Multilingual repertoire management and illocutionary functions in Yiddish signage in Manchester

Yaron Matras, Leonie Gaiser, Gertrud Reershemius

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Drawing on a corpus of annotated images that capture the linguistic landscape of a residential neighbourhood in Greater Manchester (UK) with a large Hasidic-Haredi (so-called ‘ultra-Orthodox’) Jewish population, we show how choices within a multilingual repertoire are both indicative and constitutive of different communicative acts and illocutions. Written Yiddish is embedded into an established tradition of literacy where creativity is accompanied by authoritative citations from Hebrew scripture. We discuss the use of Yiddish in affective, appellative, mobilising, regulatory and prohibitive actions. Semi-public use of written Yiddish is directed at participants who share a repertoire of closely intertwined social, religious and linguistic practices. Unlike many other lesser-used languages, the use of Yiddish in Haredi communities is not restricted to indexical identity flagging or commodification purposes. We show how in this multilingual setting, the indexical ordering of languages on written artefacts does not represent a hierarchy of absolute valorisation but rather a complementarity of functions that draws on simultaneous activation of several repertoire components.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-70
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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