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KILL BILBO: metrolingual play in Galician and Basque T-shirts

Journal article
Authors Johan Järlehed
Published in International Journal of Multilingualism
Volume 16
Issue 1
Pages 59-78
ISSN 1479-0718
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Pages 59-78
Language en
Keywords Basque, creativity, Galician, humorous ethnic T-shirts, Metrolingualism, reflexivity
Subject categories Linguistics, Bilingualism, Romance languages, Other languages


This paper draws on a multimodal notion of metrolingualism to discuss playful T-shirt displays of Galician and Basque language, culture and identity. They invite the audience to reflect on notions of Galicianness and Basqueness by mixing localising resources such as minority language and cultural heritage with globalised resources of fluidity, such as the English language, pop-cultural icons, and logos of transnational companies, and by strategically using play and parody. Read against observations of discursive and ideological shifts among other ethnolinguistic minorities, the paper suggests that the metrolingual play in these T-shirts is part of a more general move towards less standardised and homogeneous understandings of smaller and peripheral languages and cultures. A comparison of the sociolinguistic and political situation in Galicia and the Basque Country shows however bigger potential for cross-linguistic and metrolingual play in Galicia than in the Basque Country. The paper concludes by suggesting that increased metrolingualism in public language displays should be seen both as a sign of maturity and as a commercial appropriation and commodification of the minority culture and language. To evaluate the effect of metrolingual play on particular languages and cultures therefore require detailed examinations of local power relations and political economies of language.

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