Reference : Ohne Glutamat - No MSG: Shelf label design in a Thai supermarket in rural Germany
Scientific Presentations in Universities or Research Centers : Scientific presentation in universities or research centers
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
Ohne Glutamat - No MSG: Shelf label design in a Thai supermarket in rural Germany
Serwe, Stefan Karl mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Languages, Culture, Media and Identities (LCMI) >]
Multilingualism and Mobility in Europe: Policies and Practices
11-12 July 2013
LCMI, University of Luxembourg
[en] Linguistic landscape ; Multilingualism ; Thai ; Ethnic entrepreneurship
[en] Ethnic businesses are physical manifestations of the mobility of humans and goods around the globe. At the same time they constitute spaces for multilingual practices (c.f. Collier, 2010, 2011; Hewitt 2008; Leung 2009). One such practice is the design of shelf labels: typically small, rectangular pieces of paper attached to the edge of a product display featuring the price and the product’s name. This paper intends to shed light on the language use on handwritten shelf labels in a small convenience store in rural Germany that offers products from Southeast and East Asia. The analysis shall elucidate the web of factors that leads to the mono- and multilingual materiality of these signs. The data are photographs of shelf labels taken during the on-going ethnographic investigation into the language practices of self-employed business owners with a Thai migration background. Oral accounts by the producer of these signs are also used. The signs will be analysed from a semiotic angle (Scollon and Scollon (2003), Jaworski & Thurlow (2010)), in order to attempt to account for the language use on these labels as part of a workplace practice. The analysis reveals that content and code preference on the shelf labels are the result of an interplay between the product on display, as well as assumptions about the clients’ language and conceptual knowledge. Therefore, the paper concludes that the production of these labels constitutes material evidence for practiced transculturality (Pütz 2003) exercised by many migrant businesspeople

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