication: How Multimodality Works in Intercultural Marketing Communication.
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5778-4.ch002

Full CALA 2022 Proceedings book