Linguistic Discrimination Definition Essay

“”It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.

—George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Pygmalion (1916)

Linguistic discrimination (also known as linguicism) is the act of discriminating against someone because of their language, dialect or accent. This can manifest itself in a belief that people who speak a certain way are less intelligent or otherwise inferior to speakers of a preferred or standardised language.

The social dimension of language[edit]

Languages of all societies exist in a variety of forms characterized by social prestige and formality. Even in relatively unstratified or small linguistic communities, prestigious and colloquial varieties exist. There is often a separate ritual speech, used in religious or ceremonial gatherings, marking them as a social space apart from ordinary conversation.[note 1] All languages have some form of poetry or similar linguistic art; this often uses separate vocabulary and grammar. Some languages have gendered forms, different vocabularies or pronunciations for male and female speakers; others express social rank in separate pronouns or lexicons.[1] The study of the social dimension of language is called sociolinguistics.[2]


In more stratified societies, several tiers on this continuum of linguistic status exist. One common terminology, originally deriving from creole language studies, calls the high prestige registers[3] on the top of this scale acrolect, the bottom basilect, with a spread of mesolects occupying the rungs in between.[4] In a literate society an acrolect may also become a standard language[5], defined by codification in dictionaries, prescriptive[6] grammars, and a recognized canon of texts. A standard language may be further canonized as an official language, one that is given formal recognition by law.[7] Indeed, social prestige[8], the self-descriptions of its community of speakers, and the support of a government are about the only meaningful distinction between a language and a "dialect", a distinction that is otherwise too elusive to be used in current linguistics.[note 2][note 3]Nationalist or separatist movements often seek to ordain that the local variant spoken by the groups they claim to represent is a separate language rather than a dialect.

Where this continuum of high and low status variants exist, many speakers will employ a phenomenon called code-switching, modulating their usage towards the high status or low status registers based on the people they speak with. Using the high status varieties where the low is called for is as great a gaffe as the opposite error.[9] The fact that language exists on a continuum of prestigious versus colloquial forms means that, while non-standard or colloquial forms of a language may be described "broadly", by noting how the non-standard forms differ from the standard, this does mean that a speaker of any given rank will use that form. Rather, all speakers will use a varying mixture of standard and non-standard forms.[10]

Language represents other aspects of social identity besides status, class, or rank. Various communities within a larger society may acquire a jargon, argot, or other in-group language. These may be considered generally innocuous by the society at large, such as the lexicon of wine fanciers. But these in-group languages may be perceived as threatening, such as thieves' cant, the specialized vocabulary of a cult, or complicated para-languages like Russian profanity. Cultural minorities may fashion cryptolects or cants: secret languages like Polari or Para-Romani, semi-secret lexicons that can be dropped into the syntax of the majority language. These argots can be used to deliberately exclude outsiders; as such they are inherently spooky and carry a potential to freak out surrounding communities. Local accents and subcultural vocabularies can acquire covert prestige, prestige within that speech community, as opposed to the overt prestige of the high status standard.[11]


Most languages are spoken in a variety of different accents[12], variations in sound realization, prosody, and lexicon. These accents potentially encode information about the speaker's original native language, and regional, social class, ethnic, subcultural, or caste identities. Members of a language community will be able to make many superficially valid inferences about a speaker from their accent, a skill that can be honed with practice.[note 4]

These kinds of paralinguistic information are constantly present in a speaker's language. As social value judgments, the judgments that can be extracted from accent are immediately and involuntarily made by the listener.[13] In other words, you don't have any choice; you will always be aware of any social fact that a speaker's accent and register communicate.

Linguistic prescription and discrimination[edit]

All human languages, therefore, have a social and even a political dimension. Together with its notional content, human speech continually transmits information about the speaker's class, ethnicity, region, and possibly other information about a speaker's social identity and status. Where class, ethnic, or regional conflict exists, language can serve as a badge that divides between Us and Them.

Prescriptive traditions[6] in a language arise partly as an attempt to defuse these sources of conflict by promoting a particular variety as a standard, meant to be free from regional or ethnic cues, and current, accepted, and understood everywhere. The prescriptive tradition, as noted above, will frequently if not always be chosen from upper-class speech, and in a national language is often but not always based on the speech of a capital city.[note 5] The choices made by the prescriptive tradition, though, may cause resentment if your ethnic group's speech habits are not the ones chosen for the standard.

Some note, as an argument against these prescriptive traditions, that the field of linguistics has for some time held that there is no such thing as an objectively "correct" way of speaking. Every language, except perhaps in the cases of those endangered ones with too few speakers, is a group of dialects, none of which are inherently superior to or "more correct" than any other.[10] A standard language is simply a dialect that has had the prestige[8] — read, political and economic power — to impose itself on all the other speakers of the language.

This is to misunderstand both what linguists do, and the actual source of sociolinguistic prestige. Linguists study the phonological, syntactical, historical, and social aspects of human languages. Their task is to describe and explain them as they are, not to tell them what they ought to be. It's not a linguist's job to correct your grammar. It might be a teacher, an editor, or an orator's job to do just that. Language communities decide which varieties of language enjoy the highest prestige and social status. Linguists only record that fact.

The supposed objectivity of non-standard inferiority[edit]

The idea that no form of speech can be objectively correct does not mean that languages have no rules, and that one can string words in whatever way one chooses. Languages do have their own grammatical rules regarding what is correct and incorrect within their own systems. However, what is meant by the statement that there is no "correct" form of speaking is that no language or dialect can be in itself objectively "superior" than any other; they all have their own grammars and phonological rules.[note 6] For example, there is nothing about the Standard English word "don't" that makes it "better" than the non-standard "ain't"; they are both, after all, only combinations of sounds. A sentence like "I ain't got no time" may indeed be grammatically incorrect Standard English, but it is perfectly grammatical in many other dialects. All people learn language in the same way: by taking in the speech of those around them in childhood. From this input, every person forms an internal grammar (their "idiolect"), which has its own correctness conditions of what is and isn't correct in that idiolect. Different varieties can be more or less prestigious, but this is a result of sociopolitical factors and has nothing to do with "correctness." Because of this, a given linguistic feature may be both prestigious and non-prestigious depending on the context. For instance, non-rhoticity is prestigious in Received Pronunciation, but stigmatized in New York and Boston accents. Prestige may also change over time. The modern Standard French pronunciation of the word moi is /mwa/, and the regional pronunciation /mwe/ is stigmatized, but before the French Revolution, the situation was exactly the opposite; /mwe/ was the prestigious pronunciation used by the aristocrats,[14] and /mwa/ was used by the lower classes. As linguist Peter Trudgill notes:[15]

“”To read the BBC news in a 'broad' London, Birmingham or Glasgow accent Language and Contact would provoke laughter, anger and ridicule. The same kind of reaction could be expected to the introduction of Jamaican Creole into unexpected contexts. It could be done, however, if a political decision were made to do so: English would have sounded ridiculous in a law-court in the Middle Ages, and would have been considered out of place in a scientific treatise at a much later date than that; a piece of literature in Finnish would have been considered most unusual until comparatively recently; the use of Macedonian as a parliamentary language would have been felt to be absurd until this century; and until very recently it would have been laughable to put a job advertise­ment in an Irish newspaper in Ulster Scots.

Obviously, if the "correctness" of linguistic features depended on objective linguistic criteria rather than social factors, such variation in social acceptability would not be possible. All dialects, including non-standard ones, are equally capable of expressing human thought. The difference between a "correct" language and a subordinate, "inferior" dialect is essentially political. Linguist John McWhorter, in his book The Power of Babel, said, "Dialects are all there is: the ‘language’ part is just politics."[16] One wouldn't say that Spanish is just the result of people failing to speak proper French; they are separate systems. Similarly, Cockney is not a corrupted form of Received Pronunciation; rather, they both evolved in parallel, and over time Received Pronunciation happened to become the more prestigious variety.

Non-standard dialects are often criticized for being "illogical", or for being spoken by uneducated people. Both are flawed arguments.

For one thing, no language is perfectly logical. Consider the Standard English word "himself". Interpreting the word literally, one might argue that it is illogical, through prescriptivist reasoning somewhat like the following. "When one is using a reflexive pronoun, one is speaking about a self. Whose self? Well, the self of somebody: my self, or your self, or our selves. But to speak of him self is ludicrous — one would not say 'You are speaking of you self'. Clearly, the solution is to do away with this monstrosity and replace it with the vastly superior 'hisself'." Similar arguments could be made for sentences like "I am going to stay" or "I am going to think about it," yet nobody seriously argues that the phrase "going to" should only be used to refer to actual physical motion (which was, indeed, its original meaning). A common motif of prescriptivist arguments is that prescriptivists, in their quest to denigrate all forms of speech which they have decided are "incorrect", will say that some feature not only is not, but can never be correct because it is objectively wrong, when the said feature is in reality a totally uncontroversial (and "correct") part of many other standard languages. One such nonstandard feature often derided by prescriptivists is the use of double negatives. They claim it is inherently incorrect, because two negatives logically make a positive. Such people, however, fail to take into account the fact that the majority of Europe's standard languages use double negatives. The absence of double negatives in Standard English is in fact an anomaly. Another "argument" is that prepositions cannot be used to end sentences because prepositions by definition have to come before something. This is an example of the etymological fallacy; words belonging to the class in question are called prepositions because they generally occur before other words, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. By the same "logic", the use of separable prefixes at the end of sentences in German (which is totally uncontroversial) would be "wrong" because prefixes "by definition" must be attached to the beginning of a word. Not to mention that "preposition" is a Latin loanword that entered English only in the 14th century.[17] Claiming that prepositions can only occur before other words because of the etymology of the word would be like deciding that nouns should henceforth be called "thingwords" and objecting when they are used to refer to abstract concepts rather than physical "things".

As for the second argument, the speakers of a dialect may even conceivably be all poor and uneducated, but this does not mean they are grammarless individuals who "talk wrong." If this were true, all the endangered or not-widely-spoken languages of isolated tribes or impoverished ethnic groups would be chaotic, "primitive" forms of communication with no rhyme or reason, as compared to their more "civilized" neighbors. Of course, few would take this reasoning to its logical conclusion.

In the English speaking world[edit]

Linguistic discrimination is sometimes justified by its perpetrators on the basis that a given pronunciation or dialect is "not proper", but judging a non-standard English dialect by the standards of Standard English is not realistic: they are two different things, with different pronunciations and (often) grammars. Many people who would never think to call Hiberno-English or Scottish English wrong would find it perfectly acceptable to say that Cockney and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) are just "slang" or "broken" forms of English that must be eradicated. This is because the tendency to judge the value of a dialect results not from any inherent features of the dialect in question, but from a negative attitude against the group that speaks it.[18] (It is for this reason that a given linguistic feature can be non-prestigious in some contexts and prestigious in others. For instance, the non-rhoticity of Boston or New York accents is stigmatized, while that of Received Pronunciation is considered prestigious.) When someone calls someone's dialect "wrong", they are really making a value judgment about the group the dialect speaker belongs to, though the accuser may not realize this. (In the case of AAVE, the group is African-Americans; in the case of Cockney, it is working-class Londoners.) The person is used to hearing a dialect being spoken by people he does not approve of, and unconsciously transfers this dislike of "bad people" to the dialect they speak, when in reality, there is no such thing as a "bad" dialect. In other words, linguistic discrimination is often (though not always) racism,[19][20]classism, or some other form of prejudice.

For instance, a person hearing an African-American speaking AAVE to a friend may discriminate against her and consider her intellectually inferior, even if she can also speak flawless Standard English, for the mere reason that she speaks AAVE at all. Other American accents considered "inferior" include Southern Midlands and New York City English.[21] In the UK, a report found that the top 5 accents (not dialects) discriminated against in job interviews include those from Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Cockney.[22] In these cases, discrimination is not based on the individual's command of Standard English grammar and spelling, but merely on pronunciation, even if it is completely comprehensible. Among the general public, linguistic discrimination is not regarded as wrong, because the fact that dialects/accents are not incorrect and inferior forms of Standard English that should be eliminated, but separate, different ways of speaking with different grammatical or phonological rules, is not generally recognized.[23]

Linguistic discrimination in the English-speaking world does not just include different dialects and accents of the English language. For example, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Wales, schoolchildren overheard speaking Welsh would get a piece of wood called a "Welsh Not" hung around their necks. It could be moved from pupil to pupil if they were heard speaking the language, and whoever was wearing it at the end of lessons would receive a beating.[24] Other examples include persecution of indigenous languages in the North American education system.

Talking white[edit]

Within the AAVE speech community itself, a similar but oppositional dynamic is at work. The use of standard English is condemned by some as "talking white", a perceived betrayal of the Black community by becoming assimilated to White culture. Success in education is seen as selling out.[25] This, too, is a form of linguistic prescription; AAVE forms are held to be authentically Black and therefore prestigious within that community, while a different set of forms is held in low regard.

African Americans are apparently expected to perform an intricate linguistic balancing act. U.S. Senator Harry Reid accused President Barack Obama of being a "light skin" and "token" President "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one".[26] But Rush Limbaugh has accused Obama of using "black dialect" while addressing the National Governors' Association, and moreover observed that "Obama can turn on that black dialect and turn it off."[27] Limbaugh is as usual eager to make sure we are aware that Obama is, in fact, Black. Reid and Limbaugh's accusations may be racist, but they are true: this is called code switching, as noted above, and speakers of every language and every race have some range of formal and colloquial styles to use in different social settings.[9] It apparently surprises some white Americans that President Obama possesses this basic linguistic competence, and they don't notice themselves doing the same damn thing several times a day. For example, the way you speak at a job interview or to your parents is likely to be different than the way you speak to your friends.

Politics and the English prescriptive tradition[edit]

The English prescriptive tradition has always had a strong political dimension. At the start of the twentieth century, The King's English (1906) and Modern English Usage (1926) by the Fowler brothers[28] dripped with scorn for the United States and its English. Fowler wrote that "Americanisms are foreign words, and should be so treated;" and his definition of "Americanisms" was broad enough to compass such standard words as "placate" and "antagonize".[29] The Fowlers went as far as to mock the "barbaric" taste of place names like "Pennsylvania" and "Minneapolis".[note 7] Americans, still under something of a cultural inferiority complex, swallowed their pride and took the Fowler's prescriptions to heart.

All hell broke loose with the 1962 publication of the third edition of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. This edition deigned to acknowledge the existence of ain't and irregardless as forms that readers might encounter and that wanted explanation. Even though the dictionary still flagged them as colloquial or nonstandard, for some, including reviewer James Macdonald, the admission of these words and senses meant that the barbarians were at the gate. The controversy was aggravated because it mapped onto 1960s political rhetoric with disconcerting ease. The prescriptive tradition got to portray itself as the defender of social standards against beatniks, rock musicians, racial minorities, and pointy headed professors who sought to tear them down. In the USA, the prescriptive tradition took on a decidedly Republican cast. Nixon-era stalwarts such as William Safire and James Kilpatrick wrote prescriptive usage handbooks that took up the cudgels against "permissiveness". The end result was to floridly overstate what was at issue in these usage wars: the usages appropriate for a formal style.[30][31]

On the other hand, George Orwell's Politics and the English Language[32] is a masterpiece of the English prescriptive tradition. Orwell here judges bullshit, and finds it wanting:

“” I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from ECCLESIASTES:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Orwell's bad example seems fairly modest and unassuming at this point. And Orwell reminds us that linguistic prescription is not necessarily 'conservative' nor an arbitrary judgment of taste.[note 8]

“”In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.


In other countries, "linguistic discrimination" of various sorts is a national policy. Standard languages are aggressively promoted as vehicles for cultural unity in some places. Some languages, including minority languages, are protected by law. In some places this is done to assuage ethnic unrest. In others, the languages are considered cultural patrimony worth preserving. Government policies to foster or discourage the use of various languages go under the rubric of language policy. It seems safe to say that the charge that such policies constitute "racism" would not be well received, and may not be understood.[33]

The endangered Irish language is given pride of place in the Republic of Ireland, despite the fact that the language itself is spoken at home only by 3% of its citizens. Irish is a compulsory school subject there, for now,[34] a fact that draws some controversy due to perceptions that the language has little practical value; requirements that lawyers pass an exam in Irish proficiency have been recently abolished. The language continues to be held as culturally important, and the government subsidizes publishing and broadcasting in the language fairly heavily.

Attempts to revitalize an endangered or even revive a dead language are one particular kind of language policy. The most striking success along these lines is IsraeliHebrew, which went from a religious language of the educated at best to an everyday language including (borrowed) cursewords spoken by millions of people - including non-Jews. Other attempts have been made, with varying degrees of success, at reviving Native languages in the United States such as Hawaiian or Haida.

A comparable situation prevails in Finland, where a small Swedish speaking minority, concentrated in the Åland Islands, makes up under 6% of the country. There, too, Swedish is a resented compulsory school subject; there are other languages beside Swedish young Finns could be studying, languages that will take them further. The policy originated out of ethnic unrest in the late 19th and early 20th century. Prior to being acquired by the Russian Empire, Finland was a Swedish possession for centuries and thus the speakers of Swedish were often resented as an "elite" even though there were considerable numbers of rural and poor Swedish speakers even during Swedish rule.

Interestingly, in Norway, there is no "official" standard for spoken Norwegian (there are, however, two competing standards for written Norwegian), and dialectal diversity is celebrated, so that, unlike the situation in many other countries, it is socially acceptable to use regional varieties in public contexts (such as "in the media, in university lectures, and in Parliament").[35] Not only that, Norway's Education Act specifically states that: "the teacher 'should pay due attention to the vernacular used by pupils, and that he or she should not attempt to make them abandon their home dialect.'"[36]

France and French[edit]

Other language authorities have been harsher. France strongly promotes Metropolitan or Parisian French as the standard language in all French territories. This policy began under the French revolutionary government. Based on their experience with royalist and Catholic rural insurrections in the Vendée and elsewhere, the French government held local usages in very low regard; and in 1794 the Abbé Gregoire published a manifesto calling on the revolutionary government to suppress all local dialects, given the condescending name patois. The drive to impose a standard French language was given an ideological dimension; a single common language was necessary to achieve the revolutionary ideal of equality before the law, and that the language of equality would be the French of Paris was simply assumed. The traditional French attitude is that all variant forms of Romance language spoken in France are merely ungrammatical dialects of standard French.[note 9]

In the Occitan and Provençal speaking areas of southern France, these policies became known as la vergonha, "the shame"; the process of enforced conformity to Parisian French told students that they should be ashamed of their parents and their speech. The only language allowed in schools was Parisian French; the use of others was severely punished, even in the schoolyard. Other casualties of this policy include the Breton language, a Celtic language once spoken throughout Brittany, but now spoken by less than two hundred thousand mostly elderly people. Not until the 1950s did the French government acknowledge the right of languages beside French to exist, and France has not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[37]

Then there is Canadian French (or Quebec French), which is often considered not to be "real" French, like that spoken in France, but some kind of inferior "twangy" variety. This view is clearly incorrect, for reasons explained above. Ironically, one of the features prominently associated with Quebec French (or the sub-dialect Joual) and considered incorrect (that of pronouncing the diphthong oi as /we/, as opposed to the Standard French /wa/ (so that the word toi ("you") is pronounced /twe/ instead of /twa/)) is actually derived from the upper-class speech of pre-revolutionary France. The now-standard form /wa/ was itself originally looked down upon:

In Late Middle French the modern lowered pronunciation wa made its appearance in vulgar speech, at first before r. This broad pronunciation, however, found no favour with the educated classes or the grammarians… and was not fully accepted until the upheaval of the Revolution has destroyed the old tradition.[38]


Prior to the 17th century, the Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe were a prosperous middle-class group. However, after the 1648—1654 uprising of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, during which tens of thousands of Jews were killed, they underwent a period of economic decline, with more Jews taking up working-class trades; Yiddish began to be associated with poverty, and as a result of this loss of prestige, it was increasingly viewed as merely a "corrupt" and incorrect form of German.[39][note 10] Yiddish is also the language that came up with the truism that "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy". Contrary to popular belief, Yiddish today is still alive and well and widely spoken among orthodox Jews[note 11] in both Israel and the US.

Latin America[edit]

Strong traditions of linguistic discrimination exist throughout the formerly colonized world, particularly in Latin America. However, contrary to popular belief the Catholic Church and Spain are — mostly — innocent of this. In fact, missionaries and monks spread some indigenous languages as local linguas francas, which can still be seen in Paraguay which is 80% bilingual in Spanish and Guarani — even among Paraguayans with nothing but European ancestry. A strong decline of most indigenous languages only began after the independence of most Ibero-American states, and it was mostly due to the policies of the white and/or mestizo elites as well as economic factors. To this day public schools often enforce Spanish- or Portuguese-only policies, and people who speak "incorrect" Spanish (be it a dialect lacking prestige or Spanish as a second language) are discriminated against both by state and private actors. However, a broad brush would be wrong, as many countries have discovered their indigenous heritage (similar to the Irish example mentioned above) and at the very least pay lip-service to the revival of indigenous languages such as Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), Aymara or Quechua (the lingua franca of the Inca Empire). Which of those revival efforts will have success remains to be seen, but the mentioned languages alone have several million speakers each.


Within 19th century Belgium Dutch was also actively oppressed; while in the constitution it was accepted as the language of Flanders, in practice Dutch was the language of the poor and French the language of the rich, as you had to speak French to learn at a university and to work at a public service. While this started to fade out in the 1890's when the right-wing Catholic Party had a wing of Flemish nationalists demanding these rights, the centrist Liberal Party actively opposed it to make sure only French was spoken there and the left-wing Labor Party was not interested and demanded a more international approach. It was only after World War 1, when Germans were popularizing the use of Dutch in the conquered territories, that Dutch was used in national public services.

During most of the 50's and 70's the then recently founded Dutch linguistic union introduced a standardized form of Dutch, called Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands (or in English: General Civilized Dutch) that was used in schools with the direct intention to purge all existing dialects in favor of a uniform homogeneous language. This stopped in the late 60's due to the burgeoning Dutch music scene making more dialect-based songs, making it less and less of a popular position until in the end the term became known as Algemeen Nederlands (or in English: General Dutch). Interestingly, the standardized form used is in itself a mixture of many spoken Dutch dialects, suggesting that it must have been known how tremendous[please explain] it was to do it.

Language secessionism[edit]

Language secessionism occurs when speakers of different dialects of one language declare their dialects to be languages in their own right. The most extreme recent case of this occurred after the Yugoslav Wars between the four main dialects of the Serbo-Croatian language (Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrin). With the emergence of the sovereign states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro, these four dialects became codified as four supposedly separate languages. They are still 100% mutually intelligible — a Bosnian Muslim and a Serb can shout abuse at one another with total clarity — but their speakers, particularly the nationalists that want to keep them divided, despise one another too fiercely to share even a language.

Milder versions of this separatist tendency exist. There is controversy over the Malay-Indonesian language, with Malaysians tending to claim that Malay and Indonesian are two dialects of the same language, while Indonesians usually view Indonesian as a separate language. The result of this has been an odd linguistic call-and-response game, with Indonesians finding new ways to distinguish their language from Malaysian, and Malaysians trying to coordinate their language with Indonesian's trends.[note 12] The Soviet Union tried to promote Moldovan as a distinct language from Romanian (with which it is completely identical), even going so far as to rewrite the "language" in the Cyrillic script. This project has ended, much like the USSR itself, although the Moldovan government still officially describes its language as "Moldovan." Within Catalan, a movement in Valencia calls the Valencian dialect a separate language. This position is controversial within the Valencian community, and almost completely ignored by other Catalan speakers.

The opposite trend exists among Kurds. What is sometimes called the Kurdish language is actually a collection of languages: The largest two, Sorani and Kurmanji, differ from one another as much as English and German do, and without acquired bilingualism, a Kurd from Turkey cannot understand one from Iraq. Similar circumstances exist among the varieties of the Chinese language, which are mutually incomprehensible when spoken. However in Chinese understanding is much aided by all forms usually using exactly the same symbols to represent the different words, meaning that they are mutually comprehensible when written. The Chinese government for that matter considers all Chinese languages dialects of one standard.

Another peculiar example is a language that is considered a "dialect" of one language while sharing much more with a completely different language. The best known example of this would be Low German, which shares more similarities with Dutch than with (High-)German, yet is considered a dialect of the latter.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory, Geoffrey K. Pullum, Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh
  • There Is No ‘Proper English’
  • Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage, David Foster Wallace
  • Mock Ebonics: Linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics on the Internet, by sociolinguist Maggie Ronkin and linguist Helen Karn
  • Mock Spanish: A Site For The Indexical Reproduction Of Racism In American English, by linguist Jane H. Hill
  • Linguistic class-indicators in present-day English, by linguist Alan S. C. Ross
  • Projects: Linguistic variation
  • Do You Speak American? What Speech Do We Like Best? PBS
  • Academics ‘talk posh’ to protect their careers, Jack Grove, Times Higher Education, 4 April 2013
  • Shut yer face! I'm fed up being ridiculed for my regional accent in academia, The Telegraph
  • The Way We Live Now: 9-12-99: On Language; Dialects, Margalit Fox, The New York Times, Sept. 12, 1999
  • A New Record For Within-US Linguistic Prejudice?, Language Log, linguist Mark Lieberman
  • Variation and Change in Our Living Language
  • The Concept of Standard English, Albert H. Mackwardt
  • Reid's Three Little Words: The Log In Our Own Eye, linguist John McWhorter
  • From "RP" to "Estuary English, The concept 'received' and the debate about British pronunciation standards".
  • Citizen, speak Turkish!, Wikipedia


  1. ↑For example, no native English speaker today would produce the familiar sentence With this ring I thee wed. The archaisms and obsolete syntax mark the utterance as something apart from ordinary speech.
  2. ↑As an example, all of the varieties of North Germanic spoken on the Scandinavian Peninsula form a dialect continuum and are generally mutually intelligible. The peninsula is divided into three nations, Norway, Sweden, (and Finland, whose chief language is not Germanic). "Norwegian" and "Swedish" are therefore two separate and standard languages (and because of a complicated history, Norway even has two different standards), but there is no reason why the entire territory could not share a language. Linguists do call a spread of mutually intelligible languages a "dialect continuum".
  3. ↑Linguists often say, only half-joking, that a language is "a dialect with an army and a navy."
  4. ↑Members of different communities that share a mutually intelligible language may lose cues from a different community. Without special instruction, speakers of American English often seem to assume that anyone with an accent from the British Isles is quite fancy; an admiration that extends to New Zealanders, South Africans, and some Australians. Scots are set aside in another category entirely; broad Scots stands at one of the limits of mutual intelligibility with American English. One of the authors of this article has heard distinctively Australian accents in the actors playing the "European hairdresser" role in women's toiletry product ads. The unscientific impression of this American editor is that British hoi polloi seem to think all Americans talk like Texans. Odds are they'd be as helpless trying to sort Chicagoans from St. Louis people as he would be separating Liverpudlians from Mancunians.
  5. ↑General American is an exception; standard American is based on the speech of the upper Midwest. Urban dialects in the area have diverged somewhat from this standard in recent years; but the upper Midwestern dialect fans out and is the baseline speech for the entire West Coast, including California. This version of English, broadly defined, is the one heard from California based media.
  6. ↑Often, the question is not one of correctness, but of situational appropriateness. There is a tendency among some prescriptivists to dismiss any form of language insufficiently formal for academic writing as being incorrect. In reality, different circumstances call for different registers. For instance, while words like "ain't" or "would've" would be out of place in an academic paper, it is also true that speaking in a very formal register in everyday life where informality would be called for (e.g., "I shall endeavor to purchase the items you requested" versus "I'll try to buy what you asked for") would likely be perceived as unnatural or pretentious. Context is everything.
  7. ↑To be sure, places like "Shitterton",[1] "Stow on the Wold", "Wroxeter", and "Grimethorpe" are their obvious superiors in taste and euphony.
  8. ↑Though linguists Geoff Pullum and David Beaver have noted, in "Elimination of the Fittest" and "Orwell's Liar", that Orwell's essay contains several of the latter.
  9. ↑In fact, Occitan and Provençal are sister languages of Catalan, much less closely related to Parisian French.
  10. ↑In fact, with respect to its basic grammar and function words, Yiddish is an ordinary dialect of German, not strongly divergent from other local varieties of German. Yiddish has been extensively relexified by words borrowed from Hebrew and from various Slavic languages.
  11. ↑Many Orthodox Jews consider using Hebrew in non-religious contexts to be blasphemous.
  12. ↑There is a substantial difference in vocabularies (see Times Comparative Dictionary of Malay-Indonesian Synonyms: With Definitions in English by Leo Suryadinata, 1991, ISBN 9812042156), but overall the dialects are largely mutually intelligible.


  1. ↑See generally, and e.g, Marianne Mithun, The languages of native North America. (Cambridge, 1999; ISBN 0-521-23228-7).
  2. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Sociolinguistics.
  3. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Linguistic register.
  4. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Acrolect.
  5. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Standard language.
  6. 6.06.1See the Wikipedia article on Linguistic prescription.
  7. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Official language.
  8. 8.08.1See the Wikipedia article on Prestige (sociolinguistics).
  9. 9.09.1See the Wikipedia article on code-switching.
  10. 10.010.1English Accents, How Language Works, Indiana University.
  11. ↑Johnson, Local dialects: Signalling group membership, innit, The Economist, Oct 22nd, 2013
  12. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Accent (sociolinguistics).
  13. ↑See, e.g., Jonathan Haidt, "The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail" (2001), Psychological Review. 108, 814-834.
  14. ↑[2]
  15. ↑Trudgill, Peter, Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society, page 176.
  16. ↑[3]
  17. ↑[4]
  18. Ten (Socio-) Linguistic Axioms, Peter L Patrick, University of Essex.
  19. Challenging Linguicism: Action Strategies for Counselors and Client-Colleagues, Chen-Hayes, Stuart F.; Chen, Mei-whei; Athar, Naveeda.
  20. Linguicism and Racism in assessment practices in higher education, Ahmar Mahboob, Eszter Szenes.
  21. ↑Language Myth # 17, Language Myths.
  22. Speaking Geordie, Caroline Cook, BBC.
  23. Speak for yourself: The problem of linguistic discrimination
  24. ↑Welsh and 19th century education
  25. ↑See, e.g., Nancy Solomon, Facing Identity Conflicts, Black Students Fall Behind (NPR, 2009); Richard Morin, The Price of Acting White (Washington Post, 2005).
  26. ↑Harry Reid 'Negro' Comment: Reid Apologizes For 'No Negro Dialect' Comment, Huffington Post.
  27. ↑Rush Limbaugh Accuses President Obama of Using the “Black Dialect, Politicus USA.
  28. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Henry Watson Fowler.
  29. ↑H. W. Fowler, The King's English
  30. ↑Jack Lynch, The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park (Walker, 2009; ISBN 0802717004)
  31. ↑Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style (Viking, 2014; ISBN 0670025852)
  32. ↑George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946).
  33. ↑See the Wikipedia article on Language policy.
  34. ↑
  35. ↑Dialects in Norway
  36. The Norwegian language, Norwegian on The Web.
  37. ↑Local language recognition angers French academy, The Guardian
  38. ↑Picard, Mark, La diphtongue /wa/ et ses équivalents en français du Canada, Cahier de linguistique Numéro 4, 1974, p. 147-155.
  39. ↑Claude Hagège, Le Souffle de la langue : voies et destins des parlers d'Europe
"Ain't I a woman?" — Sojourner Truth, 1851.

**Aren't I a woman? falls flat, and **Am I not a woman? is just wrong.
"Speak French. Be clean". Painted on the wall of a schoolhouse in southern France.

"Linguicist" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Linguist.

Linguistic discrimination (also called linguicism and languagism) is the unfair treatment of an individual based solely on his or her use of language. This use of language may include the individual's native language or other characteristics of the person's speech, such as an accent, the size of vocabulary (whether the person uses complex and varied words), modality, and syntax. It may also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another; for example, one who speaks Occitan in France will probably be treated differently from one who speaks French.[1] Based on a difference in use of language, a person may automatically form judgments about another person's wealth, education, social status, character or other traits. These perceived judgments may then lead to the unjustifiable treatment of the individual.

In the mid-1980s, linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, captured this idea of discrimination based on language as the concept of linguicism. Kangas defined linguicism as the "ideologies and structures which are used to legitimate, effectuate, and reproduce unequal division of power and resources (both material and non-material) between groups which are defined on the basis of language".[2] Although different names have been given to this form of discrimination, they all hold the same definition. It is also important to note that linguistic discrimination is culturally and socially determined due to a preference for one use of language over another.

Linguistic prejudice[edit]

It can be noted that use of language such as certain accents may result in an individual experiencing prejudice. For example, some accents hold more prestige than others depending on the cultural context. However, with so many dialects, it can be difficult to determine which is the most preferable. The best answer linguists can give, such as the authors of "Do You Speak American?", is that it depends on the location and the individual. Research has determined however that some sounds in languages may be determined to sound less pleasant naturally.[3] Also, certain accents tend to carry more prestige in some societies over other accents. For example, in the United States speaking General American (i.e., an absence of a regional or working class accent) is widely preferred in many contexts such as television journalism. Also, in the United Kingdom, the Received Pronunciation is associated with being of higher class and thus more likeable.[4] In addition to prestige, research has shown that certain accents may also be associated with less intelligence, and having poorer social skills.[5] An example can be seen in the difference between Southerners and Northerners in the United States, where people from the North are typically perceived as being less likable in character, and Southerners are perceived as being less intelligent.

Language and social group saliency[edit]

It is natural for human beings to want to identify with others. One way we do this is by categorizing individuals into specific social groups. While some groups may be readily noticeable (such as those defined by ethnicity or gender), other groups are less salient. Linguist Carmen Fought explains how an individual's use of language may allow another person to categorize them into a specific social group that may otherwise be less apparent. For example, in the United States it is common to perceive Southerners as less intelligent. Belonging to a social group such as the South may be less salient than membership to other groups that are defined by ethnicity or gender. Language provides a bridge for prejudice to occur for these less salient social groups.[6]


Linguistic discrimination is often defined in terms of prejudice of language. It is important to note that although there is a relationship between prejudice and discrimination, they are not always directly related.[7]Prejudice can be defined as negative attitudes towards an individual based solely on their membership of a social group, while discrimination can be seen as the acts towards the individual. The difference between the two should be recognized because an individual may hold a prejudice against someone due to their use of language, but they may not act out on that prejudice.[8] The following are examples of linguistic prejudice that may result in discrimination.

Linguistic prejudice and minority groups[edit]

While, theoretically, any individual may be the victim of linguicism regardless of social and ethnic status, oppressed and marginalized social minorities are often its most consistent targets, due to the fact that the speech varieties that come to be associated with such groups have a tendency to be stigmatized.

In Canada[edit]

Quebec and Anglophone community[edit]

The Charter of the French Language, first established in 1977 and amended several times since, has been accused of being discriminatory by English speakers. The law makes French the official language of Quebec and mandates its use (with exceptions) in government offices and communiques, schools, and in commercial public relations. Though the proportion of English speakers had been in decline since the 1960s, the law accelerated this, and the 2006 census showed there had been a net drop of 180,000 native English speakers.[9]

Conversely, the law has been seen as a way of preventing linguistic discrimination against French speakers, as part of the law's wider objective of preserving the French language against the increasing social and economic dominance of English. Speaking English at work continues to be strongly correlated with higher earnings, with French-only speakers earning significantly less.[10] Despite this, the law is widely credited with successfully raising the status of French in a predominantly English-speaking economy, and has been influential in other countries facing similar circumstances.[9]

In the European Union[edit]

Linguistic disenfranchisement rate[edit]

The linguistic disenfranchisement rate in the EU can significantly vary across countries. For residents in two EU-countries that are either native speakers of English or proficient in English as a foreign language the disenfranchisement rate is equal to zero. In his study "Multilingual communication for whom? Language policy and fairness in the European Union" Michele Gazzola comes to the conclusion that the current multilingual policy of the EU is not in the absolute the most effective way to inform Europeans about the EU; in certain countries, additional languages may be useful to minimise linguistic exclusion.[11]

In the 24 countries examined, an English-only language policy would exclude 51% to 90% of adult residents. A language regime based on English, French and German would disenfranchise 30% to 56% of residents, whereas a regime based on six languages would bring the shares of excluded population down to 9–22%. After Brexit, the rates of linguistic exclusion associated with a monolingual policy and with a trilingual and a hexalingual regime are likely to increase.[11]

In the United States[edit]

Perpetuation of discriminatory practices through terminology[edit]

Here and elsewhere the terms 'standard' and 'non-standard' make analysis of linguicism difficult. These terms are used widely by linguists and non-linguists when discussing varieties of American English that engender strong opinions, a false dichotomy that is rarely challenged or questioned. This has been interpreted by linguists Nicolas Coupland, Rosina Lippi-Green, and Robin Queen (among others) as a discipline-internal lack of consistency that undermines progress; if linguists themselves cannot move beyond the ideological underpinnings of 'right' and 'wrong' in language, there is little hope of advancing a more nuanced understanding in the general population.[12][13]


Because some African-Americans speak a particular non-standard variety of English which is often seen as substandard, African-Americans are frequently the targets of linguicism. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is often perceived by members of mainstream American society as indicative of low intelligence or limited education. Furthermore, as with many other non-standard dialects and especially creoles, AAVE sometimes has been called "lazy" or "bad" English.

The linguist John McWhorter has described this particular form of linguicism as particularly problematic in the United States, where non-standard linguistic structures are frequently judged by teachers and potential employers to be "incorrect," in contrast to a number of other countries such as Morocco, Finland and Italy where diglossia (a single person being able to switch between two or more dialects or languages) is an accepted norm, and use of non-standard grammar or vocabulary in conversation is seen as a mark of regional origin, not of intellectual capacity or achievement.

For example, an African-American who uses a typical AAVE sentence such as "He be comin' in every day and sayin' he ain't done nothing" may be judged as having a deficient command of grammar, whereas, in fact, such a sentence is constructed based on a complex grammar which is different from, and not a degenerate form of, standard English.[14] A hearer may judge the user of such a sentence to be unintellectual or uneducated when none of these is necessarily the case. The user may be proficient in standard English, and may be intellectually capable, and educated but simply have chosen to say the sentence in AAVE for any one of a number of social and sociolinguistic reasons such as the intended audience of the sentence, a phenomenon known as code switching.

Hispanic Americans and linguicism[edit]

Another form of linguicism is evidenced by the following: in some parts of the United States, a person who has a strong Mexican accent and uses only simple English words may be thought of as poor, poorly educated, and possibly an illegal immigrant by many of the people who meet them. However, if the same person has a diluted accent or no noticeable accent at all and can use a myriad of words in complex sentences, they are likely to be perceived as more successful, better educated, and a legitimate citizen.

American Sign Language users[edit]

For centuries, users of American Sign Language (ASL) have faced linguistic discrimination based on the perception of the legitimacy of signed languages compared to spoken languages. This attitude was explicitly expressed in the Milan Conference of 1880 which set precedence for public opinion of manual forms of communication, including ASL, creating lasting consequences for members of the Deaf community.[15] The conference almost unanimously (save a handful of allies such as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet), reaffirmed the use of oralism, instruction conducted exclusively in spoken language, as the preferred education method for Deaf individuals.[16] These ideas were outlined in eight resolutions which ultimately resulted in the removal of Deaf individuals from their own educational institutions, leaving generations of Deaf persons to be educated single-handedly by hearing individuals.[17]

Due to misconceptions about ASL, it was not recognized as its own, fully functioning language until recently. In the 1960s, linguist William Stokoe proved ASL to be its own language based on its unique structure and grammar, separate from that of English. Prior to this, ASL was thought to be merely a collection of gestures used to represent English. Because of its use of visual space, people mistakenly believed its users to be of a lesser mental capacity. The misconception that ASL users are incapable of complex thought was prevalent, although this has decreased as further studies about its recognition of a language have taken place. For example, ASL users faced overwhelming discrimination for the supposedly “lesser” language that they use and were met with condescension especially when using their language in public.[18] Another way discrimination against ASL is evident is how, despite research conducted by linguists like Stokoe or Clayton Valli and Cecil Lucas of Gallaudet University, ASL is not always recognized as a language.[19] Its recognition is crucial both for those learning ASL as an additional language, and for prelingually-deaf children who learn ASL as their first language. Linguist Sherman Wilcox concludes that given that it has a body of literature and international scope, to single ASL out as unsuitable for a foreign language curriculum is inaccurate. Russel S. Rosen also writes about government and academic resistance to acknowledging ASL as a foreign language at the high school or college level, which Rosen believes often resulted from a lack of understanding about the language. Rosen and Wilcox's conclusions both point to discrimination ASL users face regarding its status as a language, that although decreasing over time is still present.[20]

In the medical community, there is immense bias against deafness and ASL. This stems from the belief that spoken languages are superior to sign languages.[21] Because 90% of deaf babies are born to hearing parents, who are usually unaware of the existence of the Deaf Community, they often turn to the medical community for guidance.[22] Medical and audiological professionals, who are typically biased against sign languages, encourage parents to get a cochlear implant for their deaf child in order for the child to use spoken language.[21] Research shows, however, that deaf kids without cochlear implants acquire ASL with much greater ease than deaf kids with cochlear implants acquire spoken English. In addition, medical professionals discourage parents from teaching ASL to their deaf kid to avoid compromising their English[23] although research shows that learning ASL does not interfere with a child's ability to learn English. In fact, the early acquisition of ASL proves to be useful to the child in learning English later on. When making a decision about cochlear implantation, parents are not properly educated about the benefits of ASL or the Deaf Community.[22] This is seen by many members of the Deaf Community as cultural and linguistic genocide.[23]


Linguicism, of course, applies to written, spoken, or signed languages. The quality of a book or article may be judged by the language in which it is written. In the scientific community, for example, those who evaluated a text in two language versions, English and the national Scandinavian language, rated the English-language version as being of higher scientific content.[24]

The Internet operates a great deal using written language. Readers of a web page, Usenet group, forum post, or chat session may be more inclined to take the author seriously if the written language is spelled and constructed in accordance with the written norms of the standard language.


In contrast to the previous examples of linguistic prejudice, linguistic discrimination involves the actual treatment of individuals based on use of language. Examples may be clearly seen in the workplace, in the advertising industry, and in education systems. For example, some workplaces enforce an English-only policy. This policy is part of a larger political movement in the U.S. where English is being pushed towards being accepted as the official language of the U.S. In the United States, the federal law, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects non-native speakers from being discriminated against in the workplace based on their national origin or use of dialect. There are state laws that also address the protection of non-native speakers, such as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, industries often argue in retrospect that clear, understandable English is often needed in specific work settings in the U.S.[1]


  • Anglophone Cameroonians: the central Cameroonian government has pushed francophonization in the English-speaking regions of the country despite constitutional stipulations on bilingualism.[25] Measures include appointing French-speaking teachers and judges (in regions with Common Law) despite local desires.
  • The Coptic language. At the turn of the 8th century, CaliphAbd al-Malik ibn Marwan decreed that Arabic would replace Koine Greek and Coptic as the sole administrative language. Literary Coptic gradually declined within a few hundred years and suffered violent persecutions, especially under the Mamluks, leading to its virtual extinction by the 17th century.
  • Language policy of the British Empire in Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
  • Basque: Public usage of Basque was restricted in Spain under Franco, 1939 to 1965. Galician and Catalan have similar histories.
  • Kurdish: Kurdish remains banned in Syria as of 2005.[28] Until August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media.[29][30]
  • Vergonha is the term used for the effect of various policies of the French government on its citizens whose mother tongue was one of so-called patois. In 1539, with Article 111 of the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, French (the language of Ile-de-France) became the only official language in the country despite being spoken by only a minority of the population. Use of regional languages, such as those of Southern France (Occitan, Catalan, Basque) and of Breton in education and administration, was prohibited. The French government still has not ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
  • Magyarisation in the 19th-century Kingdom of Hungary.
  • Norwegianization: Former policy carried out by the Norwegian government directed at the Sami and later the Kven people of the Sapmi region in Northern Norway.
  • Germanisation: Prussian discrimination of Western Slavs in the 19th century, such as the removal of the Polish language from secondary (1874) and primary (1886) schools, the use of corporal punishment leading to such events as Września school strike of 1901.
  • Russification: 19th century policies on the territories seized due to partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, such as banning the Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian languages in public places (1864), later (1880s), Polish was banned in schools and offices of Congress Poland. Ukrainian was also discriminated against. Under the Russian Empire there were some attempts in 1899–1917 to make Russian the only official language of Finland.[citation needed] In the Soviet Union, following the phase of Korenizatsiya ("indigenization") and before Perestroika (late 1930s to late 1980s), Russian was termed as "the language of friendship of nations" to the disadvantage of other languages of the Soviet Union.[citation needed]
  • Suppression of Korean during Japanese rule in Korea, 1910 to 1945.
  • Quebec's language policies are controversial because some believe them to represent linguistic discrimination against English speakers while others believe them to necessary to prevent discrimination against French speakers (see Legal dispute over Quebec's language policy).
  • Anti-Chinese legislation in Indonesia
  • Anti-Hungarian Slovak language law
  • Dutch in Belgium after its independence in 1830. French was for a long time the only official language and the sole language of education, administration, law and justice despite Dutch being the language of the majority of the population. This has led to a massive language shift in Brussels, the capital. Discrimination slowly diminished over the decades and formally ended in the 1960s, when the Dutch version of the constitution became equal to the French version.
  • The policy of Ukrainization in post-1991 Ukraine is considered discriminatory towards the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine's Eastern and Southern regions.
  • The brutality and linguicism against Tamils in Sri Lanka that took the lives of thousands of Tamil lives because of the language they spoke. This was rooted from "The Sinhala Only Act", formerly the Official Language Act No. 33 of 1956, that was passed in the Parliament of Ceylon in 1956. Black July was the peak of the violence against Tamils in 1983.[31]
  • South Africa: Carolyn McKinley[32] is highly critical of the language policy in the South African educational system, which she describes as 'anglonormatif', because the increasing anglicisation becomes 'normative' in the education system. The universities of Pretoria, Free State and Unisa want to anglicise completely. Stellenbosch University has accepted a language policy that considers Afrikaans speakers and their language to be inferior.[33] Constitutional law expert and Stellenbosch University alumni Pierre de Vos says : any university language policy that directly or indirectly excludes non-Afrikaans speakers (because some courses are only taught in Afrikaans) would not comply with section 29(2) of the Constitution. On the other hand, section 29(2) of the Constitution does not guarantee equality as it states that "everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions such as schools or universities, but qualifies this by stating that this can only occur "where that education is reasonably practicable".
  • China: In the 2000s the Chinese government began promoting the use of Mandarin Chinese in areas where Cantonese is spoken. In 2010 this gave rise to the Guangzhou Television Cantonese controversy. This has also been a point of contention with Hong Kong, which is located in the general area where Cantonese is spoken. Cantonese has become a means of asserting Hong Kong's political identity as separate from mainland China.

Carolyn McKinley[34] is critical of a dominant language because it does not only discriminate against speakers of other languages, it also disadvantages monolinguists because they remain monolingual.[33] Instead of using the indigenous languages along with the colonial languages, as McKinley also advocates, most African states still use the colonial language as the primary medium of instruction.[33] Furthermore, in authoritative reports by Unesco, it was found that the use of the former colonial languages in Africa benefited only the elite and disadvantaged the bulk of the populations.[33] Although English has global meaning as a language of discourse, it is not a neutral, unbiased instrument as it leads too much to a culture-dependent perspective in thinking and talking by the use of culturally bound value concepts, often being invisible value judgments and frames of reference inherent to and shaped by “Anglo culture”, according to Anna Wierzbicka.[34]

See also[edit]


  • Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (1988), Multilingualism and the education of minority children. 


  • Skutnabb-Kangas et al. (eds.), Linguistic human rights: overcoming linguistic discrimination, Walter de Gruyter (1995), ISBN 3-11-014878-1.
  • R. Wodak and D. Corson (eds.), Language policy and political issues in education, Springer, ISBN 0-7923-4713-7.

External links[edit]

Nationalists on Corsica sometimes spray-paint or shoot traffic signs carrying the official toponyms, leaving only the Corsican language toponyms
  1. ^ abThe Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, & the ACLU Foundation of North California (2002). Language Discrimination: Your Legal Rights.
  2. ^Quoted in Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove, and Phillipson, Robert, "'Mother Tongue': The Theoretical and Sociopolitical Construction of a Concept." In Ammon, Ulrich (ed.) (1989). Status and Function of Languages and Language Varieties, p. 455. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter & Co. ISBN 3-11-011299-X.
  3. ^Bresnahan, M. J., Ohashi, R., Nebashi, R., Liu, W. Y., & Shearman, S. M. (2002). Attitudinal and affective response toward accented English. Language and Communication, 22, 171–185.
  4. ^
  5. ^Bradac, J. J. (1990). Language attitudes and impression formation. In H. Giles & W. P. Robinson (Eds.), Handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 387–412). London: John Wiley.
  6. ^Jaspal, R. (2009). Language and social identity: a psychosocial approach. Psych-Talk, 64, 17-20.
  7. ^Schütz, H.; Six, B. (1996). "How strong is the relationship between prejudice and discrimination? A meta-analytic answer". International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 20 (3–4): 441–462. doi:10.1016/0147-1767(96)00028-4. 
  8. ^Whitley, B.E., & Kite, M.E. (2010) The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination. Ed 2. pp.379-383. Cencage Learning: Belmont.
  9. ^ abRichard Y. Bourhis & Pierre Foucher, "Bill 103: Collective Rights and the declining vitality of the English-speaking communities of Quebec ", Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, Version 3, November 25, 2010
  10. ^Louis N. Christofides & Robert Swidinsky, "The Economic Returns to the Knowledge and Use of a Second Official Language: English in Quebec and French in the Rest-of-Canada"[permanent dead link], Canadian Public Policy – Analyse de Politiques Vol. XXXVI, No. 2 2010
  11. ^ abMichele Gazzola, Multilingual communication for whom? Language policy and fairness in the European Union, European Union Politics, 2016, Vol. 17(4) 546–569
  12. ^Coupland, N. (1999). "Sociolinguistic Prevarication About 'Standard English'" Review article appearing in Tony Bex and Richard J. Watts (eds) Standard English: the Widening Debate London:Routledge
  13. ^Lippi-Green, R. (2012) English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the U.S.. Second revised, expanded edition. New York: Routledge.
  14. ^Dicker, Susan J. (2nd ed., 2003). Languages in America: A Pluralist View, pp. 7-8. Multilingual Matters Ltd. ISBN 1-85359-651-5.
  15. ^Berke, Jame (January 30, 2017). "Deaf History - Milan 1880". Very Well. Archived from the original on 1 January 1970. Retrieved May 12, 2017. 
  16. ^Traynor, Bob (June 1, 2016). "The International Deafness Controversy of 1880". Hearing Health and Technology Matters. 
  17. ^"Milan Conference of 1880". Weebly. 
  18. ^Stewart, David A.; Akamatsu, C. Tane (1988-01-01). "The Coming of Age of American Sign Language". Anthropology & Education Quarterly. 19 (3): 235–252. doi:10.1525/aeq.1988.19.3.05x1559y. JSTOR 3195832. 
  19. ^"ASL as a Foreign Language Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2017-03-27. 
  20. ^Rosen, Russell S. (2008-01-01). "American Sign Language as a Foreign Language in U.S. High Schools: State of the Art". The Modern Language Journal. 92 (1): 10–38. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00684.x. JSTOR 25172990. 
  21. ^ abHyde, Merv; Punch, Renée; Komesaroff, Linda (2010-01-01). "Coming to a Decision About Cochlear Implantation: Parents Making Choices for their Deaf Children". Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 15 (2): 162–178. doi:10.1093/deafed/enq004. JSTOR 42659026. 
  22. ^ abCrouch, Robert A. (1997-01-01). "Letting the Deaf Be Deaf Reconsidering the Use of Cochlear Implants in Prelingually Deaf Children". The Hastings Center Report. 27 (4): 14–21. doi:10.2307/3528774. JSTOR 3528774. 
  23. ^ abSKUTNABB-KANGAS, TOVE; Solomon, Andrew; Skuttnab-Kangas, Tove (2014-01-01). Deaf Gain. Raising the Stakes for Human Diversity. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 492–502. doi:10.5749/j.ctt9qh3m7.33#page_scan_tab_contents. ISBN 9780816691227. 
  24. ^Jenkins, Jennifer (2003). World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students, p. 200. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25805-7.
  25. ^Foretia, Denis (21 March 2017). "Cameroon continues its oppression of English speakers". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 May 2017. 
  26. ^Arnove, R. F.; Graff, H. J. National Literacy Campaigns: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781489905055. Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  27. ^Primary education: a report of the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland, Scottish Education Department 1946, p. 75
  28. ^Repression of Kurds in Syria is widespread (pdf), Amnesty International Report, March 2005.
  29. ^Special Focus Cases: Leyla Zana, Prisoner of ConscienceArchived 2005-05-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^Kurdish performers banned, Appeal from International PENArchived 2012-01-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^
  32. ^Associate professor in the education department of the University of Cape Town and author of 'Language and Power in Post-Colonial Schooling: Ideologies in Practice'
  33. ^ abcdEbbe Dommisse, Single dominant tongue keeps inequality in place, 16th November 2016. The Business Day
  34. ^ abAnna Wierzbicka, Professor of Linguistics, Australian National University and author of 'Imprisoned by English, The Hazards of English as a Default Language, written in Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), the universally convertible currency of communication, that can serve as a common auxiliaryinter-language for speakers of different languages and a global means for clarifying, elucidating, storing, and comparing ideas” (194) (book review)

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