Linguistic capital: Language as a socio-economic resource among Kurdish and Arabic women in Turkey

Smits J., Gunduz-Hosgor A.

ETHNIC AND RACIAL STUDIES, vol.26, no.5, pp.829-853, 2003 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 26 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/0141987032000109050
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.829-853
  • Keywords: linguistic capital, women, Turkey, Kurds, Arabs, speaking Turkish, patriarchy
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Data from the 1998 Turkish Demographic and Health Survey are used to gain insight into the characteristics of the non-Turkish speaking individuals in Turkey and in the socio-economic consequences of not speaking Turkish for them. The very large majority of non-Turkish speaking individuals turn out to be Kurdish and Arabic women, living in East Turkey and in the countryside. The data indicate that of the married women aged 15-49 in Turkey, about 4 per cent, or one in 25, is not able to speak Turkish. More than 90 per cent of these women has not finished primary education. Regarding their social background, our results suggest that they were more under the influence of traditional cultural values, that their access to the public domain was limited, and that they were more heavily controlled by their family. Regarding the consequences of not speaking Turkish, we found the non-Turkish speaking women to be less employed in the formal economy, to have husbands with lower educational levels and occupations and to have lower family incomes. This result is in line with the predictions of linguistic capital theory.