The sleepy town of Hammana perched at the heart of Mount Lebanon has been my summer residence for as long as I can remember. As such, I never flinched upon hearing the official address of my home, which was “Yellow Zone, Rue 3”. However, with the spatio-linguistic awareness afforded to me by my ENGL 229 class, a recent trip to Hammana with its mind boggling linguistic landscape gave me the idea to try and map it as extensively as possible, as a kind of microcosmic, more manageable and complete surrogate to the infinite (and undeniably fascinating) complexity of its older sibling Beirut.
All in all, and across two trips, I collected 44 data points in the town, generating the following map:
A first thing becomes clear, and that is the prominence of the “orange” french-only data points at the periphery of the town, while the three main roads in the town center provide a more diverse landscape. The almost complete majority of the peripheral orange points are constituted of signage delineating the street number, or the infamous colored “rue” signs. While their prominence might be a sign of a confirmation bias on my part since these signs are what sparked my interest in this project in the first place, they also happen to be in mostly residential areas which offer little in the way of other linguistic manifestations.
Several interesting patterns emerge from the official signage as well. In the center of the town, pale blue dots indicating arabic only signage emerge. These signs all have official General Security numbers and directions, and seem to be ordained by the enforced by the governorate administration rather than the municipality, possibly explaining this linguistic choice. This however is challenged with two other arabic only signs at the periphery, one specifically attributed to the municipality and enforcing a parking ban, and the other delineating a religious shrine.
Interestingly, on the subject of religious signage, another linguistic pattern emerges: with the exception of the aforementioned arabic only example, all church signs are indicate the name of the place of worship both in Arabic and English, but not in french. Conversely, the signage pertaining to the public library is in French and Arabic, with the exception of the main sign on the library building itself being trilingual.
Commercial Linguistic Landscape
When it comes to commercial sigange, other interesting patters emerge in the town center. All restaurants have their name in English, with examples such as "Red Rock Cafe" and "Side Walk" cafe. These two restaurants have been established a few years back during the touristic boom of the region, where each summer thousands of tourists from the Gulf regions flocked to Hammana. It is interesting to note that newer cafes, such as "Tony's Snack" have an English name, underneath which is written in Arabic the type of food he offers. This seems to be a pattern similar to the one described by Kallen and Dhonnacha in their "Language and Inter-language in Urban Irish and Japanese Linguistic Landscapes" article, with certain cultural and associations are established with linguistic factors and projection. One other example of this phenomenon is revealed when looking at ice cream shops in the town center: All of them have their names written only in Arabic on their storefronts, including the two documented "Bachir" and "Aysr 'ata".