Language Policy

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 261–273 | Cite as

Linguistic Economies: Commentary on Language Policy Special Issue “Policing for Commodification: Turning Communicative Resources into Commodities”

  • Jillian R. Cavanaugh
Original Paper


Although the relationship between language and economic activity has long been a topic of scholarly research, much of it building on the work of Raymond Williams and Pierre Bourdieu, recent attention to the commodification of language and its relationship to global economies and late capitalism moves this conversation in new directions. The articles in this special issue of Language Policy advance this line of inquiry through their shared focus on what happens to languages and their speakers as they move into the realm of commodification. Many of the articles build from Duchêne and Heller’s seminal work theorizing the transformation in how language is valued in the context of new economies. My discussion contextualizes these pieces by linking them to ongoing conversations within linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and aligned fields about the changing role of and potentials for language to be an economic object as well as practice. The growth of neoliberal ideologies and policies has facilitated transformations in the relationships of speakers to their languages, and moved much linguistic activity into the realm of exchange. Building from the specific cases included here, which in large part focus on the moments in which languages and their speakers enter into the market (or fail to), this discussion piece focuses on how linguistic value is produced in moments of production, contexts of circulation, and processes of production, in order to highlight the importance of documenting and analyzing the shifting political economic conditions within which speakers and languages are caught up as well as the choices that face them as they negotiate this complex terrain.


Language commodification Linguistic value Political economy of language 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brooklyn CollegeGraduate Center CUNYBrooklynUSA

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