The language roles involved in street signs

Vivian Cook

The signs of the street involve a variety of language roles outlined in Cook (2013).

- licensor: UK street signs have to be licensed by authorities either automatically with ‘deemed consent’ for signs that conform to a set of national criteria or through ‘expressed consent’ to be granted specifically by the local authority.

- owner: a street sign is owned by somebody, who does not necessarily compose it, nor have the right to change its content

House number brass   Cheung Bilingual Brassplate  percy house building sign

- author: the street sign itself has to be composed and designed by this person, who or may not be the owner, i.e. Stella Artois do not actually write the text that appears on billboards and the billboard itself is owned by an agent.

Stella poster

- writer: The physical execution of the actual written form may be carried out by the author, by a printer or by a professional sign-writer or graphic designer.

painted shop fascia

Red Mezze restaurant

painted Chinese restaurant

- addressed readers: some signs are aimed at a particular group of people whether on foot or on wheels, such as drivers, utility workers, potential customers and so on.

Fire hydrant street sign  private parking sign painted on road  crossing sign pedestrians green man

- unaddressed readers: these are the rest of the population to whom the sign is not specifically addressed but nevertheless are exposed to it even if they do not attend to it - ‘civil inattention’ (Goffman, 1963)

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