The Commodification of Language : Conceptual Concerns and Empirical Manifestations book cover
1st Edition

The Commodification of Language
Conceptual Concerns and Empirical Manifestations

ISBN 9780367464073
Published April 20, 2021 by Routledge
228 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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


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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