The ideological construction of legitimacy for pluricentric standards: Occitan and Catalan in France

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Bourdieu (1991) maintains that the use of ‘legitimate language’ serves to maintain dominant power structures, with legitimacy being determined by a complex array of economic and social conditions inherent in speech communities. Standard languages function as ‘normalised products’ (Bourdieu 1991: 46) and are imbued with a greater degree of legitimacy than non-standard varieties due to the Standard Language Ideology (SLI, cf. Lippi-Green 2012). This leads us to question what happens when a non-dominant language seeks to acquire greater legitimacy and prestige. Can standardisation increase legitimacy for varieties that have been subjected to centuries of political and ideological subordination? What then happens to minority languages when there is not one clear standard, but rather a pluricentric situation with competing solutions? We examine speaker testimonies regarding the role of standardisation, focusing on Occitan and Catalan in France. We show that the discursive construction of legitimacy for standard varieties is frequently contingent on the ideological creation of linguistic difference. We conclude that the application of the SLI to non-dominant language varieties is fraught with problems, and that any attempts to subvert existing hegemony and challenge social order need to address underlying ideologies of linguistic insecurity held by minority language speakers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Early online date26 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2021


  • language standardisation
  • language ideologies
  • minority languages
  • language revitalisation
  • French studies


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