Language, Identity and Tourism in Minority Contexts

Joan Pujolar

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain

WS129: Language as social practice in the globalized new economy

In this paper, I shall analyze and compare the position and signification of languages in contemporary tourist activities in three linguistic minority contexts: Catalonia, Wales and (Francophone) Ontario. Languages have not been traditionally treated as an attraction or as having added value in tourist markets, except with respect to the multilingualism required in tourist services. However, during the last 15 years, the rise of cultural tourism has led to the articulation of products where language is constructed as an asset associated with the territory and the artistic and cultural heritage of destinations.

My approach focuses on the new scenarios and discourses on language brought about by globalization. I consider tourism to be a sector of activity where the chances and challenges of globalization become particularly visible. With respect to language, globalization transforms the ways in which industrial societies had managed linguistic diversity and language more generally. The modern paradigm constructed language as an ‘internal element’ that contributed to define the national community and to legitimicize state sovereignty through standardization and linguistic uniformization. Globalization decenters or disarticulates local and national social spaces, imposes multilingualism and diversity and forces linguistic communities to consider the projection of their languages ‘externally’. These processes affect both large and small communities. These transformations trigger changes in the discourses over languages and often lead to contradictions with the traditional identity values. They require social groups to reformulate their political and economic strategies in relation to language and they potentially involve a marketization of identities within global markets.

The data will consist of ethnographic observation, in-depth interviews of actors implicated in tourist and language policies, official documents and web-sites. I shall analyze the role attributed to languages in the tourist portfolios of these destinations, as well as the effective presence of local languages in tourist services as evidence that reveals struggles and contradictions between competing linguistic ideologies furthered by different social groups.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Language as social practice in the globalized new economy
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 03