A Sociolinguistic Study of Meaning-Making in a Nigerian Linguistic Landscape: The Example of Ìbàdàn

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Fall 2013


Although much research has gone into the sociolinguistics of the linguistic landscape (space for and language of public signs) in the "peripheral," non-native contexts of English Language use and users, none has been specifically devoted to a Nigerian context. This dissertation is intended to fill this wide gap. Focusing on the Ìbàdàn linguistic landscape and sampling photographic data from its 11 local government areas, the study addresses three main concerns--how meaning is made by the producers and expected to be understood by the consumers of this linguistic landscape, what is communicated about the status of English in Nigeria, and how this linguistic landscape provides valuable sociolinguistic information about Nigerian English in the context of World Englishes. Drawing heavily on Backhaus' (2007) sociolinguistic framework, as inflected with insights from Scollon and Scollon's (2003) linguistic semiotics, the study combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to identify the significances of the meanings made on the linguistic landscape, as related to sign-production (agency), sign-consumption (readership), and the dynamics of the languages on signs. Results show two clearly demarcated types of signs, top-down (official) and bottom-up (non-official). In both types, the linguistic landscape is used to perform both informational and symbolic functions, English is the preferred and dominant language, and the preferred code is usually placed at the top of sign. However, there are more bottom-up than top-down signs, top-down signs are almost entirely non-commercial and contain six languages, and bottom-up signs show a variety of commercial and non-commercial content expressed in three languages. The findings unveil a reader-orientation anchored in six languages, a prevalence of monophonic signs and overt multilingualism, and idiosyncratic uses of English and Yorùbá. The English on this landscape is varied, containing Standard, non-Standard, and localized forms, thereby confirming the existence of a Nigerian variety of English. Given the fact that Yorùbá is the language predominantly spoken in Ìbàdàn, this dissertation claims that the linguistic landscape does not reflect the reality of language use in Ìbàdàn, and suggests that the boundaries between native and non-native uses of English may be more blurred than thought.


Robert J. Baumgardner

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature