Basque & Spanish in the Basque Country Linguistic Landscape

This study examines the linguistic landscape (Landry & Bourhis, 1997) of a small town in the north of the Basque Country (Ondarroa, Bizkaia) with the aim to illustrate the complex relation between language, identity, politics and the power relations that are created in these contexts. The reason for which this area has been selected is due to the fact that, although there are other languages in contact with Spanish all around the world, the relation and linguistic contact between Basque and Spanish is believed to be interesting since they have been in contact for hundreds of years but they belong to different linguistic families. Moreover, the multilingual linguistic landscape has been studied both in cities (e.g., Aiestaran, Cenoz & Gorter, 2010) as well as in rural areas (e.g., Daveluy & Ferguson, 2009; Kotze & Du Plessis, 2010), and for example, some of them (e.g., Comajoan Colomé, 2013; Lado, 2011) have examined how minority languages are presented with the majority languages of the territory. Nevertheless, as far as this study is concerned, few studies have analyzed the presence of the minority and majority languages in the signs, in an area where actually the language typically considered as the minority language is the most spoken language of a town. Therefore, this research aims to contribute to this gap by analyzing the linguistic landscape of Ondarroa (Bizkaia): a town of almost 8.590 inhabitants where in 2016, almost the 80% was Basque speaker, while in the rest of Bizkaia (the province where the aforementioned municipality belongs to) the percentage of Basque speakers was of 27,6% (Eustat, 2016).
More specifically, the present investigation discovers the divergent presence of each of language in this particular linguistic landscape to analyze whether it is a predominantly monolingual or multilingual linguistic landscape. To that end, the manner in which multilingualism is displayed in the main shopping street of Ondarroa (based on e.g., Aiestaran et al., 2010; Cenoz & Gorter, 2006) is examined. Regarding the methodology, while several methods have been developed in this area of linguistics (Moustaoui Srhir, 2019), this study combines quantitative methods with a more qualitative and contextualized perspective. Photos of each sign were taken in 2019 and each sign is considered as a single unit of analysis (76 pictures from 15 shops) to get a more robust understanding of the linguistic landscape. In addition, other qualitative perspectives are taken into consideration for the analysis: top-down or bottom-up signs (Ben Rafael, Shohamy, Amara & Trumper-Hetch, 2006) and the way in which each language is presented in each sign (Bruyèl-Olmedo & Juan-Garau, 2009). The results of this investigation show that the main language in this area is Basque although there is a considerable presence of Spanish as well. In fact, one could mention that their presence is almost equitable or that this linguistic landscape is mainly bilingual, despite noting the biggest presence of Basque over Spanish.


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See also: Poster