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ENGL3041A - Senior colloquium in English studies (capstone experience) Sub-group A: The Semiotic Landscape of Hong Kong
Tutor: Mr Sean P. Smith, seanpsmith@hku.hk, meetings Mondays and Thursday by appointment
2020-2021 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Wednesday , 12:30 pm - 2:20 pm , CRT-7.45
This course is only offered to final-year English Studies majors (under the 4-year curriculum) to complete the capstone experience. Students should have completed 30 credits of introductory courses (with at least 12 credits from both List A and List B) and 24 credits of advanced courses in the major (including transferred credits).

This course explores how linguistic and other semiotic resources displayed on signs, public notices, advertisements, posters, billboards, menus, and other types of publicly displayed texts create a sense of place that is Hong Kong. Students will have prior knowledge of broader sociolinguistic and discourse analytic literatures. The course has four key components: reading, data collection, discussion, and writing. In the first four weeks, we will read and hold student-led discussions of a wide range of theoretical and empirical studies pertaining to the study of linguistic/semiotic landscapes. In the following four weeks, students will conduct their own literature searches, plan their research projects and collect their data. In the final weeks, students will work on drafts of their projects and make in-class presentations.



The course is largely student-led and will involve independent research. Following initial discussions of key introductory texts on the discursive construction of space and geosemiotics, students will select readings for presentation and discussion in class. Key readings will be provided at the beginning of the course (see below) with additional bibliographical references of existing studies of semiotic and linguistic landscapes of Hong Kong and beyond. Reading list will be updated throughout the course. Students will find and select other readings that will be most relevant to their own empirical projects. Towards the end of the first month, students will embark on their own data collection followed by the formulation of their research projects, drawing up research proposals and bibliographies.   



All students will collect their own data that will principally be a comprehensive sample of photographic images of a specific research site or photographic documentation of a textual genre. Additionally, data collection may involve ethnographic fieldwork, that is on site participant observation and/or interviews with study participants.



This course aims to consolidate students’ knowledge and critical analytic skills in sociolinguistics and discourse analysis gained during their undergraduate studies to date. It will allow students to enhance their ability to read, synthesize and present academic information, formulate research questions, design and carry out small-scale empirical projects.



The course will be organized around the readings to be presented and discussed by students. The instructors will moderate the discussion and provide feedback. Lecture time will be minimal. Seminars will take place on Wednesdays between 12:30–2:20pm. Students should budget additional 4–6 hours per week for reading, preparation, data collection and writing.



Apart from the pre-circulated texts chosen by the instructors, each student will choose 2–3 texts for presentation and discussion. A time-table will be created for all students to be able to introduce their texts and lead group discussion. In later weeks, the focus will shift to presentation and discussion of students’ research topics and data examples.


Required readings before the start of the course (20 January 2021)

Jaworski, Adam and Crispin Thurlow. 2010. Introducing semiotic landscapes. In Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds.) Semiotic Landscapes: Language, Image, Space. London: Continuum. 1–40. [Available via Moodle]

Scollon, Ron and Suzie Wong Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World. London: Routledge. [Available via Moodle]

Chapter 1: Geosemiotics

Chapter 4: Visual semiotics

Chapter 8: Place semiotics: Emplacement

Chapter 9: Place semiotics: Discourses in time and space

Urry, John. 2005. The consumption of place. In Adam Jaworski and Annette Pritchard (eds.) 2005. Discourse, Communication and Tourism. Clevedon: Channel View Publications. 19–27. [Available as ebook via HKU Library]


Indicative readings

(unless otherwise indicated, all available as electronic resources via the HKU Library)

The following list contains a selection of research on semiotic / linguistic landscape from a variety of perspectives. Browsing through some of the papers is meant to inspire your interest in a particular topic or area of study. Many, though not all, of the studies are based on data collected in Hong Kong.

Angermeyer, Philip S. 2017. Controlling Roma refugees with ‘Google-Hungarian’: Indexing deviance, contempt, and belonging in Toronto’s linguistic landscape. Language in Society 46:159–183. doi:10.1017/S0047404516001020

Blackwood, Robert. 2019. Language, images, and Paris Orly airport on

Instagram: multilingual approaches to identity and self-representation on social media. International Journal of Multilingualism 16(1): 7–24, DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2018.1500257

Bolton, Kingsley. 2012. World Englishes and linguistic landscapes. World Englishes 31/1: 30–33.

Coupland, Nikolas. 2012. Bilingualism on display: The framing of Welsh and English in Welsh public spaces. Language in Society 41: 1–27.

Coupland, Nikolas and Peter Garrett. 2010. Linguistic landscapes, discursive frames and metacultural performance: The case of Welsh Patagonia. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 205: 7–36.

Cheng, Sea-ling. 2001. Consuming places in Hong Kong: Experiencing Lan Kwai Fong. In Gordon Matthews and Tai Lok Lui (eds.) Consuming Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 237–262.

Curtin, Melissa. 2014. Mapping cosmopolitanisms in Taipei: Toward a theorization of cosmopolitanism in linguistic landscape research. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 228: 153–177.

Danielewicz-Betz, Anna and David Graddol. 2014. Varieties of English in the urban landscapes of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. English Today 30/3: 22–32.

Gonçalves, K. 2019. YO! or OY? - say what? Creative place-making through a metrolingual artifact in Dumbo, Brooklyn, International Journal of Multilingualism, 16, 1: 42–58.

Guinto1Nicanor. 2019. The place/s of Tagalog in Hong Kong’s Central district
Negotiating center-periphery dynamics. Linguistic Landscape 5(2): 160–178
DOI: https://doi-org.eproxy.lib.hku.hk/10.1075/ll.18024.gui   

Hutton, Chris. M. 2011. Vernacular spaces and ‘non-places’: Dynamics of the Hong Kong linguistic landscape. In M. Messling, D. Läpple and J. Trabant (eds.) Stadt und Urbanität. 162–184. [Available via Academia.edu]

Järlehed, Johan. 2017. Genre and metacultural displays: The case of street-name signs. Linguistic Landscape 3(3): 286–305.

Järlehed, Johan. 2019 KILL BILBO: Metrolingual play in Galician and Basque T-shirts. International Journal of Multilingualism 16(1): 59–78, DOI: 10.1080/14790718.2018.1500260

Jaworski, Adam. 2010. Linguistic landscapes on postcards: Tourist mediation and the sociolinguistic communities of contact. Sociolinguistic Studies 4/3. 469–594.

Jaworski, Adam. 2015. Globalese: A new visual-linguistic register. Social Semiotics 25/2: 217–235. Print ISSN: 1035-0330; Online ISSN: 1470-1219.

Jaworski, Adam. 2015. Word cities and language objects: ‘Love’ sculptures and signs as shifters. Linguistic Landscape 1/1–2: 75–94.  DOI: 10.1075/ll.1.1/2.o5jaw.

Jaworski, Adam. 2019. X. Linguistic Landscape 5(2): 115–141. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/ll.18029.jaw

Jaworski, Adam and Simone Yeung. 2010. Life in the Garden of Eden: The naming and imagery of residential Hong Kong. In Elana Shohamy, Eli Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.) Linguistic Landscape in the City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 153–181. [Available via Academia.edu; https://www.academia.edu/34205568/Life_in_the_Garden_of_Eden_The_naming_and_imagery_of_residential_Hong_Kong]

Jones, Rodney, H. 2017. Surveillant landscapes. Linguistic Landscape 3(2): 149–186

Karlander, David. 2019. A semiotics of nonexistence? Erasure and erased writing under anti-graffiti regimes. Linguistic Landscape 5(2): 198–216. DOI: https://doi-org.eproxy.lib.hku.hk/10.1075/ll.18023.kar

Lai, Mee Ling. 2013. The linguistic landscape of Hong Kong after the change of sovereignty. International Journal of Multilingualism 10/3: 251–272.  

Lam, Phoenix W. Y. and David Graddol. 2017. Conceptualising the vertical landscape: The case of the International Finance Centre in the world’s most vertical city. Journal of Sociolinguistics 21(4): 521–546.

Lee, Carmen. 2015. Digital discourse@public space. In R. Jones, A. Chik, and C. Hafner (eds.) Discourse and Digital Practices: Doing Discourse Analysis in the Digital Age. London: Routledge. 176–192.

Leeman, Jennifer and Gabriella Modan. 2009. Commodified language in Chinatown: A contextualized approach to linguistic landscape. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3: 332–362.

Lou, Jackie Jia. 2007. Revitalizing Chinatown into a Heterotopia: A Geosemiotic Analysis of Shop Signs in Washington, DC’s Chinatown. Space and Culture 10(2): 145–169.

Lou, Jackie Jia. 2016. Shop sign as monument. Linguistic Landscape 2(3): 211–222. doi:10.1075/ll.2.3.01lou

Lou, Jackie Jia. 2017. Spaces of consumption and senses of place: A geosemiotic analysis of three markets in Hong Kong. Social Semiotics 27(4): 513–531, DOI: 10.1080/10350330.2017.1334403

Lou, Jackie Jia and Adam Jaworski. 2016. Itineraries of protest signage: Semiotic landscape and the mythologizing of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Journal of Language and Politics 15/5: 612–645. ISSN 1569-2159 E-ISSN 1569-9862. DOI: 10.1075/jlp.15.5.06lou.

Lyons, Kate. 2019. Let’s get phygital: Seeing through the ‘filtered’ landscapes of Instagram. Linguistic Landscape 5(2): 179–197 DOI: https://doi-org.eproxy.lib.hku.hk/10.1075/ll.18025.lyo

Tommaso M. Milani. 2014. Sexed signs – queering the scenery. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 228: 201 – 225

Papen, Uta. 2012. Commercial discourses, gentrification and citizens’ protest: The linguistic landscape of Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin1. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 16(1), 56-80. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00518.x

Shohamy, Elana, Eli Ben-Rafael and Monica Barni (eds.). 2010. Linguistic Landscape in the City. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 153–181.

Simpson, Tim. 2008. The commercialization of Macau’s cafés. Ethnography 9/2: 197–234.

Stroud, C. & S. Mpendukana. 2009. Towards a material ethnography of linguistic landscape: Multilingualism, mobility and space in a South African township. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(3): 363–386.

Trinch, Shonna & Edward Snajdr. 2017. What the signs say: Gentrification and the disappearance of capitalism without distinction in Brooklyn Journal of Sociolinguistics, 21(1), 64-89. doi:10.1111/josl.12212

Vandenbroucke, M. 2016. Socio-economic stratification of English in globalized landscapes: A market-oriented perspective. Journal of Sociolinguistics 20(1): 86–108.

Wong, Andrew. 2013. Brand names and unconventional spelling: A two-pronged analysis of the orthographic construction of brand identity. Written Language & Literacy, 16(2), 115–145.

Yang Song. 2018. Translingual strategies as consumer design: A case study of multilingual linguistic landscapes of urban China. Multilingua 37(5): 455–482.


Other useful reading

Ledin, Per and David Machin. 2018. Doing Visual Analysis: From Theory to Practice. London: Sage.

Kress, G. & T. van Leeuwen. (1996) Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Machin, David. 2007. Introduction to Multimodal Analysis. London: Bloomsbury. (This is a very readable overview of Kress and van Leeuwen’s Reading Images)

Piller, I. 2003. Advertising as a site of language contact. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 23: 170–183.

Pine, B. J., and Gilmore, J. H. 2011. The Experience Economy (Updated ed. ed.). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Review Press.


Key journals

International Journal of Bilingualism
International Journal of Multilingualism
International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Linguistic Landscape
Journal of Language and Politics
Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Journal of Sociolinguistics
Social Semiotics
Visual Communication


Linguistic Landscape Bibliography




Course assessment is 100% coursework consisting of (1) class participation (20%), (2) outline of research proposal and indicative bibliography (20%), and (3) a research project combining overview of the literature and discussion of illustrative data examples from students’ fieldwork (60%). Class participation will be based on the students’ discussion of readings and data and feedback offered to other students on their ongoing projects. Assessment of the written work is based on the breadth and depth of the overview of the readings, quality of collected data, and data analysis. The word limit for the final projects is between 3,500–4,000 words, including all references and captions.


Assignment 1

Essay plan and annotated bibliography (20% of overall course grade).

Word limit: 400–600 words.

This interim, ‘formative’ piece of coursework will help you plan and structure your final project. Your essay plan should include your chosen title and a brief statement of the rationale and scope of your study including aim, scope, type and amount of data to be collected, main approaches (i.e. key concepts and authors whose work will inform your study).

The annotated bibliography should contain 4–6 references relevant to your project. The ‘annotation’ should be a succinct summary of the article, book chapter or book. It should be descriptive rather than evaluative or polemical.

Formatting: The assignment must be submitted as WORD documents, double-spaced, with no right-justification (Align Text Left). The bibliographical conventions should be the same or similar to those used in the course outline. A good model is provided by the conventions used by the Journal of Sociolinguistics. See style guidelines by clicking on the following link:


Deadline: 20 March 2021 (23.59 pm), to be submitted electronically in WORD format via Moodle.


Assignment 2

Final project (60% of overall course grade).

Word limit: 3,500–4,000 words all inclusive.

Deadline: 30 April 2021 (no late dates for any reason)

Further details to be discussed in class.

Tutor: Mr Sean P. Smith, seanpsmith@hku.hk, meetings Mondays and Thursday by appointment
2020-2021 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Wednesday , 12:30 pm - 2:20 pm , CRT-7.45
This course is only offered to final-year English Studies majors (under the 4-year curriculum) to complete the capstone experience. Students should have completed 30 credits of introductory courses (with at least 12 credits from both List A and List B) and 24 credits of advanced courses in the major (including transferred credits).