The first time I said linguistic landscape while thinking of the languages of my childhood, I meant sound, cacophony, an aural geography, but then a linguist friend reminded me of the terrain of signs, typography, written graphs. If I neglect the visual, it is because sound is more fluid, like water, easier to think of as something textural, something that envelops, something to swim through.
In the streets and hills and seas of Hong Kong, I might think of the written language as something through which I wander: a forest of varying echoes and angles, an ocean with waves and currents. Some of the characters recall a sound or swell with meaning, but others are only a wash of familiarity and family, which is to say a feeling as large as anything I can parse. Perhaps the various colors and typefaces layer and weave like the hues and angles of different dialects in my home, strewn with faded ghosts and heftier shadows. While some words come forward and others recede, all together it is a shelter that holds me, a blanket I feel myself wrapped in, a quilt with embroidery and stitching.
In Hong Kong there is the English alphabet as well, a multilingual presence that reminds me even more: how identity and home are boats we weave, how letters and strokes each carry their own emotional atmosphere, how a word is not only its semantic meaning but a feeling, a geometry, a texture, a weather.