Where (and when)’s your heritage? A comparison of linguistic landscapes in Southampton and Winchester

Wednesday 26 October
Room 202, St Alphege, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

​This paper focusses on the linguistic and semiotic landscapes of Southampton, highlighting the elements of ‘heritage’. The nearby city of Winchester, which has heritage status, will serve as a comparison site. These two cities in the south of England are less than 15 miles apart but vary significantly in the way their histories are presented in the public space and how they invoke the respective chronotopes of local and national history. While recent research focussing on aspects of superdiversity in Southampton (Cadier & Mar-Molinero 2012 and 2014) exists, investigating the presentation of heritage in the public space has proven worthwhile as it unveils aspects of a current superdiverse cityscape alongside those of historical multicultural and multilingual influence.

Both locations are shaped by a military background and can look back on a long, rich history but deal with and display these aspects very differently, also in the way they are presented to the public. Southampton with its roughly 237,000 inhabitants is a busy port and trade city, which is now characterised by a mix of service and manufacturing industries, educational institutions and other economic sectors. In contrast, Winchester, with a population of about 42,000 inhabitants, is an old cathedral city, with a university and a high proportion of service industries. As a designated heritage city it is also a popular tourist destination. In contrast, Southampton’s port caters for cruise ships and thus the city has become an ‘accidental’ tourist location.

The material collected demonstrates that there are a greater number and more variety of linguistic landscapes in Southampton; however, these largely serve a different purpose in comparison to those in Winchester. This paper therefore proposes the idea of ‘orders of heritage’, analogical to orders of indexicality. The different orders will highlight that we can observe certain linguistic landscapes which function, in varying degrees, semiotically and/or emblematically (Blommaert 2010: 29; Blommaert 2015) when it comes to heritage.

Dr. Barbara Loester is a Senior Lecturer in English Linguistics at the University of Winchester. She has a background in English, German and comparative linguistics. Her research lies mainly in the field of sociolinguistics with a particular focus on minority and regional languages. Barbara is the Convener of the Centre for Research into Language, one of the University's interdisciplinary research centres.

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