Digging Language on the Ground: English in the Linguistic Schoolscapes of a Philippine State University

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in English Language and Literature Teaching (Option I-Thesis)



First Advisor

Dr. Maria Luz Elena N. Canilao


An underexplored province in understanding the status of English in Philippine sociolinguistics is the investigation of material environments where language practices transpire and that which concerns English usage in public spaces. This interest on linguistic action “on the ground” constitutes the burgeoning body of linguistic landscape (LL) research and lies at the center of this geosemiotic project that explores language display in a state university in the country to describe the functions English assumes in the academic space and expose the enabling ideologies for the reproduction and normalization of language hierarchies. To this end, I proposed to execute a contemporary linguistic excavation informed by what I called the Soil Horizons Model, a conceptual design that involves three levels of analyses attending to English as both language and image (Sebba, 2013) and revealing language hierarchies in the higher education institution. By digging language on the ground, this thesis has documented how English is mobilized to serve informative, instructional, regulatory, motivational and transgressive functions in spaces governed by semiotic discourses related to hygiene, control, order, agency, convenience and influence. Further digging revealed that language hierarchization is enabled by discourses and practices revolving around verbal hygiene, working identity construction, and spatial ownership. A multilayered examination of verbal and visual aspects of English has, therefore, rendered visible the potential of schoolscapes in nuancing language practices in the learning environment and has opened spaces for ushering the possibility of a “visual turn” (Laihonen and Szabo, 2017) in ELT in Philippine higher education.

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