"Scaling" the Linguistic Landscape in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

  • Patrick Heinrich (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This paper discusses four different linguistic landscapes in Okinawa Prefecture: Naha Airport, Yui Monorail, Heiwadōri Market and Yonaguni Island. In addition to Japanese, Ryukyuan local languages are spoken there – Uchinaaguchi in Okinawa and Dunan in Yonaguni. Okinawan Japanese (Ryukyuan-substrate Japanese) is also used. In the linguistic landscapes these local languages and varieties are rarely represented and, if they are, they exhibit processes of language attrition. The linguistic landscape reproduces language nationalism and monolingual ideology. As a result, efficiency in communication and the actual language repertoires of those using the public space take a back seat. English differs from all languages employed in that it is used generically to address “non-Japanese” and not simply nationals with English as a national language. The public space is not simply filled with language. The languages employed are hierarchically ordered. Due to this, and to the different people using these public spaces, the meaning of public sign(post)s is never stable. The way in which meaning is created is also hierarchically ordered. Difference in meaning is not a question of context but one of scale.