Hoşgeldiniz jiroues TOP: Language Matters

Authors: Javanshir Shibliyev (Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus)
Vacide Kose (Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus)
Speakers: Javanshir Shibliyev, Vacide Kose
Topic: Linguistic Landscape
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2021 General Session


This paper aims to investigate the linguistic vitality of Greek and Turkish (indigenous languages) and also English (the language of interethnic communication) in Pyla, an ethnically mixed village in Cyprus. Assessing ethno-linguistic vitality is important since it may provide rich data for linguists, ethnographers, politicians and others. It is also vital from language endangerment and globalization perspectives.

Greek Cypriots comprise 64% of the total 1337 inhabitants of the village whereas this percentage is 36% for the Turkish Cypriots. The official languages of the Republic of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish (Article 3, Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, 1960), the two major ethnic communities of the island. Both languages appear in public documents and Turkish is obligatorily present under Greek in government buildings. English seems to be ‘an unofficially official’ language which is also used in official documents (Themistocleous, 2019).

The study employs Linguistic Landscape approach which originates from sociological theories of social action implying that social reality should be treated as fields of interconnected and more or less autonomous facts structured by unequal power relations. Social action is also determined by the desire of presentation of self. As Landry and Bourhis (1997:23) note, “the linguistic landscape may serve important informational and symbolic functions as a marker of relative power and status of the linguistic communities inhabiting the territory”.

Ben-Rafael et. al.’s (2006) framework was used to analyse 224 photos of signs. The ‘top-down’ LL items included signs issued by national and public bureaucracies. They comprised 26.8% of all signs. On the other hand, ‘bottom-up’ items were those issued by individual social actors with 73.2%.

Concerning top-down signs, the number of Greek monolingual signs prevails. In bilingual signs Greek came first. All trilingual signs pointed at the existence of UN forces in the village. In fact, the number of bilingual signs with Greek and English prevailed. Overall, the language law envisaging the use both languages (Greek and Turkish) were observed to a certain degree.

Analysis of bottom-up signs showed that the official language policy was not supported by agents. In bilingual signs, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots seem to prefer English along with their native languages. Turkish-Greek or Greek-Turkish bilingual signs are nonexistent. Turkish is overrepresented in monolingual signs whereas Greek-English bilingual signs outnumber those of the Turkish-English.

Keywords: Linguistic landscape approach, Cyprus, Pyla, vitality, language policy