The crucial Differences between Public and Private Signs

Essay, 2010

6 Pages, Grade: 2,7



This term paper is about the crucial differences of public and private signs in the linguistic

landscape. I will begin with the definition of the terms 'sign' and 'linguistic landscape'. After having done this, I will define the terms 'public' and 'private' and will come to the similarities of 'private signs' and 'government signs' as well as of 'top-down signs' and 'bottom-up signs'. At the end I will summarize the topic answering the question about the crucial differences of public and private signs.


According to the Oxford Dictionary of English1, the noun 'sign' has the following five meanings:

1. an object, quality, or event whose presence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else …
2. a gesture or action used to convey information or instruction … a gesture used in a system of sign language
3. a notice on public display that gives information or instruction in a written or symbolic form
4. (also zodiacal sign) Astrology each of the twelve equal sections into which the zodiac is divided …
5. Mathematics the positiveness or negativeness of a quantity.

For the understanding of public and private signs the definitions 1 and 3 are of importance.

Definition 1 contains an explanation which is very important in semiotics and was elaborated by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. According to him the basic characteristic of the sign is the bilateral relationship between the 'signifier' and the 'signified'. 'Signifier' means here the sign in a “material” form (= words, which are spoken2 or written; traffic signs; etc.) which creates an image of the referent in the minds of those who perceive that sign. This image is defined by the term 'signified'.


1 Oxford Dictionary of English (Soanes & Stevenson, 2003: 1645) according to: Backhaus, Peter: Linguistic Landscapes. A Comparative Study of Urban Multilingualism in Tokyo, 2007, p. 4.

2 Though it is true that a spoken word is evanescent, it is also true (in my opinion) that a spoken word is in a material form in that it consists of phonic components or phonemes articulated by humans. In that way the combination of phonemes becomes the signifier and creates as such an image. Therefore the relation between signifier and signified is still given.

Excerpt out of 6 pages


The crucial Differences between Public and Private Signs
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald  (Anglistik / Amerikanistik)
Linguistic Landscape
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
427 KB
LL, Linguistic Landscape, Private Sign, Public Sign, bottom-up, top-down, governmental sign
Quote paper
Ronny Paeplow (Author), 2010, The crucial Differences between Public and Private Signs, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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