Language policy and linguistic landscaping in a contemporary blue-collar workplace in the Dutch–German borderland

Daan Hovens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This article argues that an expanded view of linguistic landscapes provides a useful metaphor for exploring language policies. Following this view, “language policy” is defined as “linguistic landscaping” (i.e., placing language policy mechanisms which, together with already placed mechanisms, construct a metaphorical landscape). The application of this landscaping metaphor has several advantages, as it provides a way to imagine language policy as a continuously ongoing construction process, and as it provides a way to imagine the historical layers of a landscape, the overlap and connections between different landscapes, and the complex hierarchical positions within a landscape. The article is based on linguistic-ethnographic fieldwork in a metal foundry in the Dutch province of Limburg, within walking distance from the Dutch–German border. Specifically, it discusses why a group of senior production workers from Limburg were dissatisfied with the linguistically diverse landscape that had emerged in the foundry over time, even though the foundry’s management tried to place Dutch-speaking workers in the company’s sociolinguistic norm centre. Confirming the usefulness of the landscaping metaphor, the article shows that a full consideration of diverse historical and contemporary acts of both linguistic and semiotic landscaping helps explain why these workers experienced that their position in the foundry had become peripheralised over time. In conclusion, the article calls for more attention to the complex human experience, rather than just the detection, of sociolinguistic inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-666
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Blue-collar workplace
  • Centre-periphery
  • Cross-border region
  • Language policy
  • Linguistic landscape
  • Power
  • blue-collar workplace
  • centre-periphery
  • cross-border region
  • language policy
  • linguistic landscape
  • power


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