Language Choice, Linguistic Capital and Symbolic Domination in the European Union
The current linguistic regime in the institutions of the European Union is highly complex. The EU considers that equal status for its official languages goes to the heart of what the Union is all about. Actually, the member states are not willing to grant another language recognition. Bourdieu’s publication Language and Symbolic Power (1992) helps explain this unwillingness: an official language can be considered as “linguistic capital” which affords its holders “symbolic power”. On the other hand, when new countries join the European Union it is not inconceivable that, for reasons of a utilitarian and financial-economic nature, there will be a shift in favour of the exclusively institutional use of English in the long term. Bourdieu’s analysis of the mechanisms which underlie the process of linguistic unification during the construction of the French nation state in the nineteenth century answers the question whether the mechanisms which led to the use of French as common language for France also apply to the language choice in the EU.
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