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Constructing Identities through Multilingualism and Multiscriptualism

The Linguistic Landscape in Dutch and Belgian Chinatowns

多元语言文字中的认同建构——以荷兰、比利 时唐人街的语言风貌为例

In: Journal of Chinese Overseas
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This paper examines characteristics of the linguistic landscape (ll) in Chinatowns in Belgium and the Netherlands. Fieldwork was conducted in four cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam) and two in Belgium (Brussels and Antwerp). All these cities are situated in the Dutch language area, but Brussels is officially bilingual French-Dutch. In the study, the traditional approach in linguistic landscape studies was combined with an ethnographic approach, in which shopkeepers were interviewed about language and script choice in their signs. The quantitative analysis shows that Chinese shows up in more than three quarters of all signs and that in almost 60 per cent of the signs Chinese is the dominant language. Dutch (the language of the region) and English (the international language) show up in almost half the signs. French shows up almost exclusively in Brussels, where Dutch is less used in signs. The analysis also shows interesting differences in script types between the cities. The presence of different types of Chinese character and pinyin systems indexes the Chineseness of the community, the origin of the local Chinese population, the position of the different establishments in the host countries, and the tendency of these Chinese immigrants to localize. We will show how these small overseas-Chinese communities construct and express their new identity by means of multilingualism and multiscriptualism.

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