Linguistic Tensions in a Professional Accounting Field: English Linguistic Capital, Hierarchy, Prestige and Distinction Amongst Accountants

Dina Aburous, Rania Kamla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the processes by which English linguistic capital is legitimized as integral to professional accountants’ distinction, prestige and status in Jordan. Drawing on twenty-seven interviews, the study reveals the dynamic and mutual interdependency of social hierarchies and Jordanian accountants’ agency in embedding the English language in everyday practices and routines. On one hand, accountants in senior positions employ English linguistic practices and strategies linked to the global structures of the profession (e.g., IFRS, ERP systems, Big 4 firms). Typically, these respondents already have a good command of English due to their elite, socially and economically privileged upbringing. By comparison, less powerful accountants, not drawn from the elite, tend to accept and internalize the need for English in their field, despite being more proficient in Arabic. They employ coping strategies that largely reinforce their marginalization although, occasionally, they are able to open up spaces for hybrid linguistic practices, as they adapt the use of Arabic and English to their practical, daily requirements. The data also suggest that all Jordanian accountants in this study, regardless of social background, experience emotional ramifications linked to the tensions between the global demand for English in their field and meanings associated with English and Arabic due to colonial history. Through the lens of Bourdieu’s sociolinguistic and practice theory(s), Jordanian accountants experience frictions and internal contradictions, ‘split habitus/habitus clivé’, driving them to compartmentalize/decouple their Arab and professional identities in a global accountancy context. Insights emanating from the study have implications for understanding and addressing unequal power and marginalization in professional accounting settings in Jordan and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Accounting Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Dec 2021


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