Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

IJURR Spotlight on Language and the City

Rivke Jaffe

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research


This collection brings together four new essays and links them to papers previously published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research on the topic of language in cities. Rivke Jaffe’s introduction to the collection points out the lack of research on language from an urban studies perspective. “Yet as the authors contributing to this Spotlight show, urban inequalities are reflected, reproduced and contested through everyday language use as well as top-down language policies and legislation…Whether through oral communication or written texts, claims to public space and more broadly urban belonging frequently involve linguistic choices.”

David Madden’s “City Talk” analyses the sociopolitical subtext of the words used to describe urban spaces, from the racialized connotations of “inner city” to the euphemistic aspirations of “renewal”. Virginie Mamadouh’s “The City and its Languages: Taking Linguistic Diversity Seriously” explores multilingualism within cities, which she describes as a blind spot of urban studies. Mieke Vandenbroucke’s “Public Signage: Language, Ideology and Claims to Urban Space” uses the situation of French, Dutch and Flemish in Belgium as a case study of political and cultural conflict manifesting in linguistic conflict. Finally, Sherry Simon’s “The Translational City” imagines that interaction between languages could be sites of cultural contact and celebration within cities.


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