Globalization, Intensification of Urbanization and Decline of Linguistic Diversity

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Department of Regional Studies, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran

2 PhD in International Relations, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran


The phenomenon of globalization in the present age has caused profound and far-reaching changes in human life. Due to the globalization and expansion of information technology, people are becoming aware of the existence of job opportunities in different parts of a country and the world in a more effective and faster manner. In addition to the spread of more advanced communication technologies, the improvement of transportation systems has made it easy for people to move around. Likewise, the economic dimension of globalization has facilitated the movement of capital and technology across borders, intensified the industrialization of cities, created job opportunities in the industrial and service sectors of cities, and has increased the migration of rural labor to urban areas. All these developments have intensified urbanization, which is not only an increase in the size of population in urban areas, but also a dynamic process that brings with it two types of movement and change: First, the movement and transfer of population from rural to urban areas with changes in functions, especially in economic sphere: Second, Urbanization is accompanied by changes in demographic composition of urban population, lifestyle, value system of individuals, and generally speaking by  cultural changes. In multicultural societies, language as the most important element of cultural identity and the factor of differentiation of groups and individuals is the first element that is endangered in migration to cities. Language as a means of communication is the most important need of people for interaction, so it is also the first cultural element that is affected by migration to cities. Cities usually have a culture of consumption and assimilation; and learning a dominant language facilitates the assimilation process. One of the most important cultural attributes which is lost due to urbanization in multicultural societies is language. A key objective of this article is to answer the question of how urbanization affects language diversity in cities. In the hypothesis, it is declared that globalization with the accompanied intensification of urbanization​ cause a linguistic decline by the assimilation and integration of immigrants in the new urban society as well as the drowning of the immigrant population in the host population. The ways by which urbanization affect language occur in the context of changing the "linguistic attitudes" of the speakers. This study is conducted by analyzing the data collected in research projects and official reports of UNESCO and DESA concerning the implications of globalization on language developments, as well as the global consequences of urban growth for linguistic diversity.
     The case studies show that although people seem to give up their local language for social, cultural, political and especially economic reasons and use the dominant or more authoritative language that is common in cities, this change is rooted in the change of their "linguistic attitude" which can be considered as one of the important cultural consequences of urbanization by creating positive attitudes towards the dominant and valid language and negative attitudes towards their local indigenous languages. This is done by facilitating acculturation and assimilation with the majority, as well as reducing the use of minority languages, language resistance of future generations and generally the absence of intergenerational transmission of language which consequently lead to the elimination or death of a language. What is important here is the linguistic attitude of the speakers towards their language, which affects the preservation or elimination of the language. Of course, it does not matter whether the immigrant community or the host society lose its language. Although demographic and cultural heterogeneity in cities seems to have become a fundamental reality in the age of globalization, and cities have become places of cultural diversity today, this is not the case with language because the communicative nature of language is such that we see linguistic homogeneity in cities rather than linguistic diversity.
It is believed that urban migration has the same linguistic effects as migrating to a country, but urbanization together with rural-to-urban migration within countries, given their prevalence, seem to have more negative consequences on international language diversity than international migration for three reasons: 1. population mobility within countries is usually not subject to any laws or regulations; 2. it is difficult to migrate to other countries, so migration to cities is more widespread and easier, and 3. A village is usually a source of linguistic diversity, and the withdrawal of the younger generation, which transmits the language and culture of the village to the next generation, leads to the decline of rural languages. It is important to note that according to UN estimates, the world's urban population will increase from 49% to 70% by 2050, and the urban population of the Third World will be 64%. The data indicate the evacuation of the world's villages, especially the rural areas of the developing world with its rich source of world linguistic diversity. On a large scale, the growing trend of urbanization will have a negative effect on linguistic diversity in the world; and it will shape a bleak future for the world's linguistic diversity. The analysis of the impact of urbanization on languages ​​shows how it can destroy language diversity and increase language homogeneity in the world.


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