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The Linguistic Landscape of Kreuzberg and Neukölln – a comparative analysis of two neighbourhoods: Graefe- and Reuterkiez)

Fatih Özcan

(Freie Universität Berlin)

This paper targets the question whether social structural changes and urban development measures are represented in the diversity of language communities and structure of the linguistic landscape of two adjacent neighbourhoods in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. A variety of sociolinguistic suppositions are incorporated into the theoretical framework covering the ethnolinguistic vitality in particular (See Landry/Bourhis 1997). Thereby the concept of urban space is defined as a materialised public space with multifaceted semiotic properties which has extensive effects on the communicative structures, social interactions and the cultural interpretability of its linguistic objects within (for a sociological perspective on public spaces, see Ben-Rafael (2009); for a semiotic perspective, see Reblin (2010) and a cultural perspective, see Haarmann (1990). The Linguistic Landscape analyses comprise social structural key figures and a data set collected in summer 2013. The results show slight differences of ethnolinguistic vitality in the public space of the urban neighbourhoods “Reuter-“ and “Graefekiez”. While the border road between the adjacent neighbourhoods not only divides in geographical terms – it also displays linguistic differences. The Graefekiez with its local self-governing focus and political inclusion of minority language communities reveals a larger linguistic diversity but at the same time a potentially salient competition between prestigious languages and so-called migrant languages especially for linguistic visibility in public space. The Reuterkiez as a negative example of gentrification impacts displays lesser linguistic diversity but in parts exclusively dominant minority language communities. A highly relevant connectedness yields the effect of previous legal measures for protecting social structures of urban neighbourhoods and their cultural diversity. However, ongoing gentrification streams are associated with the growing expansion of some prestigious languages and the decline of both – distinctive ethnolinguistic and social structural diversity of urban neighbourhoods. In this sense, the study of Linguistic Landscapes in urban areas provides a comprehensive picture about the relationship between social structures, urban development and linguistic diversity in public spaces. All three elements sustainably influence the composition and progression of Linguistic Landscapes of urban neighbourhoods.