Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Critical Dialogues in Latinx StudiesA Reader$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas and Mérida M. Rúa

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479805198

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479805198.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

Placing Text

Placing Text

Culture, Place, and the Affective Dimension of Vernacular Ambient Text

(p.134) 10 Placing Text
Critical Dialogues in Latinx Studies

Rebio DÍaz-Cardona

NYU Press

This essay looks at the place of written language in the urban environment through an exploration of the ambient text (signage and other written texts visible in the surroundings) encountered in the NYC neighborhood of East Harlem/El Barrio. Through examples drawn from fieldwork carried out in the area around East 116th Street, El Barrio’s main commercial street, I argue that a crucial contribution of signage is missed when we assume that their role ends once what something is or where it is has been communicated. In the case of vernacular signage—specifically those signs containing some Spanish—the language in which the text is written is not psychologically inconsequential, as it may deeply influence environmental perception, coloring people’s relationship with their surroundings in ways that foster a sense of place and belongingness. I articulate this theoretically by proposing to extend the concept of the phatic function of language, as described by Roman Jacobson (1960), to the analysis of displayed written language. Typically associated with orality, the phatic function is recast as also applicable to the pieces of ambient text that pervade the urban environment, allowing us to revisit the complex ways in which culture, place, and language are entangled in understandings about Latinidad.

Keywords:   ambient text, vernacular signage, phatic function, place identity, environmental perception, El Barrio

NYU Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.