More than a Mere “Welcome” – The Linguistic Landscape of Welcome Signs in Palestinian Localities in Israel
The article offers a critical reading of the linguistic landscape of welcome signs in localities of the Palestinian minority in Israel. It examines the formal visual aspects of the languages Arabic, Hebrew, and English, their placement on the signs, and the signs’ content—including the normative messages, translation, transliteration, and place-names. These analyses shed light on the links between the linguistic landscape and the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of the Palestinian minority, as well as on the perceptions of Palestinian citizens regarding their relationship with the Jewish majority. The study reveals that despite the official status of welcome signs, their linguistic landscape presents an array of attitudes toward coping with the Israeli reality and its injustices. The study shows how the local Arab political leadership in Israel mobilizes linguistic authority as a platform for negotiation with the Jewish majority and represents a sociolinguistic strategy of highlighting a complex history while minimizing the potential for friction inherent in that space. The contents of the welcome signs to Arab localities reflect and reproduce the power structures in the State of Israel. The article demonstrates that the dichotomous division of top-down and bottom-up signs is not unequivocal and that there is room that for semiofficial space and an intermediate category between the hegemony and the subaltern.