Linguistic discrimination

Linguistic discrimination (also called glottophobia, linguicism and languagism) is unfair treatment which is based on use of language and characteristics of speech, including first language, accent, perceived size of vocabulary (whether the speaker uses complex and varied words), modality, and syntax.[1] For example, an Occitan-speaker in France will probably be treated differently from a French-speaker.[2] 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, which may lead to discrimination.

In the mid-1980s, linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas captured the idea of language-based discrimination as linguicism, which was defined as "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".[3] 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 preference for one use of language over others.

Scholars have analyzed the role of linguistic imperialism in linguicism, with some asserting that speakers of dominant languages gravitate towards discrimination against speakers of other, less dominant languages, while disadvantaging themselves linguistically by remaining monolingual.[4] According to scholar Carolyn McKinley, this phenomena is most present in Africa, where the majority of the population speaks European languages introduced during the colonial era; African states are also noted as instituting European languages as the main medium of instruction, instead of indigenous languages.[4] UNESCO reports have noted that this has historically only benefitted only the African upper class, conversely disadvantaging the majority of Africa's population who hold varying level of fluency in the European languages spoken across the continent.[4] Scholars have also noted impact of the linguistic dominance of English on academic discipline; scholar Anna Wierzbicka has described disciplines such as social science and humanities being "locked in a conceptual framework grounded in English" which prevents academia as a whole from reaching a "more universal, culture-independent perspective".[5]