Decentrigi la lingvon en mondsistema esplorado

Translated title of the contribution: Decentering language in world-system inquiry

Thomas Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article examines the development of and response to world-system theory in language-policy studies. Rejecting national-functional explanations for the international use of English, French, Russian and other languages associated with developed nations, certain language-policy scholars propose the concept of "linguistic imperialism." Basing their arguments in world-system theory, these scholars suggest that hegemonic "core" groups promote their languages in "periphery" settings through educational-assistance programs; the subsequent use of core languages in the periphery facilitates the international movement of real and symbolic capital and the establishment and maintenance of relations beneficial to core groups. World-system theory's emergence in language-policy studies has been criticized by scholars from diverse epistemological positions. Some critics raise predictable concerns about the complex and contradictory nature of world-system inquiry. Other critics point to world-system theory's determinism: in attempting to force linguistic imperialism into a universal theory of language and international structural relations, world-system scholars ignore many instances where hegemonic core groups invoked indigenous or third languages in attempts to manipulate relations with periphery groups. Labeling this latter dynamic "linguistic pragmatism", this article calls for a reappraisal of linguistic imperialism and for attention in language-policy inquiry to the factors informing linguistic preference in hegemonic educational-assistance programming.World-system theory has recently gained currency in language-policy studies as a means of explaining the use of international languages in education in developing countries. Rejecting explanations based on national-level and functional assumptions, certain scholars argue that the contemporary status of languages such as English and French in education in "periphery" nations results from purposeful promotion by "core" enterprises and, further, that the use of these languages facilitates the movement of real and symbolic capital in the world-system to the advantage of core groups. Central to language-policy inquiry in the world-system tradition is "linguistic imperialism," a concept with a long history but currently most associated with Robert Phillipson (1992).

Translated title of the contributionDecentering language in world-system inquiry
Original languagePortuguese
Pages (from-to)133-156
Number of pages24
JournalLanguage Problems and Language Planning
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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