Language Education Policy Studies
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Linguistic Hegemony in Schools

Schools remain monolingual, despite societies being multilingual. The term hegemony has been applied when one language is given superior status while other languages are declared inferior for various reasons such as social status, supposed richness and subtlety, economic utility, etc. (see Linguistic Discrimination)


Hegemony is derived from the Ancient Greek word leadership, a term used by Vladimir Lenin and later theorized by Antonio Gramsci (1971), which defines a geopolitical method of indirect imperial dominance. Cultural hegemony characterizes the domination of a diverse society by the ruling class, through manipulations of the belief systems, perceptions and social representation, values and common practices, such that worldviews beneficial to the ruling class are disseminated and accepted as the norm and the dominant value that legitimates the social, political, and economic status quo.


Hegemony is established through persuasion; it “is comprised of three concomitant processes: leadership without force, leadership through legitimation, and leadership through consensual rule” (Suarez, 2002, p.513). Leading groups manufacture mass consent with convincing arguments repeated through propaganda in the media, that demonstrate that some choices are natural, inevitable and beneficial to the social order. Common sense ideologies are proposed such that “minorities will believe in and participate in the subjugation of the minority language to the dominant, to the point where just the dominant language remains” (ibid, p. 514).


Schools then become an important institution to enact linguistic hegemony, persuading either interior minorities or majorities in colonized or dominated countries that their language is associated with a perception of lack of value, ideological and economic inferiority and belittlement. The top hegemonic language is linked to a hierarchy of ideological attributes that create success and pleasure (Phillipson, 1992). (See Language status)


The dominant education institutions are hegemonic forces and the main terrain of acting through language, yet some claim that language is only one terrain for inequities (Heller, 2007) and schools are not responsible, despite children being socialized through language.


Language Hegemony and Counter-Hegemony in the SF Bay Area:


Noam Chomsky on Global hegemony (1hr22):

Websites On Gramsci:

A few references:


Phillipson, Robert (1992). Linguistic Imperialism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Smith. New York: International Publishers.

Mrak, N. Ariana. 2011. Heritage Speakers and the Standard: Fighting Linguistic Hegemony. In Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed. Luis A. Ortiz-López, 161-168. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project., document #2484.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Tochon, F. V. & Harrison, K. M. (2013). Linguistic Hegemony in Schools. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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