Translanguaging and Boundary Crossing in the Linguistic Landscape of a Divided City

Author: Stavroula Tsiplakou (Open University of Cyprus, Cyprus)
Speaker: Stavroula Tsiplakou
Topic: Linguistic Landscape
COMELA 2022 General Session


Nicosia is a divided European capital; the two major ethnic communities of the island, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, are separated de facto following the war of 1974. The inner-city areas delimited by the UN-controlled buffer zone were long abandoned but recently there have been attempts at gentrification. The landscape is linguistically and textually rich and diverse; walls, fences, doorways, even the walls of the ‘border’ are inscribed with an abundance of texts including political slogans, advertisements for rallies or local festivals, graffiti, posters, stencilled images etc. In this paper I focus on the visual and linguistic dialectic of texts that are generated ‘top-down’ and texts generated ‘bottom-up’; the former display normativity and linguistic prescriptivism, as the dominant language is Standard Greek, the ‘H’ variety in the Greek Cypriot diglossic context. In the latter, the linguistic choice de rigueur is translanguaging, involving (i) aspects of the Cypriot Greek dialect, the ‘L’ variety that is still by-and-large banned from the public domain, and code-mixing between Standard and Cypriot Greek, (ii) the use of other languages, mostly English but also French, Turkish, Russian etc., (iii) ungrammatical structures or ‘nonsensical’ texts, (iv) subversion of orthographic conventions, etc. A micro-level linguistic analysis of individual texts and of particular types of translanguaging and linguistic and orthographic bricolage is proffered and the argument is put forward that the counternormativity of such production is predicated not only upon its content and form but crucially also upon its interdiscursivity and its engagement in an ongoing conflictual dialectic with ‘top-down’ prescriptive production.

Keywords: bricolage, Cypriot Greek, diglossia, interdiscursivity, intertextuality, translanguaging