Elite Multilingualism. Discourses, practices, and debates

Elisabeth Barakos, Charlotte Selleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the introduction to the special issue ‘Elite Multilingualism: Discourses, practices, and debates’, we focus on ‘elite multilingualism’ as a means to provide a window into the complex layers and nuances of today's multilingual, mobile and global society. Our aims here are to provide an empirical and conceptual discussion of a growing language-centred elitism. We also aim to expand current scholarship on the construction, valuation and instrumentalisation of multilingualism, and its consequences for the formation of social boundaries and inequalities. We first discuss major concepts such as the notion of elite/ness and multilingualism, commodification, authenticity and hierarchies and the linguistic market in a global knowledge economy. We also discuss the critical sociolinguistic, discourse and ethnographic approaches that frame this special issue and go on to outline the diverse manifestations of elite multilingualism in different educational and social settings. Finally, we conclude by reflecting on the value of the concept of elite multilingualism as a social practice, and argue for the importance of examining the lived experience of multilinguals on the ground.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-374
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number5
Early online date17 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development on 17/1/2019, available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/01434632.2018.1543691


  • commodification
  • critical sociolinguistics
  • discourse
  • Elite multilingualism
  • eliteness
  • ethnography


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