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Applied Linguistics Review

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Basque gastronomic tourism: Creating value for Euskara through the materiality of language and drink

Kerri N. Lesh
Published Online: 2019-10-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2019-0101


This article examines the recent growth of culinary tourism in the Basque Country (Hegoalde or Southern Basque Country), and how its effects have shaped the use of Euskara (the Basque language) and multilingual practices through concepts of materiality. Derived from my research, which looks at how Euskara is used to promote gastronomic products, this analysis relies upon the two concepts of geosemiotics and language materiality to reveal how materiality influences value and language use in touristic settings. We can analyze language as it is materially placed in the world by studying the physical substances on which an inscription is made. This materiality also exists as part of a stratigraphy of non-neutral forms that include a wide range of presentations that influence how we interact with text, while also providing a lens through which consumption and material culture studies emerge. Derived from interviews, the examination of beverage labels, and observations of the linguistic landscape, the findings of this research illustrate how Euskara is used – despite some producers’ reluctance – alongside more dominant languages as culinary tourism increases. In doing so, it highlights emergent opposing reactions to tourism that express concern for the changing social, economic, linguistic, and political environment. Through the examples illustrated, the materiality of Euskara can increase the value of both the language and marketed products. However, the added or even decreased value of a language is contingent on the physical and social landscape in which gastronomy is promoted. By developing ideas of how and where language materiality, commodification, and value are produced, advocates of minoritized languages such as Euskara can better strategize the promotion of their gastronomic and tourist sectors without losing the cultural and linguistic identity that contributes to these sectors’ value.

Keywords: Basque; tourism; language; materiality; gastronomy; cider


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Published Online: 2019-10-31

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2019-0101.

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