Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 13. Number1.  March 2022                                   Pp.426-449

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Linguistic Landscape of Bilingual Shop Signs in Saudi Arabia

  Wafa Jeza Alotaibi
English Language Institute, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Ohoud Alamri
Deanship of Community Service and Continuous Education,
Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Received:  12/29/2021                Accepted:  2/14/2022                  Published:3/24/2022


Shop signs are a visible indication of the linguistic landscape of a place, hence the need for public policies to control, particularly, bottom-up signs in situations where there are issues, such ensuring consistency and correct representation in the second language. To investigate the linguistic landscape of bilingual shop signs in Saudi Arabia, this study examines the lettering in bilingual shop signs in shopping malls in Riyadh and Jeddah in terms of relative size, information, and the quality of English-Arabic (E-A) and Arabic-English (A-E) transliteration or translation. This was done in view of the national policy in Saudi Arabia which aims to ensure correct Arabisation when inconsistencies have been observed in the Arab world. Moreover, it gives an indication of the linguistic landscape, which is necessary given the need to prepare the kingdom for the Saudi 2030 Vision and cater to the growing number of international visitors. Altogether, 184 signboards were observed and categorised, of which 68 were shortlisted for further analysis. Of these, 54 were A-E signs and 17 were E-A signs, with two in both categories. The majority (83.3%) of signs were bilingual with slight variation in relative size and display of information. Same sized lettering was displayed in 66.7%, and the same information in 64.8%. Remedial suggestions are given for language policy-makers to address the issue found of a few inconsistent and erroneous transliterations and spellings, which together accounted for 9.3%. Overall, the case is not as bad in Saudi Arabia as noted in some other Arab countries.
Keywords: English- Arabic transliteration, English-Arabic translation, bilingual shop signs, language policy, linguistic landscape

Cite as:  Alotaibi, W. J., &   Alamri, O. (2022).  Linguistic Landscape of Bilingual Shop Signs in Saudi Arabia
Arab World English Journal, 13 (1) 426-449


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Received: 12/29/2021
Accepted: 2/14/2022 
Published: 3/24/2022     

Dr. Wafa Alotaibi is an assistant professor at the English Language Institute, King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah and an active board member of the Saudi TESOL Association. She received her BA in English Language, Literature and Linguistics from KAU and MA in Applied Linguistic from the same university. She received her PhD in Applied Linguistic and English Language Teaching from the University of Southampton, UK in 2018. She has published a paper titled color idioms between English and Arabic in 2020, and a book titled Code-Switching between Otaibi and Hijazi dialects in 2018. Dr. Alotaibi’s research interests include English language teaching, sociolinguistic, Language acquisition, dialects, phonetics and phonology. Lately, her initiation of Arabizing and Translating the Saudi linguistic landscape had been accepted from the Governorate of Makkah Province.

Ohoud Alamri is a lecturer at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) in Riyadh. She is also a member in the Saudi Society of Linguistics. She received her BA in English Language and Literature from PNU and her MA in Linguistics from University College London, UK. She is interested in phonetics and dialects. Her goal is to pursue extensive research and to contribute to the findings of cutting-edge hypotheses in the field of Linguistics.