Linguicism is language discrimination or language racism, the discrimination of speakers of a certain language.


The target may be the speakers' native language or certain features that are associated with that language e.g. an accent when speaking another language, mostly a more dominant language in a certain society. As a term, linguicism was coined by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (1988). 

Linguicism refers to ideologies and structures which lead to unequal divisions of power and resources. It gives undue preference to speaker communities of the dominant language and discriminates speaker communities of minority languages, on the basis of prejudice and stereotyping.

It is a product of ideologies of the superiority of standard languages. Linguicism takes place on the base of language subordination, the idea that one language (or language variety) is better than others are (Lippi-Green 1997). A logical consequence of this sort of discriminative behavior is verbal hygiene (Cameron 1995). It refers to the “[…] motley collection of discourses and practices through which people attempt to ‘clean up’ language and make its structure or its use conform more closely to their ideals of beauty, truth, efficiency, logic, correctness and civility” (Cameron 1995).

In language ideologies, following the norms of educated literacy is very influential. In various situations where power relations play an important role (education, mass media, language planning and policy), the standard language more or less has a monopoly position.

Naturally, the standard language therefore has high overt prestige: a language is a dialect with an army and navy, as Max Weinreich put it. Vernaculars and their natural dynamics and diversities are often found different, deviating and deficient.

This gives regional and ethnic minority languages low overt prestige. Siemon Reker therefore proclaimed: a dialect is a language with bad luck.


Cameron, D. (1995) Verbal Hygiene. London & New York: Routledge.

Lippi-Green, R. (1997) English with an accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. London & New York: Routledge.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1988) "Multilingualism and the education of minority children." Minority Education: From Shame to Struggle. 9-44.