Lingustic Landscape.


Coventry University is a vast linguistic landscape. Linguistic landscapes is defined as ‘linguistic objects [that] mark the public space’ (Ben-Rafael et al. 2006:10). Such as posters, road signs, street names and various other mediums. The artefacts chosen for this post are a mixture of bottom-up and top-down discourse sources. The use of online as well as offline platforms form the linguistic landscape of Coventry University. All chosen artefacts link back to the social side of student life, through different ideology, identity, and multimodality fundamentally advertising a different side to the academic institution.

Figure 1: Halloween: Commercial discourse: Advertising and related signage (Scollon & Scollon 2003:217) , Ground floor, George Elliot Building. (Source: Writers photography)

Analysis & Findings. 

Top-down, bottom-up discourse and The Sign Maker. 

Top-down and bottom-up discourses refer to who the landscape is produced by and why it has been produced. For example, an artefact designed by a institution would be top-down because it would have been produced by an administration board and analysed by an advertisement team before release. In contrast, graffiti or a sign in a local shop would be bottom-up discourse as it has been produced by a member of the public and would not have to be authorised by at team of administrational employees. According to Jewitt, Bezemer and O’Halloran ‘The concept of the sign maker is used to refer to both the producer and the interpreter of a sign’ (Jewitt et al. 2016: 67). Therefore none interpreting the sign is just as much the sign maker as the actual producer of the sign themselves.

Artefact one (Figure one) the poster is designed as bottom-up discourse this is to appeal to the students social aspect of the university. However, the poster would essentially be top-down discourse. Students would not be able to distribute mass amounts of posters on the campus without agreement from the administration. Figure one’s sign maker is CUSU (Coventry Universities Student Union) which also helps to determined that it is top-down discourse. The products of the union would be the students ideas, but the advertisement of the would be dictated by the staff that over-see the union.

On the other hand the online artefacts as seen in Figure two and three are a mixture of top-down and bottom-up discourse. Being online landscapes people ultimately have more freedom to post what they please, the only restraint is where it is posted. Figure two, is once again top-down discourse, this is because the sign maker would have been an administrator of the University, more specifically the Media Team. Where-as Figure three, is a bottom-up discourse. The video itself has a group of students of the university as its sign maker, with the artefact being developed in relation to social aspects and interest of other students.


Figure 3: Monday Motivation: Coventry University: Twitter Page, Commercial discourse. (Source:


Referencing Jones and Hafener multimodality is ‘the practice of combining multiple modes’ (2012: 50) such as images, texts, hyperlinks and web-pages. Some of the artefacts chosen demonstrate more multimodality than others, however they all exhibit different aspects of it. Figure one has typically the least amount of multimodality partially due to the fact it is a printed, off-line artefact. The use of images has a high impact as images are ”polysemous’ implying a “floating chain” or ‘signifieds” (Barthes 1977: 274) which means that numerous messages are being implied and sent at the same time. Among the imagery, the audience is also given a web address, the gives way to a different level of modality.

Figure three typically has the most levels of multimodality available. This is typically because is is located on social media, where users are given loads of imagery, hyper-links, and given an affordance of text and visual aims such as videos. The levels of multimodality gives the audience more chance to communicate, interact and explore the atrefact into more depth. Figure two similarly to figure three has a wide range of multimodal affordances. Figure two also uses a lot of imagery, hyper-links, textual and visual aids while still allowing the audience to interact and communicate with the community intended.

The basis that figure two and figure three are both on a form of social media opens them up to a lot more engagement, interaction and attention-economy. Whereas figure one limits the amount of interaction and engagement possible. This makes the multimodal affordances of figure two and three more effective. However, figure one does give an option of this artefact becoming a online landscape with the web-address.

Geo-semiotics, Interaction and Community. 

While there is a prominent use of ‘images, video and other modes of function in digitial communication […] written language still remains out primary tool for communication…’ (Jones et al. 2012: 67). The ability to be able to ‘direct message’, ‘like’, ‘comment’, and ‘video chat’ are all different ways for audiences to communicate. Depending on how much effort the reader uses will depend on the transactional cost of the interaction. According to Jones and Hafner ‘the ‘richer’ a medium is, the higher the transaction costs are for using it’ (2012: 73). Therefore mediums such as ‘comments’, ‘likes’, and ‘direct messages’ are lower transaction costs, where ‘video chats’ and ‘face-to-face’ communication are all higher translation coats.

Figure one has a limited amount of interaction between the sign maker and the audience. Firstly this is to do with the geo-semiotics of the poster. Geo-semiotics is the combination of ‘concepts and methods from linguistic anthropology, place semiotics and social semiotics in order to foreground the emplacement of semiotic artefacts and interaction.’ (Jewitt et al. 2016: 156).  The poster being located in George Elliot building will inevitability reach a multitude of students, however the artefact itself has poor placing. The poor location misses the opportunity of reaching a wider audience. The poster itself was only seen on the off chance of students looking down at the table it was placed. Artefact one can also be seen to have high transaction costs because students will discuss this face-to-face using more effort through speech, body language and facial gestures.

Artefact two has a wider level of interaction. Not only because it is in a more accessible space, but the audience can leave comments, reviews, likes, as well as being able to communicate with the author of this landscape. This also means that the audience are more likely to communicate as the transaction cost is low through these functions. The fact that the landscape is available to view without subscription or signing up gives the video even more interaction.

In contrast artefact three gives a high level of audience interaction, but with less affordance as artefact two. This is because the audience needs to be a member of the platform to be able to view this landscape. In comparison both artefact two and three have a major affordance in common, this is that they both have a ‘community’ of followers, therefore only having to use low transaction costs of interaction by simply uploading a post they have interacted with thousands of people who will see their landscapes.

Figure 2: Freshers Week: Main Square & The Hub, Coventry University. (Source:

Halliday’s Metafunctions.

Michael Halliday ‘introduced the term ‘language as social semiotic’, a broad umbrella term that provided the basis for the subsequent development of the specific subfield of social semiotics developed by Gunther Kress, Robert Hodge and Theo Van Leewen.’ (Jewitt et al. 2016: 31). Halliday’s metafunctions are broken down into three subcatagories; ideational, interpersonal, and textual. These subcatagories are useful for ‘creating meaning and structuring thought and reality.’ (Jewitt et al. 2016: 34). Ideational is how the artefact represents the world, interpersonal is how language expresses relationships, and textual is the organisation of message in a certain order.

Artefact one represents the world of student socialism, this is mainly evident through the Sign Maker being the university student union. The language used in the poster is very informal suggesting a friendly relationship between sign maker and audience on a personal level, and the textual order of the poster gives relevant information only while directing the audience online for further information. Overall the meta-functions within the artefact perform well, they address their target audience and give the relevant information without overcrowding the poster.

Artefact two represents a unseen side of the student socialism, it’s almost a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of video. The Interpersonal language within the artefact is extremely informal, with the use of slang and regional dialect, this will automatically draw in the sign makers target audience. There is no real textual order to this artefact, is it very randomly placed with no structure to the video minus a introduction and a conclusion. The meta-function work well within the artefact, however the textual meta-function is a bit ‘messy’ throughout the video, it could have more structure.

Artefact three represents the professional side of the student socialism, the use of social media gives the option of interaction and communication from staff, students and prospect students. The language is still informal but has more professionalism to it. The idea of the artefact being used as motivation can be aimed at both staff and students. The textual order of the artefact is achieved well, the use of hash-tags, hyperlinks, imagery and text all help to capture the audiences attention and helps portray the artefacts message. The artefact demonstrates Halliday’s metafunctions quite well.


Analysing three different artefacts from three different multimodal platforms has helped bring awareness of how effective different modes of media can be. ‘The change of the text’s ontology in contemporary culture due to the possible simultaneous existence of various forms of the same text in different media and discourses […] allows us to regard culture as the process of intersemiotic translation.’ (Petrilli 2003: 271). This is shown through all three mediums present in this report, as all three are used to highlight the sociality of students at the university.


Barthes, R. (1977) Rhetoric of the Image: The Linguistic Message [online] available from <> 18 November 2017.

Ben-Rafael, E. Shohamy, E. Mara, M.H and Trumper-Hecht, N. (2006) ‘Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of the public space; The case of Israel’, International Journal of Multilingualism 3(1): 7-30.

Jewitt, C. Bezemer, J. and O’Halloran, K. (2016) Introducing Multimodality. New York: Routledge.

Jones, R.H. and Hafner, C.A. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. New York: Routledge.

Petrilli, S. (2003) Translation, Translation. [online] available from <> 18 November 2017

Scollon, R. Scollon, S. (2003) Discourses in Place: Language in the Material Word. London: Routledge.