Dr Stefania Tufi, Senior Lecturer in Italian, has had a new article published on the linguistic landscape of Venice, entitled Liminality, heterotopic sites, and the linguistic landscape. The case of Venice. Stefania tells us a little about it on today’s MLC blog.

It took a long time to see this project through to publication and in a way the process of writing itself (or, better, of working within the limits of verbal language for the task at hand) was as elusive as Venice. I started forming the idea of this article because every time I visit Venice, the experience generates a mix of contrasting feelings and reactions that range from astonishment (including the so-called Stendhal Syndrome) to claustrophobia – not many places on earth are able to provoke such a variety of responses, and all in one go!


After a careful observation of the local linguistic (and wider semiotic) landscape, I concluded that it contributed to the creation of a liminal space, a sort of in-betweenness which is neither here nor there, and the product of numberless representations and imaginings of Venice. This has been enhanced by historical characterisations, appropriations and recreations of Venice which are available to large audiences, and by the fact that nowadays tourists (and their languages) outnumber local inhabitants and vernaculars, therefore creating a peculiarly transnational space.

In the article I also refer to processes of language minoritisation (or deletion) that Italian is undergoing, both in the audioscape and in the written signscape (as exemplified in the images below), a phenomenon that participates in linguistic and cultural reterritorialization.


Sign on a church door featuring French, English, German and Italian, the latter in the least salient position

Finally, one of the frameworks employed in the article is that of tourist-as-pilgrim in the consolidated walkscape regimes that most day-trippers follow in pursuit of key artistic landmarks. This ritualistic itinerary along established routes where written signs are often replaced by objects (such as the ubiquitous – and signless – souvenir shops displaying Venetian glass and masks) causes a dislocation of (real) place and the creation of a heterotopia – ‘another place’, which is simultaneously real and unreal.


The ubiquitous city guides in a range of languages