Publishing in and about English: challenges and opportunities of Chinese multilingual scholars’ language practices in academic publishing

  • Yongyan Zheng
  • Xiaoyan Guo
Original Paper


This paper reports on a qualitative inquiry into Chinese multilingual scholars’ language practices in academic publishing as the Chinese government develops higher education competitiveness and expands multilingual foreign language education. Fifteen Chinese multilingual scholars from five non-English language divisions were interviewed. Bourdieu’s linguistic market theory was adopted as the guiding framework to understand the scholars’ multilingual practices in academic publishing. The findings suggest that institutional research assessment based on key index lists functioned as a market unification mechanism that devalued the scholars’ multilingual capital. Meanwhile, the implicit language policy of publishing in and about English perpetuated and reproduced structural inequality in the international and national academic publishing marketplace. Despite this perceived disadvantaged position, the scholars generated new language practices to counteract the structural constraints. In light of these findings, policy makers should be aware of the implicit language policies in index-based research assessment exercises, and should take into consideration the specific circumstances of different language majors when developing research assessment policies. Measures are suggested to empower multilingual scholars with capacities to participate equally in knowledge construction, regardless of the languages that they work with.


Multilingual scholars Linguistic market Language policies Academic publishing 



We would like to thank the participants for sharing with us their stories. We would also like to thank Prof. Diane Belcher for her suggestions during the initial conception of this project. This study was partially supported by the Shanghai Philosophy and Social Sciences Fund (2017BYY008).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Foreign Languages and LiteratureFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.University of International Business and EconomicsBeijingChina

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