A linguistic ethnography of geomapped small stories

Semiotic landscape and narrative interaction


  • William Kelleher Unit for Academic Literacy, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, South Africa




geosemiotics, small stories, narrative interaction, linguistic ethnography, born frees


This paper explores a conjoint analysis of narrative interactional data and of artefacts of the semiotic landscape (SL). The data form part of a linguistic ethnography of Sandton, a site in the Gauteng, South Africa. Sandton is a district of business and conspicuous consumption, with a wealth gap between it and neighbouring urban areas. The discussion of the paper focuses on two youth participants ‘born free’ in the 90s, after the end of Apartheid. Analysis is conducted from the perspective of discourse. A geosemiotic approach to the SL involves the discourse cycles of social actor, interaction order, place semiotics and visual semiotics. Narrative positioning analysis is a means of accessing participant orientation to macro discourses and processes and, here, is concerned with the interactional co-construction of a small story. The bringing into dialogue of these two frameworks is made possible by plotting participant interactions against the space of the site using global positioning system (GPS) technology. The paper aims to investigate geomapping as one way in which interactional data and SL data can complement each other, and to do so in relation to participants whose cohort is so pivotal to understanding the present societal conjuncture and the deep socio-economic rifts in South Africa. 

Author Biography

William Kelleher, Unit for Academic Literacy, Hatfield Campus, University of Pretoria, South Africa

National Research Foundation Freestanding Postdoctoral Fellow


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How to Cite

Kelleher, W. (2020). A linguistic ethnography of geomapped small stories: Semiotic landscape and narrative interaction. Sociolinguistic Studies, 14(1-2), 33–59. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.38904