Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Tony Anderson/Getty Images

Linguicism is discrimination based on language or dialect: linguistically argued racism. It's also known as linguistic discrimination. The term was coined in the 1980s by linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, who defined linguicism as "ideologies and structures that are used to legitimate, effectuate and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources between groups which are defined on the basis of language."

Examples and Observations

  • "English linguistic imperialism is one sub-type of linguicism. Linguistic imperialism on the part of the speakers of any language exemplifies linguicism. Linguicism may be in operation simultaneously with sexism, racism, or classism, but linguicism refers exclusively to ideologies and structures where language is the means for effecting or maintaining an unequal allocation of power and resources. This could apply, for instance, in a school in which the mother tongues of some children, from an immigrant or indigenous minority background, are ignored, and this has consequences for their learning. Linguicism is also in operation if a teacher stigmatizes the local dialect spoken by the children and this has consequences of a structural kind, that is, there is an unequal division of power and resources as a result."
    (Robert Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • "Systemic linguicism may appear whenever the official education framework impedes individuals belonging to a particular language group in the exercise of rights enjoyed by other students. Moreover, discrimination may take place whenever the state without an objective and reasonable justification fails to treat differently persons whose linguistic situations are significantly different. On the other hand, a government that has no comprehensive data on the linguistic composition of the state population scarcely can provide evidence for the objectiveness of its language policy. . . .
    "[F]undamentally, linguicism is a matter of depriving people of power and influence due to their language."
    (Päivi Gynther, Beyond Systemic Discrimination. Martinus Nijhoff, 2007)
  • Overt and Covert Linguicism
    - "There are different forms of linguicism. Overt linguicism is exemplified by the prohibition of the use of particular languages for instruction. Covert linguicism is illustrated by de facto non use of certain languages as languages of instruction, even if their use is not explicitly forbidden."
    (William Velez, Race and Ethnicity in the United States: An Institutional Approach. Rowman and Littlefield, 1998)
    - "Linguicism can be open (the agent does not try to hide it), conscious (the agent is aware of it), visible (it is easy for non-agents to detect), and actively action oriented (as opposed to 'merely' attitudinal). Or it can be hidden, unconscious, invisible, and passive (lack of support rather than active opposition), typical of later phases in the development of minority education."
    (Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Linguistic Genocide in Education, or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000)
  • Promotion of Prestige Varieties of English
    "[I]n English teaching, varieties deemed more 'native-like' are promoted as more prestigious for learners while 'localized' varieties are stigmatized and suppressed (see Heller and Martin-Jones 2001). For example, in many post-colonial countries like Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and India, schools insist on teaching British or American English. The varieties used in everyday life, such as Sri Lankan, Chinese, or Indian English are censored from classroom use."
    (Suresh Canagarajah and Selim Ben Said, "Linguistic Imperialism." The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics, ed. by James Simpson. Routledge, 2011)

See also:

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Linguicism." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Linguicism. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Linguicism." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).