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Beware of the dog! Private linguistic landscapes in two ‘Hungarian’ villages in South-West Slovakia

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Abstract

This study demonstrates how a single type of sign can be connected to language policy on a larger scale. Focusing on the relationship between language policy and language ideologies, I investigate the private Linguistic Landscape (LL) of Hungarians living in two villages in Slovakia. Through an examination of ‘beware of the dog’ signs, it is shown how such signs can be indicative of different language policies. In Slovakia, the Hungarian public LL is often referred to as a threat to the state language and public order. This ideology is reflected on the LL so that there are mostly Slovak-only public signs in bilingual and Hungarian dominant villages. The private realm is the only significant area where a certain Hungarian dominance is present. In a bilingual village, Hungarians prefer Slovak in their public signage, while in a village with Hungarian majority people invest on having private Hungarian signs by purchasing them in Hungary as well as through hand-making signs. The counter-normativity of having monolingual Hungarian signs is underlined by several factors. First, the language policy referred to as laws have put an emphasis on warning signs. Secondly, a Hungarian language rights leaflet has elevated ‘beware of the dog’ signs as normatively bilingual. Thirdly, the context of Slovakia, engaged in nation building disfavors the public use of Hungarian. This paper illustrates the importance of considering ideologies as reflected in private LL in multilingual contexts in transition.

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Acknowledgments

This research was financed by the Academy of Finland Grant 137718. I cordially thank Mia Halonen, Juliet Langman, István Lanstyák, the Language Policy editor Elana Shohamy and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions. Any remaining shortcomings are my sole responsibility.

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Correspondence to Petteri Laihonen.

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Laihonen, P. Beware of the dog! Private linguistic landscapes in two ‘Hungarian’ villages in South-West Slovakia. Lang Policy 15, 373–391 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-015-9358-y

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