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Linguistic Landscapes for Sustainable Cities and Communities: Implementational Space in United Nations Development Targets and Indicators

Tue, March 27, 11:55am to 12:25pm, Sheraton Grand Chicago, Columbus Room A

Session Submission Type: Paper


The present study examines the UN Sustainable Development Goal for ‘sustainable cities and communities’ from the perspective of language policy. It consider how the targets and indictors for this goal can be operationalized with respect to language management principles empirically documented in linguistic landscape research.


In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of objectives to guide the UN’s development agenda across a range of seventeen social, economic, and environmental topic areas through the year 2030. The SDGs succeed the earlier UN millennium development goals (MDGs), which ended in 2015 and were widely criticized for ignoring the role language in development work (e.g., Bamgbose, 2014; Romaine, 2013). The SDGs continue to disregard the role of language (Fettes, 2015), calling upon language policy specialists to draw attention to how language is instrumental to the targets set for each goal.

The eleventh SDG is to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” through actions specified in ten targets that are to be measured by fifteen indictors. The city has increasingly become a focus of linguistic inquiry (e.g, King & Carson, 2016; Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015), particularly in linguistic landscape (LL) analysis (e.g., Shohamy, Ben-Rafael, & Berni, 2010). Fettes (2015) argues, moreover, that the city is a useful locus for language management. Accordingly, the present study considers the targets and indictors for SDG 11 from the point of view of language policy, with the aim of determining where there is implementational space (Hornberger, 2005) to operationalize the targets and indictors with respect to current findings in LL. In particular, drawing upon discourse analytic approaches to language policy (e.g., Hult; 2015; Johnson, 2011; Scollon, 2008), the SDG policy text was analyzed inductively to identify targets and indictors that can be aligned with language management principles of LL that have been empirically demonstrated (e.g., Gorter et al., 2012; Vigers, 2013; Zabrodskaja, 2014). Findings show that LL principles can be used to operationalize SDG 11 targets and indicators for democratic participation in civil society, integrating urban and rural populations, and protecting cultural heritage.