Indexing modernity: English and branding in the linguistic landscape of Addis Ababa

Journal article by Elizabeth Lanza and Hirut Woldemariam in International Journal of Bilingualism, volume 18, issue 5, 2013.

International Journal of Bilingualism front page


In this article we address the issue of language and globalization by focusing on the use of international brand names and English in the linguistic landscape of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been at the margins of the world economy; however, in the past decade Addis Ababa has witnessed a promising emerging economy, with many new international corporations investing in the country. The linguistic landscape is increasingly marked by the use of English, not only in general signage but also through international brand names and advertising. Moreover, a curious phenomenon has evolved in which international brand names and logos are used locally and are imparted an Ethiopian identity. The article highlights a particular case of cloning an international brand that touches on the discourse of national identity and development. The use of both English and international brand names in the linguistic landscape is perceived by locals as prestigious, indexing their aspirations towards modernity in this capital of the global South, with the notion of mobility covering not only geographical movement but also movement on a social scale. In conclusion, we relate our findings to a theoretical approach that aims to capture language in late modernity.

Access the article on the homepage of International Journal of Bilingualism.

Published Aug. 21, 2017 11:24 AM - Last modified Aug. 21, 2017 12:43 PM