Memory and Ideology in the Linguistic Landscape

Commemorative (re)naming in East Germany and Poland 1916-2018

Whereas memory studies and research in linguistic landscape (LL) have documented street (re)naming in Eastern Europe as a result of multiple waves of ideological reorientations, most of this research rarely transgresses disciplinary and geopolitical boundaries. To date, systematic comparative research is scarce and cross-fertilisation between Western and Eastern European countries is almost non-existent. The MILL project aims to take a comprehensive approach to commemorative (re)naming by investigating ideologically-driven changes in the urban landscape of two countries throughout the past century. The project will focus on three pairs of cities in Poland and Eastern Germany:

(1) two large regional centres, Leipzig and Poznań;

(2) two towns of local importance Annaberg-Buchholz and Zbąszyń;

(3) Frankfurt (Oder) / Słubice, which since WWII have been divided by the Oder river.

The choice of the cities contrasts the processes underpinning street-naming along three dimensions (1) nation/state (across country), (2) size (within country) and (3) time: 1916-2016. The MILL project capitalizes on the research strength of an interdisciplinary team, which includes LL research, social geography, collective memory and urban ethnology. The unifying element of the project is the empirically-driven quantitative and qualitative modelling of the ideological processes that continue to shape Eastern European linguistic landscapes. The triangulation of research methods will give us important insights about the role of public discourse in influencing transformation of the commemorative cityscape. By integrating the insights from linguistic landscape research and collective memory studies we propose the concept of the commemorative cityscape, understood as a constantly negotiated and renegotiated spatial expression of the collective memory of the city inhabitants that is influenced by the socio-political and ideological factors at the national level. More specifically, the results of the MILL project promise to open new horizons in LL studies by examining the complex processes underlying ideologically-driven changes in commemorative street naming including “relations of power, language ideologies and [users’] views of their own and other’s identities” (Pavlenko & Blackledge 2004:1-2).


Pavlenko, A. & A. Blackledge (eds.). 2004. Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

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Core data

Title of the Research Project
Memory and ideology in the linguistic landscape: Commemorative (re)naming in East Germany and Poland 1916-2018.


Official Website
Memory and Ideology in the Linguistic Landscape

Polish Principal Investigator
dr hab. Małgorzata Fabiszak, Prof. UAM 
Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

German Principal Investigator
Prof. Dr. Isabelle Buchstaller
Sociolinguistics Lab, University of Duisburg-Essen

German Team

Dr. Seraphim Alvanides
DFG Mercator Visiting Professor
Associate Professor, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
social geography

Frauke Griese
research fellow
data, interviews, visualisation

Carolin Schneider
research fellow
discourse analysis, interviews

Laura Golke
student assistant

Subject classification
linguistics (main discipline), social geography, ethnology

street renaming; linguistic landscape; spatiotemporal analysis; discourse analysis; urban ethnology; collective memory.