theme parks, intermediality, language, paratext, signage, linguistic landscape, Disneyland Paris, Europa-Park


Language and its multiple forms and functions in the theme park have only received scant attention in cultural and media studies-oriented theme park scholarship. In both written and oral form, however, language not only constitutes an integral part of the pluri- or multimedial mix that makes the theme park a hybrid, composite, or meta-medium, but also offers visitors a large variety of information on safety, park operations, and theming. Using examples from parks in both the U.S. and Europe and drawing on such theoretical concepts as paratextuality and "linguistic landscapes," this essay suggests a tripartite approach to studying the complex forms and the multifunctionality of language in the theme park: firstly, I propose to discuss spoken language (e.g. in safety announcements or greetings) as part of the theme park’s complex soundscape and give examples of how the informational and thematic functions of spoken language interact and sometimes clash. Secondly, I argue that mobile written texts (e.g. in printed park guides and on apps) belong to what has been referred to as theme park paratexts. Finally, I focus on (fixed) written signs and conceptualize the theme park as a "linguistic landscape" – a concept developed in sociolinguistics that seeks to describe the forms and functions of written language on signs in the public space. Taken together, these three approaches would not only fill a significant gap in theme park scholarship and contribute to a deeper understanding of the sites as a hybrid, composite, or meta-medium, but could also provide theme park professionals with valuable insight on how to effectively use language in their designs and operations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.