Packaged Place: Tour guides' commodification of sedentarism and mobility

Lauren Hall-Lew, Inês Paiva Couceiro, Amie Fairs

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

When language becomes commodified in the heritage tourism economy, which we see happening in Edinburgh, Scotland, both the product (the linguistic form) and its value are subject to new forms of negotiation. The already-complex local indexical links between language and place expand further into a diverse new marketplace catering to non-local consumers. So while international tourism is a canonical example of human mobility, the heritage tourism industry exists because of the ideology of sedentarism. Heritage tourism operates on the commodification of authenticity, where the economic value of the ‘authentic’ would seem to derive directly from tourists’ expectations of sedentarism. For example, an examination of Urry’s (1990) ‘tourist gaze’, or in linguistic terms, tourists’ language attitudes (e.g., Hall-Lew et al. 2015; Lew et al. 2013), reveals how a place becomes a ‘destination’, defined by those elements which are consumable commodities. The tourist is on a ‘quest’ (MacCannell 1999[1976]) for the sedentary. In contrast, however, in this paper we examine the negotiation of place by tour guides, rather than tourists, focusing on “speakers’ investments and participation in ideologies of sedentarism” (see colloquium abstract). Tour guides are the embodied voices of the heritage tourism industry, and yet guides form a highly diverse population, locating themselves at different points along a continuum between mobile and sedentary. The 38 professional working tour guides in our participant sample are all employed in Edinburgh, Scotland, and while many were also born and raised in Edinburgh, others are from other parts of Scotland, other parts of the UK, other parts of Europe, and other parts of the world. Building on previous research that shows high levels of uniformity in tourists’ linguistic preferences (in Edinburgh; Hall-Lew et al. 2015), we find a greater diversity of language attitudes and ideologies among tour guides, and show how much of this variability arises from a guide’s ability to claim and commodify authenticity through speech, i.e., to produce a ‘Scottish accent’. By analyzing the metalinguistic and metapragmatic awareness of these guides, we suggest that the commodification of Scottish- accented English (versus the commodification of Scots or Scottish Gaelic) is actively linked to other forms of verbal capital available to Edinburgh tour guides (‘clarity’, but also, e.g. storytelling ability; the ability to recite facts and dates; the ability to entertain). We further argue that the negotiation between these currencies is part of what positions an Edinburgh tour guide within the professional hierarchies of the industry, and since the industry is based on commercialising sedentarism, this results in competing representations of local identity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2016
EventSociolinguistics Symposium - University if Murcia, Murcia, Spain
Duration: 15 Jun 201618 Jun 2016


ConferenceSociolinguistics Symposium

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Tourism
  • Commodification
  • Scots language
  • ideology
  • Heritage


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