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Scollon, Ron, and Scollon, Suzie, Wong, (2003) Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World.

Scollon, Ron, and Scollon, Suzie, Wong, (2003) Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World, London/New York: Routledge.

Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World authored by Ron Scollon and Suzie Wong Scollon is mainly about discourses located in the material world within the framework of 'geosemiotics'. This textbook examines the social meanings of the 'situatedness' of language and discourse in the physical world. It aims at providing the researchers, particularly students, with the methodology and models necessary forpioneering in the field of 'geosemiotics'.

The book consists of a preface, ten chapters, a glossary of terms, and references. With the exception of Chapter one, five, and ten, the rest of chapters have a practical and theoretical section. These include 'geosemiotics', 'indexicality', 'visual semiotics', 'Interlude on geosemiotics', 'Code preference', 'Inscription', 'Emplacement', 'Discourses in space and time', and 'Indexicality, dialogicality, and selection in action'.

Chapter one and two discuss the concept of 'geosemiotics' and 'indexicality' respectively. As just maintained by Scollon and Scollon (2003:1), 'geosemiotics' considers the role played by the interaction order, visual semiotics, and place semiotics in discourses which exist in the material world. Accordingly, it considers the indexical nature of communication situated in time and space to convey meaning. This means that 'indexicality' is the basis to understand 'geosemiotics'.

In chapter three and four, we move from the interaction order to its visual representations. Scollon and Scollon select four semiotic systems of Kress and Van Leeuwen's grammar of visual design to see how the interaction order is visually represented: represented participants, modality, composition, and interactive participants. For example, consider composition, shop signs give importance to the central placement of a shop name, whereas the left position is designed to provide information about the items, as opposed to the right place specified to the specific items and new information. In chapter five entitled 'Interlude on geosemiotics', we know that, as just maintained by Scollon and Scollon (2003:110), the preceding chapters are intended to set up the main foundations of the term 'geosemiotics'.

In chapter six, seven, eight, and nine, place semiotics is fully discussed. In chapter six, code preference is one of the issues examined by Scollon and Scollon (2003: 119-120). Chapter seven discusses that distinctive fonts carry different meanings in the same linguistic message (Scollon& Scollon, 2003:130-134). According to Scollon and Scollon (2003:135-137), materials also have specific meanings in the material world such as heavy materials of signs, the medium of inscription, and layering. Chapter eight discusses emplacement. This concept includes three semiotic practices: 'decontextualized', 'transgressive', and 'situated' semiotics. In chapter nine, we know that multiple discourses form 'semiotic aggregates' in places such as restaurants, neighbourhoods, and street corners. These discourses fall into four major categories: regulatory, infrastructural, commercial, and 'transgressive' discourses. Chapter ten covers the relationship between action and indexicality within the contexts of dialogicality and selection.

Their book is to develop the first systematic analysis of the ways to interpret language as it is placed in the material world. Although the language is crucially important for linguists, Scollon and Scollon have not used the term 'geolinguistics'. This is due to the consideration that their theory mainly concerns the 'indexicality' of the material world to which language points and in which language is used (Scollon and Scollon, 2003:110). In the linguistic landscape, several researchers such as Backhaus (2007) and Ben-Rafael (2006) draw on Scollon and Scollon's framework of code preference. In studying the linguistic landscape of a particular country, as in the case of China, code preference has played a role in developing coding schemes in the linguistic landscape. When a text is written in multiple codes or orthographies, say English or Chinese, there is a preferred code. It is not possible that these items are located in the same place. However, the authors have not investigated the languages written from right to left, as in the case of Arabic.


Backhaus, P. (2007) Linguistic Landscapes: A Comparative Study of Urban Multilingualism: in Tokyo, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Ben-Rafael, E. et al. (2006) Linguistic landscape as symbolic construction of the public space: the case of Israel. In: Goiter, D. ed., Linguistic landscape: a new approach to multilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp.7-31.

Kress, G. & Van Leeuwen, T. (1996) Reading images: the grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.

Omar Alomoush

Department of English, Tafila Technical University
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Author:Alomoush, Omar
Publication:Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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