The linguistic servicescape: Speaking their language may not be enough

Ellen E. Touchstone, Scott Koslow*, Prem N. Shamdasani, Steven D'Alessandro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores Hispanic immigrants' reactions to linguistic servicescapes in retail banking in Southern California. This fertile area of enquiry combines the sociolinguistic theory of linguistic landscape with research into multilingual service encounters describing what happens in the retail servicescape before the service encounter which sets up expectations for what happens during the service encounter. This new term describes the use of language in and around a service encounter including signage and promotional materials as well as bilingual personnel. In multilingual areas such as Southern California where the use of a minority language is politically charged, effective encoding of symbolic language by the service provider is crucial for the success of a service encounter. The results of this study indicate that management's actual or perceived lack of sensitivity to appropriate linguistic symbols leads to both confusion and an attribution of discrimination towards the targeted ethnic group—even if none were intended. What is written or said in the service encounter is important, but this research illustrates that the context is also significant. The wider symbolic use of language is key in determining the success of service encounters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Business Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Banking
  • Experiment
  • Hispanic consumers
  • Language use in service encounters
  • Linguistic landscape
  • Servicescape

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