LINGUIST List 23.4973

Wed Nov 28 2012

Review: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics: Duchene & Heller (2011)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 28-Nov-2012
From: Philip Duncan <>
Subject: Language in Late Capitalism
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Book announced at

Editor: Alexandre DuchêneEditor: Monica HellerTitle: Language in Late CapitalismSubtitle: Pride and ProfitSeries Title: Routledge Critical Studies in MultilingualismPublisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)Year: 2011

Reviewer: Philip T. Duncan, University of Kansas

EDITORS: Duchêne, Alexandre and Heller, MonicaTITLE: Language in Late CapitalismSUBTITLE: Pride and ProfitSERIES TITLE: Routledge Critical Series in MultilingualismPUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)YEAR: 2011

Philip T. Duncan, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas


The first in a new series on multilingualism, “Language in Late Capitalism:Pride and Profit” argues that the last three decades have witnessed theemergence of new discourses relating to language and identity. Rather thandisplacing nationalistic-type discourses, the contributors to this volumedemonstrate that discourses within this recent period, identified as latecapitalism, are increasingly characterized by two interwoven tropes, “pride”and “profit.” Their interaction creates a nexus of nationalism, globalization,and neoliberalism. The authors of “Language in Late Capitalism” demonstratethat these old and new discourses are not only “intertwined in complex ways”(Heller & Duchêne, this volume: 3), they are co-constitutive and “inextricablylinked” (Heller & Bell, this volume: 167). This book provides a broad array ofnew approaches to language, identity, and power that suggest expandingtraditional sociolinguistic methods in unique ways to account for noveldiscourses marked by economic terms and ideologies.

Chapter 1, written by editors Monica Heller and Alexandre Duchêne, serves asan introduction both to the volume’s overarching and “co-constitutive” themesof “pride” and “profit” as well as a general theoretical guide to each of theindividual papers included. “Pride” is here understood in nationalistic terms,as a “product of the modern nation-state”(Heller & Duchêne, this volume: 4)that functions as a means of self-legitimization, structuring, contestation,(re)imagination, and maintenance. “Profit” is viewed in economic terms, andoften relates to how linguistic adeptness can be exploited in theglobalized/globalizing market. Heller and Duchêne consider “pride” and“profit” to be “keywords” in the sense of McElhinny (2007), that is, associally consequential and contested loci. These operate as central tropes inthis volume because the authors propose that a current shift, which firstbegan in the 1990s, is taking place in discourses on language and culture.Heller and Duchêne maintain that this shift represents a break from formerhegemony and is uniquely distinguished by the discursive construction oflanguage in economic terms, such as “added value.” Consequently, thecentrality of language, and, in particular, linguistic variability andmultilingualism, is a core feature of late capitalism. Moreover, Heller andDuchêne argue that the economic shift vis à vis language are characterized byfive “interconnected processes”: “the saturation of markets,” “expansion,”“distinction” or “added value,” “tertiarization,” and “flexibilization.” Thischapter also introduces the concept of “linguistic taylorism,” which issalient throughout the book. Drawing from Frederick W. Taylor’s (1911) conceptof scientific management, linguistic taylorism involves commodifying andmanaging language for market efficiency.

In Chapter 2, Susan Gal analyzes European Union policies and individualreactions to such (as described in ethnographic reports) to show how “pride”and “profit” play a critical role in forming an ideology of differentiation ina suprastate institutional setting. In this chapter, Gal draws conceptuallyfrom her previous work on linguistic differentiation (Gal & Irvine, 1995;Irvine & Gal, 2001). Rather than situating “pride” and “profit” as entirelyinnovative tropes in the landscape of late capitalism, she traces theirhistory and continued discursive salience from eighteenth century Europeannation-state discourses, through processes of monolingual standardization inthe nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to more recent counter-hegemonicprojects aiming at promoting multilingualism. Attending to historical changein the end foregrounds continuity, which Gal demonstrates by showing how“fractal recursion” -- the projecting of oppositions like “pride”/“profit” --resurfaces in iterations. Accordingly, as Gal notes, “the ‘pride’/‘profit’axis is very broadly distributed” (Gal, this volume: 35), which she evidencesby drawing from texts in various spaces, times, and social strata. Attendingto history also enables Gal to maintain that there is no direct link between“processes of late capitalism” and “linguistic practices and policies” (22).Instead, she argues that language ideologies in the form of tropes and frames“mediate between political economy and linguistic practices” (22). Herchapter portrays language diversity in tension in two ways. For example, thelinguistic forms used to construct “pride” and “profit” are creatively andoppositionally valued along what Gal terms an “axis of differentiation” (24)that “creates contrasting values and posits linguistic forms that index them”(40). The contrastive nature of linguistic terms on opposite poles of the axispertains to a unique semiotic organization, which means that “languageideologies have a logic of their own that requires analytical attention” (40).

Chapter 3, by Alfonso del Percio and Alexandre Duchêne, is based on theanalysis of a single setting in a single text: the St. Jakob-Park football(i.e., soccer for U.S. readers) stadium as portrayed in the 2010 promotionalDVD for Football Club Basel in Switzerland. From their analysis, Del Percioand Duchêne propose that language in this context plays a critical role in“struggles” (Del Percio & Duchêne, this volume: 44) for identity andauthenticity, as well as nurturing “pride” and generating “profit.” As theyindicate, the site that Del Percio and Duchêne choose for their analysis is ofparticular interest in examining the role of language in late capitalismbecause the increased commercialization of football from the club’s recentsuccess has stimulated new discourses and practices on identity and legitimacy(i.e. ,“pride”) and generated new economic interests (i.e., “profit”). Here,the local and non-/trans-local exist together in tension in unique ways.

Chapter 4 is based on Jacqueline Urla’s analysis of her ethnographic researchon the Basque language revival movement in Spain, which investigates asomewhat unpredicted outcome of globalization; instead of experiencing auniversal trend toward linguistic homogeneity, some minority languagecommunities are experiencing increased legitimacy. However, it is not thisfact alone but the processes that informed such a shift that makes thephenomenon of interest for the present volume. Urla looks at discourses onlanguage advocacy to show that the shift in favor of minority languages has adistinctly capitalistic flair. That is, Basque language advocates began toappropriate neoliberal political ideologies and consider “[t]he logics ofmarkets and entrepreneurialism” to be “fully transferrable frameworks” (Urla,this volume: 75) for actualizing language revival. Urla terms the activists’work “Total Quality language revival” (77) because she traces how revivalistsintegrated “labor management techniques” (74) from Total Quality Management(i.e., a “managerial strategy” [74] that emerged in the 1980s) into theirlanguage planning. Her analysis also shows that the directionality ofmarket-based approaches to Basque language revival was bottom-up;grassroots/populist movements first adopted neoliberal strategies, whicheventually came to be utilized in official government policy.

In Chapter 5, Joan Pujolar and Kathryn Jones look at how Catalonian uses oflanguage, literature, and landscape work in concert to create nationalidentity through heritage practices, in particular, tourism. Pujolar and Joneshighlight the “ambivalent and contradictory ways” (Pujolar, this volume: 94)in which the tropes of “pride” and “profit” are constructed in this context:Catalan tourist sites function both as a means of commodifying local identityfor global consumption while simultaneously “resist[ing] the patterns oflinguistic practice” that globalization brings about (93-94). Similar to thechapter by Susan Gal, Pujolar and Jones explore the historical context ofCatalan heritage social practices, which reveals that the transformation ofland into landscape for purposes of commodification and identity constructionhave a rich history deeply interwoven with economic development. ThoughPujolar and Jones note that Catalan tourist sites share properties with othersites around the world, such as being “space[s] where images of the territoryare produced, distributed, and consumed,” still, they identify an intimaterelationship that holds between Catalan literary sites and Catalan “culturalnationalism” (112). Since the Catalan sites are embedded in and represent“traditional forms of belonging” (112), they face the challenge of beingrelegated to the margin due to the demands of a globalized marketplacecharacterized by multilingualism.

In Chapter 6, Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese explore the construction,maintenance, and transformation of nationalistic “Bengaliness” within fourpostmigration diasporic contexts in English complementary schools. Blackledgeand Creese orient toward “pride” and “profit” in relation to (and as means ofachieving) distinction. That is, they argue that “pride” in the language ofthe “homeland,” which is ascribed with degrees of value as a set of linguisticresources, can engender distinction by forming a hierarchy of resources basedon legitimacy. This, in turn, relates to notions of access, as migrants whoare able to tap into the capital of higher value linguistic resources (asforms of national pride) “gain a ‘profit of distinction’ over others”(Blackledge & Creese, this volume: 117). Blackledge and Creese contend,however, that individual migrants and communities of migrants are not solelyresponsible for legitimizing some linguistic resources while delegitimizingothers. Indeed, the state can also contribute to the attribution of value,legitimacy, and, therefore, distinction.

Michelle Daveluy’s contribution in Chapter 7 stems from her researchinglanguage use in a military context, specifically, two Canadian Navy bases.Daveluy demonstrates that two constraints shape dynamic language use on Navyships, both in times of war and peace. On the one hand, the Canadian Forcesare legally compelled to implement Canada’s official policy on bilingualism.On the other hand, military personnel are constrained by the need to maximizeefficiency, which results in communication that is “focused, and more globallyoriented” (Daveluy, this volume: 143). This latter point is additionallyinfluenced by contextual (here, in the sense of socio-political andhistorical) factors. In the post-Cold War era, the military acquired abusiness management approach to basic administration that emphasizedprofitability. The two tropes of “pride” and “profit” -- importantly appearingtogether in the military context, and not just “pride” alone, as Daveluy notesmight be expected -- relate to these constraining factors in the followingways. When “the logic of ethnonationalism,” that is, national pride includingboth Francophone and Anglophone identities, is prominent, bilingualism reignsand is viewed as a valuable asset (156). Alternatively, when situationsrequire that “the logic of military security and the logic of rationalmanagement” prevail, so does monolingualism (156). Still, it should be notedthat the roles of “pride” and “profit” are not exclusionary. As Daveluy pointsout, “pride in national order sustains profitable management of language usein the context of military operations” (143).

Monica Heller and Lindsay Bell also analyze Canadian discourses in Chapter 8.They follow the lineage of “pride” and “profit” as they originate from aniconic symbol of Canadian national identity, an early twentieth century novelthat created a foundation for ideologies of nation, nature, and place. Theseideologies also informed and inform “the ethnolinguistic categorization thatorganizes [Canadian] society” (Heller & Bell, this volume: 163). Heller andBell maintain that the novel’s influence still persists, but that therelationship between past and present does not here entail immutability withregard to how the two tropes function across time. Earlier discoursesreproduced “an image of fixed, rooted and homogeneous communities” (162).However, the (re)production of these discourses depended on a “gendered andclassed process of erasure of the labor mobility required for communityreproduction” (162), which engendered lasting contradictions (for example,regarding Francophone identity and how it is marketed) that are now beingresisted. Heller and Bell demonstrate, from working with Francophone workersand residents of two urban centers in the Northwest Territories, that presentdiscourses are turning the old “fragile fiction of fixed community” (163) onits head in ways that are unevenly distributed. The contestation of previousdiscourses produces sites “where pride-profit related tensions emerge” (178).For Heller and Bell, the tensions and contradictions they observed signal twopossible outcomes: the repackaging of older versions of “gender, class, andFrenchness”; or, more optimistically, “the capacity to undermine futurereproductions of the mobility/fixity contradiction and its concomitanttensions” (179).

In Chapter 9, Beatriz P. Lorente analyzes Philippine newspapers and governmentdocuments to understand the function of language use as the Philippines becomea “labor brokerage state,” (Lorente, this volume: 184) that is, one thatdeploys its citizens globally, thus generating profitable return for thenation-state. Her chapter highlights glocalization in the sense that bothglobal and local forces cooperate to shape language use. Lorente details how,in response to globalization, the Philippine government engages in discursivestrategies of legitimization to commodify labor for use in the global market.As we also see in the following chapter, Lorente shows that one way in whichlinguistic taylorism operates is through standardization, wherein linguisticresources of laborers are exploited (for example, by the nation-state) so thatthe “competitive advantage” is maintained and does not diminish.

Josiane Boutet, in Chapter 10, describes the function of language (use) withinthe relationship between “pride” and “profit” in terms of a shift taking placein the period of late capitalism that “has made it possible to rationalize theprocess of articulation” (Boutet, this volume: 223). This shift moves from“languages and language activity” being “sources of pride” to “sources ofprofit” (208). Boutet makes this shift visible by orienting toward “threebroad historical configurations [/‘assemblages’] of the language part ofwork”: (1) the incompatibility of language(s) and work; (2) theindustrialization of language at work, which developed in the late 19thcentury; and (3) the current configuration characterized by “extrememerchandizing” of language faculties (208-209). Among the principal socialactors that emerge through the “managerial” shift that Boutet examines arethose that she calls “language workers” (208). These are human laborers whoselinguistic abilities come to the fore and are exploited in a globalized marketthat expects integration of language activity into work to enable heightenedeconomic benefit. For example, Boutet discusses an increase in “teleworking”as part of the globalization enterprise, which has significant social,economic, and linguistic dimensions (216). Bi- and pluri-lingualism, as wellas “extreme standardization of vocal productions” encouraged by managementthrough training, play a central role in achieving profitability in telework’sglobal expansion (217).

The closing chapter, by Bonnie McElhinny, provides not only a critique of theuse of the keyword “community of practice” (CofP) in business domains, butalso a self-reflexive critique of its use in the social sciences, particularlyin sociolinguistics. Within post-structuralist approaches, McElhinny comesfrom the framework of material feminism to highlight fluctuations of identityand how they are rooted in “historical shifts in the production of life underlate capitalism” (McElhinny, this volume: 230, from Hennessey & Ingraham,1997: 9). She proposes that “elaborating the value of CofP becomes theelaboration of certain ideologies” in the corporate world as well as inacademia (232). For the former, this can mean establishing a competitiveadvantage and increasing marketability through functions like “socializingnovices” and enabling “innovation” (237). For the latter, CofP may have afunction of understanding the construction of language and social relationsand differences from a practice-based perspective. McElhinny sees CofPoperating differently in business circles in comparison to academic ones, but,importantly, she does not see them as entirely distinct. She rejects the claimthat corporations hijacked CofP from social scientists, although she does notexplicitly suggest the opposite is more tenable. Instead, McElhinny orientsherself toward bidirectional influences between the academic and corporatespheres, which entails that these domains and arenas of practice are not“mutually uninfluential” (243). Ultimately, she proposes a reevaluation ofCofP as an analytic concept, noting that the perpetuation of this phrase inacademic realms can actually reify capitalistic ideologies (that researchersmay seek to transform) and be complicit in reproducing power inequalities.


Viewed collectively, the authors effectively demonstrate the immensely complexnature of how “pride” and “profit” function, and also reveal how richly andpowerfully pervasive these tropes are. Indeed, “pride” and “profit” aredepicted as saturating multiple layers of social organization and linguisticpractice. Each of the chapters in “Language in Late Capitalism” exhibits astrong tendency toward inter- and transdisciplinary research, as well as abroad array of methodologies from a post-structuralist perspective (e.g.,ethnography, participant observation, qualitative interviews, discourseanalysis, and feminist sociolinguistics).

In each of the contributions to this volume, the authors succeed incontextualizing their analyses, especially with regard to history. Tending todiachronic change and trends has several important upshots. For example,addressing historical issues as they relate to specific issues in particularlocations buttresses the overall argumentation as well as provides the readerwith a better grasp of how the relationships between language, language use,identity, and economy play out in diverse ways across time and space. Becausediscourses and discourse topics fluctuate, the historical aspects of eachchapter illuminate how and when relevant ideologies emerged, ultimatelyengendering transformations regarding language and language use. In otherwords, the authors make discursive transitions -- and the complex interactionsunderlying these transitions -- visible. Although the case studies includedare somewhat limited in scope (a point which the editors explicitly note), thedetailed case-specific histories exemplify the need for delineatingdistinctive factors that affect the ways in which “pride” and “profit” playout in specific language communities.

Additionally, developing a historical narrative serves to counter twopotential criticisms. On the one hand, when considering the volume as a whole,“pride” and “profit” seem so powerful, so influential, and so encompassingthat, at times, they appear to be empty categories. That is, they almostappear to be doing too much work such that anything remotely having to do withnational identity becomes “pride” while, similarly, anything remotely havingto do with economy and market is labeled “profit.” However, the authorsmitigate this problem by providing rich attention to historical narrative.Moreover, this ultimately contributes to a strength of the overall argument bypresenting strong, detailed evidence suggesting that language in latecapitalism is indeed multifarious and complex, and this means that the waylanguage plays out in relation to “pride” and “profit” are vast. Secondly,without rich, diachronic corpus data to support Duchêne and Heller’s principalclaim that there is a major discursive shift that emerged in the 1990s, thisclaim initially comes across as an assumptive assertion. Again, though, theindividual histories in each chapter supply a strong rationale for acceptingthe claim, as they demonstrate how context-dependent social, cultural,economic, and linguistic elements contributed to create distinctiveconfigurations in the period they call “late capitalism.”

This volume is most suited for upper-level graduate students and researcherswith backgrounds in sociolinguistics and a good grasp of economics, processesof globalization, and Bourdieusian Social Theory. Because of its prominentinterdisciplinary and methodological diversity, scholars outside ofsociolinguistics (and even the social sciences) may find it of benefit, aswell. Perhaps one of the strongest attributes of the volume as a whole is itsability to maintain a unifying theme without adopting an overly-dogmaticstance in terms of pushing a unified theory. As a result, the authors offertheir own analyses as models for continued investigation and critique, thusopening possibilities for continued fruitful research.


Gal, Susan & Irvine, Judith T. 1995. The boundaries of languages anddisciplines: How ideologies construct difference. Social Research, 62(4),966-1001.

Hennessey, Rosemary & Ingraham, Chrys. 1997. Introduction: Reclaiminganticapitalist feminism. In H. Rosemary & C. Ingraham, (eds.), MaterialFeminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women’s Lives. New York:Routledge, 1- 14.

Irvine, Judith T. & Gal, Susan. 2001. Language ideology and linguisticdifferentiation. In P. Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of Language. Santa Fe, NM:School of American Research Press, 35-84.

McElhinny, Bonnie. 2007. Language, gender and economies in global transitions:Provocative and provoking questions about how gender is articulated. In B.McElhinny (ed.), Words, Worlds, Material Girls: Language and Gender in aGlobal Economy. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1-38.

Taylor, Frederick W. 1913. Principles of Scientific Management. New York:Harper & Brothers. (Original work published 1911)


Philip T. Duncan holds an M.A. in Indigenous Studies and is a graduate studentin Linguistics at the University of Kansas. His research interests includelanguage and ideology, discourse and memory, and the linguistic representationof Indigenous peoples, especially in non-Indigenous contexts. He is currentlyinvestigating how representation and remembering function in Christian Zionistdiscourses from a critical discourse analytic perspective.

Page Updated: 28-Nov-2012