Transliterating cities: The interdiscursive ethnohistory of a Tamil Francophonie

Sonia N. Das

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    The interdiscursive ethnohistory of outdoor signs and other transliterated graphic artifacts from four urban neighborhoods in Puducherry, Paris, and Montreal is based on linguistic, ethnographic, and archival analyses of disparate sociohistorical contexts in which businesses and organizations promote or devalorize printing in Tamil and Roman scripts. Signs that project the image of a Tamil francophonie depend on structures of addressivity that animate graphic artifacts and potentially lead to new encounters between francophone Tamils. Thus, transliterations into Tamil, French, or English recalibrate the chronotopes of francophone Tamil settlements. Embodying the present, Paris provides the grounds for reproducing the linguistic community through adherence to International French, despite its paucity of transliterations. Montreal’s transliterations embody the diaspora’s future, emphasizing vibrant entrepreneurial activities in grassroots literacy, whereas signs in Puducherry featuring ornamental displays of French offer opportunities to connect with a past in which Tamil and French once coexisted in colonial handbooks and streets.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)125-150
    Number of pages26
    JournalSigns and Society
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Communication
    • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
    • Linguistics and Language


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