1st Edition

The Commodification of Language Conceptual Concerns and Empirical Manifestations

Edited By John E. Petrovic, Bedrettin Yazan Copyright 2021
    228 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    228 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume seeks to add to our understanding of how language is constructed in late capitalist societies. Exploring the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of the so-called "commodification of language" and its relationship to the notion of linguistic capital, the authors examine recent research that offers implications for language policy and planning.

    Bringing together an international group of scholars, this collection includes chapters that address whether or not language can rightly be referred to as a commodity and, if so, under what circumstances. The different theoretical foundations of understanding language as a resource with exchange value – whether as commodity or capital – have practical implications for policy writ large. The implications of the "commodification of language" in more empirical terms are explored, both in terms of how it affects language as well as language policy at more micro levels. This includes more specific policy arenas such as language in education policy or family language policies as well as the implications for individual identity construction and linguistic communities.

    With a conclusion written by leading scholar David Block, this is key reading for researchers and advanced students of critical sociolinguistics, language and economy, language and politics, language policy and linguistic anthropology within linguistics, applied linguistics, and language teacher education.

    List of Illustrations

    List of Contributors



    John E. Petrovic & Bedrettin Yazan

    Chapter 1: Confronting Language Fetishism in Practice

    William Simpson & John P. O’Regan

    Chapter 2: Language as Instrument, Resource, and maybe Capital, but not Commodity: A Marxian Clarification

    John E. Petrovic & Bedrettin Yazan

    Chapter 3: Language, Context, and Economic Value: An Interactionist Approach

    Kenneth McGill

    Chapter 4: Misconceptions of Economics and Political Economy in Sociolinguistic Research

    François Grin

    Chapter 5: Between Voice and Voices: Negotiating value among interpreters in Toronto

    Julie H. Tay & Sebastian Muth

    Chapter 6: "A breathtaking English": Negotiating what counts as distinctive linguistic capital at an elite international school near Barcelona

    Andrea Sunyol

    Chapter 7: Language, ethnicity, and tourism in the making of a Himalayan Tamang village

    Bal Krishna Sharma

    Chapter 8: When linguistic capital isn’t enough: personality development and English speakerhood as capital in India

    Katy Highet & Alfonso Del Percio

    Chapter 9: Ideologies of multilingualism as an investment and as a marketable commodity among Greek expat families in Luxembourg

    Nikos Gogonas

    Chapter 10: Names as linguistic capital

    Peter K. W. Tan

    Chapter 11: Ideologies of French and commodification: What does meaning making imply for multilinguals in transnational times?

    Sylvie Roy & Julie Byrd Clark

    Coda: Issues arising around conceptual and empirical work on the commodification of language

    David Block



    John E. Petrovic is Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies at The University of Alabama. He teaches in the areas of philosophy of education and educational policy, with focus on language policy in education. His recent books include A Post-Liberal Approach to Language Policy in Education and Unschooling Critical Pedagogy, Unfixing Schools.

    Bedrettin Yazan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research focuses on language teacher learning and identity, collaboration between ESL and content teachers, language policy and planning, and World Englishes. Methodologically he is interested in critical autoethnography, narrative inquiry, and qualitative case study.

    Nearly two decades after the concept of language commodification first appeared, this fascinating volume takes its theorization and analytical import a step further. Readers will enjoy the intersecting lines of critique and the rich variety of situated studies that discuss the boundaries of the notion for understanding language in late capitalism.

    Eva Codó, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

    This book covers an important topic that has generated substantial controversy in applied linguistics in recent years. I would recommend it for anyone who has an interest in language politics and policy; in particular, scholars and graduate students who may be confused about terms such as ‘commodification of language’ and concepts such as ‘language as power’ will benefit from the detailed analyses and insights provided by the various contributors to this volume. 

    Thomas Ricento, University of Calgary, USA

    One of the interesting aspects of the collection is that the contributors not only cover a broad range of topics but also employ various methods across the empirical chapters.

    Ayako Hiasa, Arizona State University