Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of the public space: The case of israel

Eliezer Ben-Rafael*, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad Hasan Amara, Nira Trumper-Hecht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Linguistic landscape (LL) refers to linguistic objects that mark the public space. This paper compares patterns of LL in a variety of homogeneous and mixed Israeli cities, and in East Jerusalem. The groups studied were Israeli Jews, Palestinian Israelis and non-Israeli Palestinians from East Jerusalem, of whom most are not Israeli citizens. The study focused on the degree of visibility on private and public signs of the three major languages of Israel-Hebrew, Arabic and English. This study reveals essentially different LL patterns in Israel's various communities: Hebrew–English signs prevail in Jewish communities; Arabic Hebrew in Israeli–Palestinian communities; Arabic–English in East Jerusalem. Further analyses also evince significant–and different–discrepancies between public and private signs in the localities investigated. All in all, LL items are not faithfully representative of the linguistic repertoire typical of Israel's ethnolinguistic diversity, but rather of those linguistic resources that individuals and institutions make use of in the public sphere. It is in this perspective that we speak of LL in terms of symbolic construction of the public space which we explain by context-dependent differential impacts of three different factors–rational considerations focusing on the signs' expected attractiveness to the public and clients; aspirations of actors to give expression to their identity through their choice of patterns that, in one way or another, represent their presentation of self to the public; and power relations that eventually exist behind choices of patterns where sociopolitical forces share relevant incompatible interests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-30
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Arabic
  • English
  • Hebrew
  • Israel
  • Linguistic landscape
  • Palestinians


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