Language Education Policy Studies
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Domains and Linguistic Landscapes

This page is about the sociolinguistic classification of language domains. These are where a language is spoken, such as a nation or institution, a shop, bank, office, or school, or home. Language domains are plural and not only relate to the nation and family; they add another layer of complexity when attempting to understand language in education policies. Other domains may be related to social and community networks, religious, business, academic research and research through education institutions, textbooks and multinational corporations. Schools as a language-specific domain have a large impact on the situation of languages, multilingualism (or its lack), cultural rights; and the related links to identity, inequalities or educational achievement (see What are LEPs, Inequalities, World View).


Language is the ability or competence necessary to handle the particular domains. A simple example can be the domain of a restaurant or a fast food chain. The workers could have command of the language necessary for practical work only. The same is true of specialized skills. The use of language is often tied to the political economy and by domain. People can have differing language abilities- speaking, reading, writing, listening- in more than one domain, or alternate and mix language abilities between domains. The use of slang or other non-standard language features also comes into play by domain. An understanding of these abilities by domain relates to pedagogy and the educational domain through measuring proficiency and competence. See Language Deficit or Semilingualism; Setting Proficiency, Standards; Multiculturalism.


Linguistic landscape is a way of studying visible displays of language by domain, such as posted signs. Both linguistic landscape and language domains could be understood as the whole sign or semiotic system around us, or ecology.  


Educational domains are therefore large players as sites for language teaching and the acquiring of the skills for work and communication. Questions of proficiency become important because language learning by domain or for testing and educational purposes vary. In the case of endangered languages, this is a serious issue. For non-endangered languages, it is also serious when the relation to identity is acknowledged. Questions of pure identity and pure language are not easy to answer when societies and communication are complex and interconnected.  See Cognitive and Psychological.

Language Education Policy studies focus on the effect of language policies through Education and schooling in particular—a central language domain. The language of the classroom—teacher, tests, curriculum—may differ according to or from social practices.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K.  M., & Tochon, F. V. (2013). Domains and Linguistic Landscapes. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).

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