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Language and Power

5. The Linguistic Landscape

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In this module, we think about how language (and other kinds of signs) construct space, focusing in particular on: (i) the distinction between space and place, and the importance of signage (among other things) in turning a space into a place; (ii) traffic signs, and the use of signs to create boundaries and set norms of behaviour; (iii) persuasive signs, and the importance of who made the sign and why; (iv) Scollon and Scollon's taxonomy of different kinds of signs – regulatory, infrastructural, commercial, and transgressive; (v) Scollon and Scollon's concept of top-down and bottom-up signs; and (vi) the importance of graffiti when thinking about the linguistic language; and (vii) the materiality of signage.

Reading list:
– G. Mautner, 'Language, space and the law: a study of directive signs' International Journal of Speech, Language & the Law 19(2) (2012)
– V. Carrington, 'I write, therefore I am: texts in the city', Visual Communication, 8(4) (2009), pp. 409-425.
– Ron Scollon and Suzie Wong Scollon, Language in the Material World (2001)


In this course, Professor Annabelle Mooney (University of Roehampton) explores the relationship between language in power. In the first module, we explore the concept of speech acts and Jakobson's six functions of language. After that, we introduce three frameworks for analysing language and power, including Saussere's concept of the (bilateral) sign, Jakobson's concept of the axes of selection and combination, and the concept of constraints and affordances. In the third module, we think about the relationship between language and class and social capital, before turning in the fourth module to the relationship between language and power in the context of the law. In the fifth module, we think about the use of language – especially signs – in transforming spaces into places, before turning in the sixth module to consider some aspects of language and power in relation to money and economics, including the concept of cognitive metaphors and the reason that conspiracy theorists are so wedded to their ideas. Each module comes with a few suggestions for wider reading.


Annabelle Mooney is Professor of Language and Society at the University of Roehampton. Her research focuses on the language of waste and the language used by 'ordinary' people in order to better understand human culture, communication and relationships with the world. Her recent publications include The Language of Money: Proverbs and Practices (2018) and (as co-author) Language, Society and Power: An Introduction (2018).

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APA style

Mooney, A. (2022, April 11). Language and Power - The Linguistic Landscape [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mooney, A. "Language and Power – The Linguistic Landscape." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Apr 2022,

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