"Let's ride this out together": Unpacking multilingual top-down and bottom-up pandemic communication evidenced in Singapore’s Coronavirus-related linguistic and semiotic landscape

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Access to languages is a human right and multilingual crisis communication is vital during a pandemic. Multilingual and (super)diverse Singapore features four official languages (English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil), with English being a dominant lingua franca. Additionally, other minority/migrant languages are also spoken to varying degrees (e.g. Tagalog, Thai, Burmese, Hindi, Punjabi, and Nepali). Contributing to public health communication research, this study explores Singapore’s multilingual pandemic communication practices evidenced on its COVID-related linguistic landscape, drawing on real-world top-down and bottom-up signs (N = 128). Top-down signs in Singapore are found to mostly feature English monolingualism or the four official languages. In comparison, Singapore’s bottom-up COVID-scape manifests in more scenarios. The findings are aligned with Singapore’s linguistic policy and existing pre-COVID linguistic ecology. What is conspicuously absent is that minority/migrant languages other than the four official languages are rarely represented. Despite Singapore's relative success in the anti-Covid journey overall, this raises questions of inclusiveness and accessibility and suggests that the city state needs to get out of its linguistic “comfort zone” and use a broader range of languages in crisis communication, especially considering the possibility of disease X and other future public health contingencies. The wider significance and ramifications of the study are also explored and discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLinguistics Vanguard
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2024

Keywords

  • public health crisis communication
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-scape
  • Singapore
  • linguistic and semiotic landscape
  • superdiversity

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