Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian: Inherent translanguaging in the linguistic landscape of Sarajevo
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Language in the Balkan region of Southeastern Europe has a complex and turbulent history, acutely embodied in the tripartite and trilingual state of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in which Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs all make claim to their own mutually-intelligible varieties of local “languages”. This study utilizes a linguistic landscape methodology to consider language use in Sarajevo, the capital of BiH, approximately 20 years after a brutal war that led to the establishment of the country. Data originate from three municipalities within the Sarajevo Canton – namely, Old Town, Center, and Ilidža – because of their representation of the region’s diversity and history. Signs were classified according to the three primary language varieties, i.e., Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian; BCS, representing a common core among the three varieties, as well as English, other languages, and mixed languages. The application of BCS uniquely positions the present research in comparison to other studies of language use in the region and allows for a more nuanced, less politically and ethnolinguistically fraught analysis of the communicative tendencies of users. More specifically, data indicate that actors in the linguistic landscape transcend the boundaries of their national, ethnic, and religious identities by tending towards the more neutral BCS, suggesting an orientation towards more translingual dispositions than previous variety-bound approaches have indicated. Thus, instead of the divisiveness of linguistic identity politics, the linguistic landscape of Sarajevo indicates a tendency toward inclusion and linguistic egalitarianism.
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