Language surveillance: pressure to follow local models of speakerhood among Latinx students in Madrid

Martín Rojo, L. and Márquez Reiter, R. (2019). Language surveillance: pressure to follow local models of speakerhood among Latinx students in Madrid. International Journal of the Sociology of Language(257) pp. 17–48.



In this article, we examine the language surveillance – both self and externally imposed – experienced by Madrid university students of Latin American origin in their encounters with the local population in educational settings. A pattern of language surveillance emerges in the interviews held with these students. It consists of hierarchical observation, normalising judgment and interrogation. These three reported practices are related to the following linguistic and non-linguistic resources that make surveillance possible, namely a) indexicality, especially with regard to phonological distinctions that index speakers as ‘local’ vs. ‘non-local’ or ‘native’ vs. ‘non-native’; b) the invoking of disciplinary and prescriptive linguistic knowledge, together with the application of a colonial episteme whereby the metropolitan norm prevails, thus denying non-metropolitan speakers their right to language ownership; and, c) the management of power within interactions. By these means, varieties and speakers of Spanish are hierarchised and those that differ from locals are positioned as subaltern others. Language surveillance is a disciplinary power technique that prompts speakers to adapt to the centripetal force exerted by the reproduction of this knowledge. Finally, the paper examines the extent to which this stylistic move to adapt, could be considered an example of “muda” given that these shifts are situational and relational and attend to the different social demands of the communicative settings where the practice is observed.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions