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Academic Paper

Title: Language testing and citizenship: A language ideological debate in Sweden
Author: Tommaso M. Milani
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of the Witwatersrand
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Swedish
Abstract: This article explores a public debate that took place in Sweden in 2002 in relation to the Swedish Liberal Party's proposal to introduce a language test for naturalization. On the basis of textual analysis of relevant policy documents and newspaper articles, it examines the explicit and implicit facets of an ideology of language testing. It is argued that a seemingly liberal, anti-racist, and anti-discriminatory ideology is emerging, which, in its explicit facet, calls for the introduction of a language test for citizenship as a practical way of diminishing social differentiation. However, drawing upon Bourdieu's notion of rites of institution, it is shown that such a test would actually contribute to, rather than challenge, the reproduction of social differentiation, thereby legitimizing the exclusion of certain groups from both the civic and symbolic domains of Sweden as a nation-state.


This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 37, Issue 1.

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