Language Planning


  • Introduction
  • Issues
  • and others I can’t remember
  • Course Conclusion

  • Introduction

    As a final topic I want to turn attention to some of the numerous attempts that have been made to change a particular variety of a language, or a particular language, or some aspect of how either of these functions in society. Such changes are usually described as instances of language planning. According to Weinstein (1980, p. 56), ‘Language planning is a government authorized, longterm, sustained, and conscious effort to alter a language’s function in a society for the purpose of solving communication problems.’ It may involve assessing resources, complex decision-making, the assignment of different functions to different languages or varieties of a language in a community, and the commitment of valuable resources. As we will see, language planning can take a variety of forms and produce many different kinds of results. It is also not without its controversies.

    Language planning has become part of modern nation-building because a noticeable trend in the modern world is to make language and nation synonymous. Deutsch (1968) has documented the tremendous increase within Europe during the last thousand years in what he calls ‘full-fledged national languages.’ A millennium ago these numbered six: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Anglo- Saxon (i.e., Old English), and Church Slavonic. By 1250 this number had in- creased to seventeen, a number that remained fairly stable until the beginning of the nineteenth century with, of course, changes in the actual languages, as Hebrew, Arabic, Low German, Catalan, and Norwegian either were submerged or became inactive, and languages like English, Dutch, Polish, Magyar, and Turkish replaced them in the inventory. In the nineteenth century the total number of fully fledged national languages increased to thirty. According to Deutsch, it showed a further increase to fifty-three by 1937, and it has further increased since then. Each ‘new’ country wanted its own language, and language became a basic expression of nationalistic feeling, as we see in such examples as Finnish, Welsh, Norwegian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Irish, Breton, Basque, Georgian, and Hebrew. Consequently, governments have had to plan to develop or promote certain languages and sometimes to hinder or demote others, and a demand for ‘language rights’ is often one of the first demands made by a discontented minority almost anywhere in the world.

    I will discuss some of the ideas that have gone into planning efforts made on behalf of some of these languages and, in doing so, mention briefly what planning has meant for certain other languages. I will also comment on the ‘global’ nature of English at the beginning of the third millennium.

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    Language planning is an attempt to interfere deliberately with a language or one of its varieties: it is human intervention into natural processes of language change, diffusion, and erosion. That attempt may focus on either its status with regard to some other language or variety or its internal condition with a view to changing that condition, or on both of these since they are not mutually exclusive. The first focus results in status planning; the second results in corpus planning.

    Status planning changes the function of a language or a variety of a language and the rights of those who use it. For example, when speakers of a minority language are denied the use of that language in educating their children, their language has no status. Alternatively, when a government declares that hence- forth two languages rather than one of these alone will be officially recognized in all functions, the newly recognized one has gained status. Status itself is a relative concept; it may also be improved or reduced by degrees, and usually is. So far as languages and their varieties are concerned, status changes are nearly always very slow, are sometimes actively contested, and often leave strong residual feelings. Even relatively minor changes or proposals for changes can produce such effects, as the residents of many countries, e.g., Norway, Belgium, Canada, and India, are well aware.

    Corpus planning seeks to develop a variety of a language or a language, usually to standardize it, that is, to provide it with the means for serving every possible language function in society (see Clyne, 1997, for a collection of recent papers). Consequently, corpus planning may involve such matters as the development of an orthography, new sources of vocabulary, dictionaries, and a literature, together with the deliberate cultivation of new uses so that the language may extend its use into such areas as government, education, and trade. Corpus planning has been particularly important in countries like Indonesia, Israel, Finland, India, Pakistan, and Papua New Guinea. These two types of planning often co-occur, for many planning decisions involve some combination of a change in status with internal change. As one particular language in Papua New Guinea is developed, all other languages are affected, whether or not the effects are recognized officially. We must also note then that, just as planning may either be deliberate or proceed somewhat haphazardly, even accidentally, so its results may be deliberately intended or not at all as intended. Even though it is possible to recognize most of the relevant parameters, language planning is still far from being any kind of exact science. Linguists have also been quite involved in many planning activities and surrounding controversies. A few take another position, e.g., Calvet, 1998, maintaining that all such activities, since they are prescriptive in nature, necessarily conflict with the basic tenets of linguistics, which is essentially descriptive in its focus.

    Cobarrubias (1983) has described four typical ideologies that may motivate actual decision-making in language planning in a particular society: these are linguistic assimilation, linguistic pluralism, vernacularization, and internationalism. Linguistic assimilation is the belief that everyone, regardless of origin, should learn the dominant language of the society. Examples are easy to find. France applied this policy to various peoples within its borders. The United States also applied the policy both internally to immigrants and externally in a possession, Guam, where Chamorro was suppressed until 1973, and in the Philippines, where instruction in the schools had to be in English throughout the period in which the United States ruled that country; a similar assimilationist ideology prevailed in Puerto Rico until the 1940s. Linguistic assimilation is practiced widely and in a wide variety of forms, e.g., policies of Hellenization of Macedonian in Greece and of Russification in the former Soviet Union.

    Linguistic pluralism, the recognition of more than one language, also takes a variety of forms. It can be territorially based or individually based or there may be some combination of the two. It can be complete or partial, so that all or only some aspects of life can be conducted in more than one language in a society. Examples are countries like Belgium, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, and Switzerland. Vernacularization is the restoration or elaboration of an indigenous language and its adoption as an official language, e.g., Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia; Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea; Hebrew in Israel; Tagalog (renamed Filipino) in the Philippines; and Quechua in Peru.

    Internationalization is the adoption of a non-indigenous language of wider communication either as an official language or for such purposes as education or trade, e.g., English in Singapore, India, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. The languages that have been most internationalized in this sense are English and French with English much more so than French. (Currently France is seeking to develop La Francophonie as an organization to further French in the world.)

    As a result of planning decisions, a language can achieve one of a variety of statuses (Kloss, 1968). A language may be recognized as the sole official language, as French is in France or English in the United Kingdom and the United States. This fact does not necessarily mean that the status must be recognized constitutionally or by statute; it may be a matter of long-standing practice, as it is with English in the two cases cited above. Two or more languages may share official status in some countries, e.g., English and French in Canada and in Cameroon; French and Flemish in Belgium; French, German, Italian, and Romansh (even though the latter has very few speakers and is actually only a ‘national’ language) in Switzerland; English and Afrikaans in South Africa; and English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese in Singapore, although in this case Malay has an additional ‘national-language’ status.

    A language may also have official status but only on a regional basis, e.g., Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa in Nigeria; German in Belgium; and Marathi in Maharashtra, India. A language may be a ‘promoted’ language, lacking official status, but used by various authorities for specific purposes, e.g., many languages in Canada. A tolerated language is one that is neither promoted nor proscribed or restricted, e.g., Basque in France, many immigrant languages in western Europe, and Amerindian languages in North America. Finally, a discouraged or proscribed language is one against which there are official sanctions or restrictions, e.g., Basque in the early years of Franco’s regime in Spain; Scots Gaelic after the 1745 rising; Macedonian in Greece; until recently many immigrant and native languages in areas like North America and Australia, particularly in schools for the children of such people; and the Norman French patois of the Channel Islands during the German occupation in World War II. Kurdish is today largely proscribed in Turkey. The language cannot be used for writing anything, but since 1991 it can be used in speaking and singing!

    Planning decisions will obviously play a very large role in determining what happens to any minority language or languages in a country (Cobarrubias, 1983, pp. 71–3). They can result in deliberate attempts to eradicate such a language, as with Franco’s attempt to eliminate Basque from Spain by banning that language from public life. Official neglect may result in letting minority languages die by simply not doing anything to keep them alive. This has been the fate of many Amerindian languages and is likely to be the fate of many more. In France Basque was neglected; in Spain it was virtually proscribed. One interesting consequence is that, while once there were more speakers of Basque in France than in Spain, now the situation is reversed. Instead of neglect there may be a level of tolerance, so that if a community with a minority language wishes to keep that language alive, it is allowed to do so but at its own expense. In 1988 the Council of Europe adopted a Charter on Regional or Minority languages that gave some recognition to such languages but really allowed each country to do as it pleased with them.

    Two other issues are worthy of comment. The first has to do with what language rights immigrants to a country should have in an era of widespread immigration motivated by a variety of concerns but within a system of states which often equates statehood or nationhood with language and sometimes with ethnicity. It is not surprising, therefore, that what language rights immi- grants should have is a controversial issue almost everywhere. One view is that immigrants give up their rights to their languages and their cultures by migrating. The opposite view is that no one should be required to give up a mother tongue by reason of such movement, and that this is particularly regrettable in a world in which population movement is either encouraged, e.g., nineteenth-century migration to the Americas, or enforced, e.g., by persecutions. Both UNESCO and the United Nations have declared that ethnic groups have the right to maintain their languages. However, it is not at all clear that immigrants to countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, or the families of Euro- pean ‘guest workers’ are covered by such declarations. Indigenous populations clearly are, but there may be disagreement as to what constitutes an indigenous group, as various people have learned, sometimes fatally, in places like the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Burundi, and Sri Lanka to cite but a few examples.

    The second issue concerns the problem of identifying the right kinds of data that must go into planning decisions. Planning must be based on good information, but sometimes the kinds of information that go into planning decisions are not very reliable. Census-takers, for example, may have considerable difficulty in determining just who speaks what languages when and for what purposes. The census of India has always had this problem. The issues are complex, and gatherers of such information may have great difficulty in getting answers even to simple questions. You also get different answers according to the way you phrase your questions. What is your mother tongue? What was the first language you learned? What languages do you speak? What language do you speak at home? What languages are you fluent in? Do you speak Spanish (French) (German)? And so on. Moreover, the questions and how they are answered may be politically motivated. The different answers are also subject to a variety of interpretations.

    Furthermore, it is easier to elicit particular kinds of information at certain times than at other times. During World War II many people in North America apparently suppressed information concerning either a German ethnicity or any ability to speak German. By the 1960s and 1970s the ability to speak Spanish was something to be proud of in the United States, just as was the ability to speak French in Canada. Recent Canadian censuses show more and more people claiming bilingual ability in English and French, but little assessment is made of such self-reported claims; it is apparently enough that people should wish to make them! Consequently, we must always exercise caution in interpreting untreated data from censuses.

    Questions asked at ten-year periods may also produce different answers, partly because there have been objective quantifiable changes but also because less quantifiable and more subjective psychological changes have occurred. A particularly telling example is the so-called ‘re-discovery’ of ethnicity in the United States in the late twentieth century. We must remember that we cannot ignore the feelings that people have about who they are, what they speak, and what rights they should have. Such feelings are real. For example, as mentioned earlier, speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin insist they speak the same language even though linguists deny that they do; such a feeling of ‘sameness’ is every bit as important in language planning as is the linguists’ fact of ‘difference.’

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    A Variety of Situation

    In this section we will look at a variety of linguistic situations in the world to see some instances of planning. In the following section we will look at a number of countries chosen because they show some of the variety of issues that states engaged in planning face as they continue to make changes. Many other examples could be cited; I have chosen these to illustrate certain points. Doubtless other examples would have served just as well, for it is probably true to say that nowhere in the world can you find a country where nothing is being done, either directly or by default, concerning the language or languages of that country.

    France serves as a good example of a country which has a single national language and does little or nothing for any other language. Most inhabitants simply assume that French is rightly the language of France. Consequently they virtually ignore other languages so that there is little national interest in any move to try to ascertain exactly how many people speak Provençal or Breton or to do anything for, or against, Basque. Likewise, if an immigrant group to France, e.g., Algerians or Vietnamese, wants to try to preserve its language, it must try to do so in its own time and with its own resources, for it is widely assumed that French is the proper language of instruction in schools in France. (The only major exception is that German is taught in Alsace.) This situation is little different from the one that existed in the old colonial days, in which it was assumed that the French language and the curriculum of Metropolitan France were entirely appropriate in the lycées of colonies such as Algeria and Indo-China (now Vietnam) attended by the more fortunate local children, who might then aspire to higher education in France. France is a highly centralized country with Paris its dominant center even to the extent that when traveling in France you often see signposts indicating exactly how far you are from Paris (actually from the cathedral of Notre Dame, its symbolic center). It has been so since the time of Richelieu. France and the French language are inseparable. Regional languages such as Breton, Basque, Occitan, Flemish, Catalan, Corsican, and Franco-Provençal persist, get varying amounts of state support, and provide local identities to those who maintain them. Such languages may be tolerated but they cannot be allowed to threaten a state unified around French. The French, of course, are not alone in seeing their country as essentially a monolingual one; the English just across the Channel and the Japanese right across the world are like them in this respect.

    Adjacent to France we have in one direction the multilingualism of Switzerland and in another the bilingualism of Belgium, but it is the second of these to which I will refer. Today, French and Flemish (Dutch) coexist in a somewhat uneasy truce in Belgium. The struggle between the French and Flemish in that country has a long history. In 1815 the politically and socially ascendant French in Belgium found themselves returned at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to Dutch rule. William of Holland proceeded to promote Dutch interests and language and limit the power of the French, the Walloons. He was also a strong Calvinist, and in 1830 both Flemish and Walloon Catholics rebelled and gained independence for Belgium. However, this religious unity between the Flemish Catholics and the Walloon Catholics soon gave way to cleavage along linguistic lines, language proving in this case to be a stronger force for divisiveness than religion for cohesion. The new state became French-oriented and Flemish was banned from the government, law, army, universities, and secondary schools. French domination was everywhere, and it was not until the twentieth century that the Flemish, who are actually a majority of the population, were able to gain a measure of linguistic and social equality. Today’s equality, however, is still colored by memories of past discrimination based on language. The Belgians have tried to settle their differences by separating the languages on a territorial basis and regarding Brussels as a bilingual city, even though it is clearly French- dominant. Periodically, however, linguistic differences surface in Belgium to create tensions between the Walloons and the Flemish, just as they do, as we will see, in Canada.

    In Spain the recent revival of Catalan is of interest. The Catalans have had a long and proud history, traditionally regarding themselves as more prosperous and progressive than the Castilians and constantly having to assert themselves to see that they were not exploited, e.g., by revolts in 1640 and 1705, and through expressing their displeasure with the mismanagement that led to the loss of Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century. But Catalan, a language which resembles French as much as it does Spanish, itself was a dying language by the end of the nineteenth century, spoken monolingually only in the villages and giving way to Castilian even in Barcelona. However, a group of intellectuals and poets succeeded in reviving the language in the early twentieth century in conjunction with a movement to promote Catalan nationalism. When this movement failed in 1923, an era of repression began, which led to a further reform movement culminating in the founding of the Republic of Spain and its consequence, the Spanish Civil War. Catalonia suffered dreadfully during that war. One of the war’s results was, again, the suppression of Catalan, and this was not effectively ended until after Franco’s death and the restoration of a democratic system of government. As a result of the decrees of King Juan Carlos, it is now once more possible to worship in Catalan, to be educated in Catalan, and to use the language freely without being suspected of disloyalty. Similar rights were given to the Basques, another linguistically persecuted group in Spain during Franco’s time. Catalan has once more achieved a considerable amount of the status it once enjoyed in the Spanish peninsula, and Basque now enjoys a measure of status long denied to it. There is even some evidence of a kind of backlash against any kind of exclusivity for Catalan in Catalonia. O’Donnell (1996) reports that many Catalonians fear recent changes may have gone a bit too far: they are happy to be able to use Catalan without restriction but they also want to retain their Castilian-language ability and its wider Spanish connection.

    Turkey provides a good example of very deliberate language planning designed to achieve certain national objectives and to do this very quickly. When Kemal Atatürk (ata ‘father’), the ‘father of the Turks,’ established the modern republic of Turkey, he was confronted with the task of modernizing the language. It had no vocabulary for modern science and technology, was written in an unsuitable Arabic orthography, and was strongly influenced by both Arabic and Persian. In 1928 Atatürk deliberately adopted the Roman script for his new modern Turkish. This effectively cut the Turks off from their Islamic past and directed their attention toward both their Turkish roots and their future as Turks in a modern world. Since only 10 percent of the population was literate, there was no mass objection to the changes. It was possible to use the new script almost immediately in steps taken to increase the amount of literacy in the country.

    In the 1930s Atatürk promoted a further move away from Arabic and Persian in the development of the new vocabulary that the language required in order to meet the needs of science and technology. The ‘Sun Language Theory’ was developed, a theory which said that Turkish was the mother tongue of the world and that, when Turkish borrowed from other languages, it was really taking back what had originally been Turkish anyway. Some deliberate attempts were made to purify the language, but these were not very successful, and today Turkish is full of borrowings, particularly from English, French, and other European languages. Corpus planning was very effective for a while in bringing about a modernizing, secular-oriented Turkey. However, it stagnated in the last decades of the twentieth century as problems arose with defining a new Turkish identity: secular or religious, European or Asian, Western or Islamic. (See Lewis, 1999, and Dokançay-Aktuna, 2004, together with the rest of that issue of the Inter- national Journal of the Sociology of Language for assessments of recent developments.)

    In the former Soviet Union there was a great amount of language planning dating from its very founding, though not all of it was coherent or consistent. One of the most important policies was Russification. Needless to say, in a state as vast as the Soviet Union, composed of approximately 100 different nationalities, each with its own language or variety of a language, there were several different aspects to such a policy. One of these was the elevation of regional and local dialects into ‘languages,’ a policy of ‘divide and rule.’ Its goal was to prevent the formation of large language blocks and also allow the central government to insist that Russian be used as a lingua franca. It also led to the large number of languages that flourished in the Soviet Union.

    In addition, the Cyrillic script was extended to nearly all the languages of the Soviet Union. This orthography further helped to cut off the Muslim peoples of central Asia from contact with Arabic, Turkish, and Persian influences. In the 1930s these people were actually provided with Romanized scripts, but Atatürk’s Romanization of Turkish posed a threat in that it made the Turkish world accessible to the Soviet peoples of central Asia. Consequently, Romanization was abandoned in 1940, Cyrillic alphabets were reimposed, and deliberate attempts were made to stress as many differences as possible among the various languages of the area (e.g., by developing special Cyrillic characters for local pronunciations) as part of the policy of divide and rule. Russification also required the local languages of the Soviet Union to borrow words from Russian when new words were needed. Population migrations, not necessarily voluntary, also spread Russian (and Russians) throughout the country as a whole, e.g., into Kazakhstan where Kazakhs became a minority, and into the Baltic republics, particularly Latvia and Estonia.

    While many local and regional languages were actively encouraged in the Soviet Union, so that Russian itself could be legitimized as a lingua franca, a number of languages were banned from support, e.g., Arabic, Hebrew, and German, since it was not deemed to be in the interests of the state to support these. Russian was also promoted as a universal second language and as a language of instruction in the schools. However, there was resistance in such areas as Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Baltic republics.

    When the Soviet Union eventually fell into disarray at the end of the 1980s such policies had interesting consequences. The Soviet Union had been organized internally by republics constructed primarily on language and ethnicity. It proceeded to divide that way. For example, Ukraine, even though the language itself and the people had been heavily Russified, became a separate state. The Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania went their ways too. Moldavia became Moldova and its Moldavian language was finally acknowledged to be what it was, Romanian, and was renamed Moldavian–Romanian. Georgia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan separated too and proclaimed Georgian, Armenian, and Kazakh as their national languages, even though in the last case only 40 percent of the population were Kazakhs and 37 percent were Russians. The Turkic-speaking republics, deliberate creations within the Soviet Union, also separated and found their main linguistic problem to be how closely they should identify with Turkey itself. Their abandonment of the Cyrillic script and choice of Roman scripts rather than Arabic-Persian ones appears to indicate a close but secular relationship.

    Finland is a very close, and sometimes uncomfortable, neighbor of both Russia and Sweden. In the nineteenth century the Finns developed their language to differentiate themselves from both the Russians and the Swedes by turning what was essentially an unwritten spoken language into one with a writing system, literature, and the full panoply of uses that signify a standard language. This deliberate bit of corpus planning gave them a distinct language and reinforced the differences they felt to exist between them and both Russians and Swedes, differences further accentuated by the fact that Finnish belongs to an entirely different language family (Finno-Ugric) from the other two languages (Indo-European).

    In a more general vein, we can observe that there was a marked difference in the twentieth century in the way in which the old European and central Asian empires broke up and the way in which imperial bonds were loosened elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia and in Africa. When the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires broke up, the result was the emergence of nation-states based primarily on claims about language with a consequent complete redraw- ing of boundaries. This redrawing did not suit everyone, since many former minorities proved to be no more tolerant of smaller ‘captive’ language groups than their previous oppressors once they had achieved political recognition as nation-states. When European imperialism was finally effectively removed from Asia and Africa, however, there was no such redrawing of political boundaries. The previous colonies, often peculiar amalgams of language and ethnic groups, since conquest rather than language or ethnicity had accounted for their ori- gins, became independent whole states except in a few cases, such as Pakistan, Burma, and Sri Lanka, when there was successful separation in contrast to Biafra’s unsuccessful attempt to secede from Nigeria and Katanga’s from Zaïre. Many of the resultant states have no common language, no common ethnicity, and strong internal linguistic and ethnic rivalries, making national planning and consensus difficult to achieve at the best.

    One important consequence is that the new states of Africa and Asia are often multilingual but, as a result of their histories, have elites who speak a European language such as English or French. This language not only serves many as an internal working language but is also still regarded as the language of mobility. It is both the language that transcends local loyalties and the one that opens up access to the world outside the state. It is unlikely that in these circumstances such outside languages will disappear; rather, it is likely that they will continue to be used and that positions of leadership will continue to go only to those who have access to them, unless present conditions change.

    An attempt is sometimes made to find a ‘neutral’ language, that is, a language which is not English and which gives no group an advantage. In 1974 President Kenyatta of Kenya decreed that Swahili was to become the language of the country, the language of national unity, even though most Kenyans did not speak the language; it was not the language of the major city, Nairobi; it was spoken in a variety of dialects and pidgins; the majority of those who did speak it did not speak it well; and English was better known in the higher echelons of government, the professions, and so on. Both Swahili and English were to remain as official languages, however. Swahili was chosen over one of the local languages, e.g., the president’s own Kikuyu, a language spoken by about 20 percent of the population, because the ethnic composition of the country made any other choice too difficult and dangerous. In that respect, Swahili was a neutral language. It was for much the same reason – that it was a neutral unifying language in a state with over 100 indigenous languages – that Swahili was also chosen in Tanzania as the national language, although in this case it was spoken fairly widely as a trade language along the coast and also in the capital, Dar es Salaam. The consequence of the 1974 decree in Kenya is that Swahili is now used much more than it was, but it has not by any means replaced English in those areas of use in which English was previously used.

    Although the use of Swahili in Kenya has become a matter of national pride, this does not mean that its extension into certain spheres of life goes unresisted. One consequence has been that Kenyans have developed their own version, or versions, of the language. Like Tanzanians, they speak ‘bad’ Swahili, according to many of those for whom it is an ancestral language. The Kenyan and Tanzanian varieties are also different. National pride may cause even further differentiation to emerge, with the Kenyan variety of Swahili eventually becoming somewhat different from the original coastal variety of the language on which it is based and different from the Tanzanian variety standardized on the speech of Zanzibar: Kenya’s variety is likely to be based on the speech of Mombasa. Currently, Tanzania has moved much further than Kenya in the use of Swahili. However, full social mobility in both countries requires a citizen to be able to use Swahili, English, and one or more local vernaculars since each has appropriate occasions for use.

    India, with more than a billion people, is another country which has had to face similar problems. In this case the solution has been to promote Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language that unites the state, but more than a dozen other languages, including Sanskrit, are recognized as official languages in the nation’s constitution. However, there are serious obstacles to the spread of Hindi in India. There is a considerable difference between literary Hindi and the various regional and local spoken varieties (see chapter 2). Gandhi tried to emphasize building Hindi on popular speech so as to bridge the gap between the literary and colloquial varieties and also to unify the regions. In an attempt to overcome some of the difficulties, the Indian government established various groups to develop scientific terminology, glossaries, dictionaries, and an encyclopedia. One noticeable development has been the way in which those entrusted with such tasks, usually the Hindi elite, have looked to Sanskrit in their work: they have followed a policy of Sanskritization in their attempts to purify Hindi of English and also increasingly to differentiate Hindi from Urdu, the variety of the language used in Muslim Pakistan. The effects have been particularly noticeable in literary Hindi, which has possibly grown further away from the evolving colloquial varieties as a result of such activities. There has been some periodic dissatisfaction with what has happened (Gumperz, 1971, pp. 146–7), for example with teaching Hindi in the same way as Sanskrit has been taught traditionally.

    The linguistic situation in India is further complicated today in a way it was not complicated at the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan (and then later into a third state, Bangladesh). India came into existence as a unitary state. However, local opposition to such centralization was strong and the country was quickly reorganized by states, the first being the Telugu-speaking Andhra state in 1953. Now India has two important levels of government, the central one in New Delhi looking after common interests, and the other, the state level with each state government looking after that state’s interests and, more importantly, doing so in the language of that state and not in the Hindi or English of the central government.

    Hindi is often viewed in India as giving northern Indians unwarranted ad- vantages over Indians elsewhere. This feeling is particularly strong in the south of India, where various Dravidian languages are spoken. To that extent, English continues to offer certain advantages. Its use spread throughout the upper social strata everywhere in India in the former imperial regime; now it can be viewed as quite neutral even though, of course, its use may be opposed strongly at an official level, where it is recognized only as an ‘auxiliary’ language (Inglehart and Woodward, 1967). English is used in the higher courts, as a language of parliamentary debate, as a preferred language in the universities, and as a language of publication in learned journals. Although Hindi is promoted as the unifying language of India, many Indians now see such promotion to be at the expense of some other language they speak, or a set of religious beliefs, or the opportunity to acquire a world language like English. Language planning in India, however, is largely confined to elites: the masses, whose needs are more immediate, are largely unaffected. Like any other kind of planning in India, it seems fraught with difficulties, dangers, and unforeseen consequences.

    Finally, if we return to the English-speaking world, or rather to a country which is assumed to be thoroughly committed to English, we can observe how it too must confront a number of issues to do with language. Language planning has become a serious concern in the United States in recent years, particularly as a result of a recognition that there is a large indigenous Spanish-speaking population and because of continued immigration into the country (see Fishman, 1966, and Veltman, 1983). Recent censuses have shown that as many as one in six people in the United States do not have English as their mother tongue, that the majority of these are native-born Americans and that the proportion is growing, particularly in the southwest, i.e., Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, and along parts of the eastern seaboard (Waggoner, 1981). A recent source (Huntington, 2004) points out that Hispanics comprised 12 percent of the population in 2000, that their proportion in the total population exceeded that of black Americans in 2002, and that it is estimated that by 2040 25 percent of the total population will be of Hispanic origin (p. 224). In recent years, too, more and more languages from Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are represented in the population.

    Not only is a language other than English the mother tongue of a great number of residents of the United States, but many do not speak English at all or speak it with difficulty. There is obviously a vast resource of languages in the United States, but the traditional policy of assimilation is still widely pursued. English is very much the language of the mainstream, and even though lan- guages such as Spanish may be in widespread use in some areas and have certain official approval there, this use is motivated by pragmatic concerns alone. We can note that only two of the states are officially bilingual: New Mexico, with the other language being Spanish, and Hawaii, with the other language being Hawaiian. It is of interest to note too that in 1993 Puerto Ricans restored English as an official language in the Commonwealth after an earlier 1991 law made Spanish the sole official language. English had become part of Puerto Rican identity (Morris, 1996, Velez and Schweers, 1993).

    Fishman (1981) has pointed out that Americans regard English as something to be used rather than something that they necessarily must take pride in. Moreover, this view spreads to other languages too, with one consequence being that, since most Americans are monolingually English, little effort is expended on preserving other languages. Indeed, as Fishman observes (p. 517), ‘The great- est American linguistic investment by far has been in the Anglification of its millions of immigrant and indigenous speakers of other languages.’ The Bilin- gual Education Act, he insists, was primarily ‘an act for the Anglification of non-English speakers and not an act for bilingualism,’ but rather an act against bilingualism. Bilingualism is seen as potentially divisive in the United States as ‘Quebecization’ or ‘Balkanization,’ in Fishman’s words. Bilingual education, therefore, is expediency. It is transitional education designed to ease those who do not speak English into the mainstream of English. As Fishman says (p. 522), ‘Language maintenance in the USA is not part of public policy because it is rarely recognized as being in the public interest,’ being regarded as divisive and incompatible with progress, modernity, and efficiency.

    The United States actually has no official language but, as Schiffman (1996, p. 213) says, the language policy of the United States: is not neutral, it favors the English language. No statute or constitutional amendment or regulatory law is necessary to maintain this covert policy – its strength lies in the basic assumptions that American society has about language. These basic assumptions range from simple communicative competence in English to deeply held prejudices, attitudes, biases (often supported by religious belief), and other ‘understandings’ that constitute what I call American linguistic culture, which is the locus of covert policy in this (or any) polity.

    There has even been a move in Congress in recent years to amend the constitu- tion in order to make English the official language and many individual states have enacted legislation giving English official status within them (see Adams and Brink, 1990, Baron, 1990, Crawford, 1992a, 1992b, and Schmid, 2001). Those in favor of this move believe that the increasing use of other languages than English in the United States, and in particular the increasing use of Spanish, poses some kind of internal threat. Rickford (2004) has even gone so far as to claim that some of the hostility shown to Ebonics (see p. 349) arose from this same source: fear of recognizing any other language than Standard English. Proponents of English only have pointed to Canada as an example of a country where bilingualism has not worked in their argument for making the United States officially monolingual in English. That official bilingualism may have actually been Canada’s salvation seems not to have occurred to them, nor does the fact that the two countries have had entirely different, though not necessar- ily unrelated, histories.

    In the United States there is a growing awareness that the country is not unilingual and that either an attempt must be made to make it so or there must be some recognition that it is not so (see Dicker, 1996). Huntington (2004), a prominent American political scientist, says that Americans are currently experiencing a crisis of identity. For nearly two centuries they upheld the ‘Amer- ican creed,’ some of the components of which were the English language, Chris- tianity, religious commitment, the rule of law, the importance of individual rights, Protestant values of individualism, and a strong work ethic (p. xvi). According to Huntington, this creed provided Americans with a national iden- tity that began to erode in the 1960s and continues to do so still under an influx of immigrants, a tolerance of multilingualism, the encouragement of bilingualism, the rise of group identities based on race, ethnicity, and gender, the growing commitment of elites to cosmopolitan identities and globalization (a commitment not shared by the population at large), and after the late 1980s no perceived external enemy (until 2001). He says that English-only moves, hostility to group rights and bilingual education, and the growing religiosity of the American population can all be explained as a reaction to this perceived decreased com- mitment to a national identity. Huntington ends by suggesting that the new century requires a reaffirmation of the traditional identity but it is clear that this will not be an easy task.

    (Back to the Top)

    Further Examples

    Some further examples of kinds of planning decisions that have been made in a number of countries in different parts of the world will show how difficult at times planning can be. The first example is Papua New Guinea, a nation of 700 or more indigenous languages, some, possibly more than a third, with fewer than 500 speakers, and this in a total population of approximately 4 million. Papua New Guinea has three official languages which are all second languages to the vast majority of its people: Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin, and English. The first two are pidgin-based languages. Of the three, Tok Pisin is becoming more and more the first language of many young people, particularly city dwellers. Although all children learn English in school and most parents feel that knowledge of English brings great advantages to their children, very little use is made of English outside certain formal contexts, e.g., in schools and in certain occupations such as the legal profession. Tok Pisin is now used almost exclusively for purposes of debate in the House Assembly, which is the parliament of Papua New Guinea. It is also frequently used in broadcasting, even to report on and discuss matters of considerable complexity, and increasingly in the press and in education, particularly at the lower levels. One representative view of the importance of Tok Pisin to Papua New Guinea is the following (Wolfers, 1971, pp. 418–19):

    [Tok Pisin], then, whatever one may argue as to its intrinsic merits, has revolutionized New Guinea society. It has broken down old barriers, and allowed for direct inter-racial and inter-language-group communication where this was not previously possible. It has made a national radio news-service feasible, and a newspaper, the Nu Gini Toktok, available to the relatively unsophisticated. The pidgin has been one of the most important elements in the Territory’s slow and hesitant groping towards nationhood. Its very history, its origins on the plantations and in Euro- pean employ generally, have allowed for, if not encouraged, the growth of that common set of experiences and attitudes from which a nation grows.

    Tok Pisin is a pidgin-based language; consequently, it must be developed to meet the various new needs it must serve. Such growth is not without its difficulties. One particular development that has met with negative reaction from a number of linguists is that, for pragmatic reasons, vocabulary expansion has taken place through large-scale borrowing from English, rather than through the exploitation of native resources, e.g., words such as amenmen, ekspendisa, eleksen, komisin, mosin, praim minista, privilij, and spika. English exerts a powerful influence on Tok Pisin. Anglicized varieties of the language may show not only borrowings of English words but also the occasional English plural -s, use of English subordination patterns and the English counting system, and so on. At the moment, in spite of certain Anglicizations that are apparent in some varieties, Tok Pisin is still so distinct from English that there is no evidence of a continuum between Tok Pisin and English. However, there is a real danger that a continuum could develop with Standard English at the ‘top’ and local varieties of Tok Pisin at the ‘bottom,’ much as in Jamaica (see p. 81), with all the attendant problems.

    Tok Pisin has also developed a number of sub-varieties, particularly in urban areas, so that it is now not as uniform as it once was. There is some risk that, without a deliberate effort to standardize the language, it will not remain as efficient a lingua franca as it has been. Deliberate language planning rather than ad hoc developments seem increasingly necessary. It is also in the country’s interest that the variety that should be developed is the rural variety, the less Anglicized, more stable variety recognized by the people themselves as the ‘good’ variety of Tok Pisin.

    Hiri Motu is the other pidgin-based official language of Papua New Guinea. It is identified with Papua and Papuan languages are quite different from those in New Guinea. Many people there take great pride in using Hiri Motu, the descendant of Police Mutu, a native-based, pidgin language of the area, rather than Tok Pisin to show local loyalties. The result has been a dramatic increase in the use of Hiri Motu in Papua New Guinea, particularly among separatist- minded Papuans.

    As we can see, then, each of the three official languages of Papua New Guinea confers advantages of certain kinds to its speakers. However, it seems still too early to predict the future pattern of coexistence for the three languages and, of course, for those who speak them.

    Our second example is Singapore, an independent republic of approximately 3 million people (see Kuo, 1977). It is also a small island, situated at the tip of the Malayan peninsula with another large Malay-speaking nation, Indonesia, to its south. The 2000 census showed its population to be approximately 77 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malays, 8 percent Indians, and just over 1 percent others, e.g., Eurasians, Europeans, and Arabs. Five major languages are spoken in Singapore (Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil, and Hokkien) and three minor ones (Teochew, Cantonese, and Hainanese). At the time of independence four of these languages were given official status: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. The first three represented Singapore’s traditions; the last was deliberately chosen because of its international status, particularly important because of Singapore’s position as a trading nation. Officially, it is a language of convenience only, a neutral language dissociated from issues of ethnicity (Lee, 2002).

    Of the four official languages, Malay is also the national language because of Singapore’s position in the Malay world, not because more people in Singapore speak or understand Malay better than any other language. However, English has become the working language of Singapore: it is the language of the government bureaucracy, the authoritative language of all legislation and court judgments, and the language of occupational mobility and social and economic advancement (see Foley, 1988). It is also the language of banking, work in government offices, public transportation, hotels and tourism, and much non- food shopping. All schoolchildren are required to learn English (Gupta, 1994) and another of the official languages, although the first language of instruction can be any one of the four official languages. However, the majority of parents choose English-medium schools for their children.

    One result of these decisions has been that English is now understood by more than half the population, even though only a much smaller percentage speak it comfortably. ‘English is becoming the dominant language; it already is the de facto national language of intra- and inter-communication’ (Foley, 1988, p. xvi). Although the major Chinese language in Singapore is Hokkien, it is Mandarin, the language that unites Singapore to China, that is taught in schools. There has been a dramatic increase in recent years, therefore, in the percentage of the population who understand Mandarin. The government also actively supports the use of Mandarin in its ‘Speak Mandarin’ campaign and seeks to eradicate the other Chinese ‘dialects’ (Gupta, 1994, Gupta and Yeok, 1995). Malay continues to have a place in everyday life in Singapore but knowledge of Tamil has declined. Consequently, a native of Singapore is likely to understand, and use, with different levels of success, Mandarin, Hokkien, English, Malay, and local varieties of each of these. Truly a multilingual situation!

    This multilingualism is particularly prevalent in the younger generation, and, since Singapore is also a country with a large proportion of young people in its population, it is likely to be a change that will accelerate. A survey of 15- to 20-year-olds in 1975 showed them able to understand the major languages as follows: English (87.3 percent), Malay (50.3 percent), Mandarin (72.5 per- cent), Hokkien (74.0 percent), and Tamil (5.8 percent). A comparison across age-groups showed that young people had a much better knowledge (i.e., un- derstanding) of English and Mandarin than old people, but only a slightly better knowledge of Hokkien, and much less knowledge of Malay and Tamil. In 2004 the Singapore Minister of Education acknowledged that about half of Singa- pore’s ethnic Chinese children use English at home compared with 34 percent in 1994 and that such use of English is increasing: ‘There is a clear generational shift in language use at home’ (The Times, December 18, 2004). Such evidence would appear to confirm that Singapore is basically a Chinese nation somewhat precariously located in a Malay-speaking area and extremely conscious of the fact that its vitality and future lie in preserving a Chinese heritage in a trading world dominated by English.

    The language policies pursued by the government of Singapore are not without certain difficulties because they are allied to a policy which says that Singapore itself has no distinctive culture but is a composite of three cultures: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. Each group is forced to distinguish itself culturally from the others to achieve support, yet it must be careful in what it promotes so as not to offend the others and not to appear to be too closely attached to foreign places. Banton (1983, p. 394) has described the consequences as follows: “the policy presses the Chinese to become more Chinese, the Indians more Indian and the Malays more Malay. Each culture turns in upon itself since it has to be Singaporean and cannot develop ties with the original homeland. Secondly, the arts (or ‘high’ culture) have difficulty obtaining official support and financial backing. Individualistic (and therefore ‘non-racial’) creations are seen as irrelevant or possibly as examples of decadent foreign influence. Thirdly, the Singaporeans’ image of themselves and of their history is distorted to fit the four-category model. Cultural characteristics are assumed to derive from distinctive genetic backgrounds and therefore to change only very slowly indeed. In reality, people of all groups are changing as they adapt to the opportunities provided by a bustling commercial city, and this is the real basis for a commonality of culture which is growing rapidly.” The current plans for language and culture in Singapore may be creating certain paradoxes, even contradictions, which may require at some point still another round of planning and considerable changes.

    The third example is also that of a small country, this time one with a population of about 4 million people who are faced with the problem of reconciling an internal linguistic split. Modern Norway with its two varieties of one language, or its two languages in some views, has some particularly interesting problems so far as planning is concerned. When, after four centuries of domination, the Norwegians managed to separate themselves politically from Denmark in 1814, the country found itself with a variety of Danish and local dialects but no national language (Haugen, 1966b, 1968). In the nineteenth century therefore attempts were made to develop a Norwegian language. Two attempts were noteworthy, those of Knud Knudsen and Ivar Aasen. The former developed a language which is a modified variety of Standard Danish, known later as Riksmål ‘State language’ (since 1928 called Bokmål ‘Book language’); the latter developed a language based on local Norwegian dialects, known as Landsmål ‘Language of the country’ (now called Nynorsk ‘New Norwegian’). We can see the similarities in the two languages from the following sentences (and their gloss) taken from Haugen (1968, pp. 686–7):

    Det rette heimlege måi i landet er det som landets folk har arva ifrå forfedrene, frå den eine ætta til den andre, og som no om stunder, trass i all fortrengsle og vanvønad, enno har grunnlag og emne til eit bokmål, like så godt som noko av grannfolk-måla.
    Det rette heimlige mål i landet er det som landets folk har arvet ifra forfedrene, fra den ene ætt til den andre, og som nå om stunder, trass i all fortrengsle og vanvønad, ennå har grunnlag og emne til et bokmål, like så godt som noe av nabo-målene.
    The right native tongue in this country is the one that the people of the country have inherited from their ancestors, from one generation to the next, and which nowadays, in spite of all displacement and contempt, still has the basis and mater- ial for a written language just as good as any of the neighbors’ languages.

    During the twentieth century the major planning task has been to unite the two varieties, since, as we can see, they do differ in certain ways in spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. Progress in that unification has been slow as com- promises have not been easy to achieve. It is now virtually at a standstill and language reform continues to be a contentious issue in Norway. Although, according to its defenders, Nynorsk is said to be more ‘Norwegian’ in spirit, many Norwegians find certain aspects of it vulgar and rustic because of its origins in western rural dialects; consequently, they reject it in favor of the more ‘civilized’ Bokmål. Currently, the proponents of Bokmål are in the stronger position linguistically in that this variety more closely conforms to standard colloquial (i.e., spoken) Norwegian, but ‘true’ nationalists still insist on Nynorsk, Bokmål still being too ‘Danish’ for them. Today, Bokmål is the language of the national press and the majority of books, and the instructional medium of five out of every six schoolchildren. Bokmål dominates the towns and cities, but official documents still employ both varieties, and children must learn to use both. The search for a compromise goes on, but it is unlikely that Norwegians will easily agree on one variety to the exclusion of the other while an important regional minority regards Nynorsk as a clear marker of their identity (Vikør, 2002).

    Our fourth example of language planning is Canada, a country of 31 million people, which is now, by its new constitution of 1982, a constitutionally bilingual country. However, bilingualism itself continues to be a controversial issue in Canada, as anyone who reads its newspapers or follows political discussions there will know. Canada is a federal country, with its origins in the conquest of the French (of what is now Quebec) by the English in 1759. This conquest was followed by the gradual expansion of the nation to include other British posses- sions in North America and to fill the prairies to the north of the United States. Although the country dates its ‘birth’ to 1867 and it was effectively independent from the United Kingdom after that date, its constitution remained an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1982. Controversies over language rights played a prominent part in discussions leading up to making the constitution entirely Canadian in 1982.

    In 1867 the French in Canada seemed assured of opportunities to spread their language and culture throughout the country. Just as English rights in Quebec were protected in the constitution of that year, so French rights outside Quebec seemed to have a strong measure of protection. But that was not to be, as the French soon found in the new province of Manitoba, where French rights were deliberately abrogated. Increasingly, the French in Canada found themselves confined to Quebec, itself dominated by the English of Montreal, and saw the country develop as a country of two nations (or ‘two solitudes’) with one of them – theirs – in a very inferior position. Today, of the less than 30 percent of Canadians who are of French origin, approximately 80 percent live in the province of Quebec.

    The Canadian government appointed a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963 to look into the resulting situation. The commission’s report led to the Official Languages Act of 1969 (reaffirmed in a new form in 1988), which guaranteed the French in Canada certain rights to language everywhere in the country in order to preserve the nation as a bilingual one. The act also appointed an ombudsman, a Commissioner of Official Languages, to report annually to Parliament on progress in implementing new policies. Later, the Constitution Act of 1982 incorporated these language rights guaranteed by statute in 1969 into the patriated constitution. However, if Canada is officially a ‘bilingual’ country, bilingualism in the two official languages is found mainly in the population of French origin and truly bilingual communities are few, e.g., Montreal, Sherbrooke, and the Ottawa-Hull area.

    At the same time as the Government of Canada was guaranteeing French rights throughout Canada, the Government of Quebec took measures to minimize the use of English within the province. While the federal government was trying to extend bilingualism in the rest of Canada, the Government of Quebec was trying to restore French unilingualism within Quebec. They did this because they found that bilingualism led to unilingualism in English. Outside Quebec, the French in Canada were losing French in favor of English as they went over the generations from being unilingual in French, to being bilingual in French and English, and finally to being unilingual in English. There was mounting evidence that this was also happening within Quebec. However, such moves to restrict the use of English in Quebec, e.g., in public education, have come under attack as a violation of rights provided in the new constitution, and in 1984 the Supreme Court of Canada voided those parts of Quebec’s Bill 101 of 1977 that restricted certain rights of anglophones in that province. Quebec does have a variety of language laws to protect French in the province and the authorities are vigilant in enforcing them. Some of those who dislike these laws have moved to other provinces. Others, particularly immigrants, often prefer to learn English rather than French, but between 1971 and 2001 governmental measures have increased the proportion of those who learn French from 29 percent to 46 percent. Certain legislation on the statute books in Manitoba for nearly a century has likewise been voided for denying francophone rights in that province, e.g., to have legislation enacted in French.

    The basic English–French polarization still exists. The French are still a minor- ity in Canada. Their proportion in the overall population continues to decline, no matter what statistic is used (ethnic origin, mother tongue use, or language of the home), with that decline being over 1 percent between the national censuses of 1971 and 1981. By the 1991 census whereas 73 percent of the population reported English as their first official language only 25 percent reported French and that proportion continues to fall. The decline in the use of French is particularly noticeable outside Quebec. It is not really surprising, therefore, that in recent years the French within Quebec have toyed with ‘separatist’ notions, believing that, if they cannot guarantee their future within Canada as a whole, they should at least guarantee it within their home province. The separatist desire increased dramatically in 1990 with the failure that year to reach a countrywide agreement – the so-called Meech Lake Accord – on amending the 1982 constitution. A further attempt at some kind of constitutional settlement failed in 1992 when the Charlottetown Agreement was defeated in a national referendum. However, in 1995 a Quebec referendum on separation from Canada also failed, narrowly though, to gain support for such a move.

    The language situation is further complicated by the fact that Canada is also a country of immigrants who have flocked mainly to the larger cities. For example, in 1996, 37 percent of the residents of Toronto and 34 percent of the residents of Vancouver had a mother tongue other than English or French. There are large numbers of speakers of Italian, German, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, and Chinese. (In 1996, 17 percent of the Canadian population were immigrants in contrast to 8 percent in the United States.) Many of these immigrants face language loss, and some who speak on their behalf say that the French in Canada, particularly the French outside Quebec, should have no privileges, so far as language is concerned, that they themselves do not enjoy. This feeling is particularly strong in many parts of western Canada. The importance of such claims is better understood if one realizes that Canadians of ethnic origins other than French or English now comprise the same proportion of the Canadian population as those of French origin. The French of Quebec are entirely opposed to the idea that they are just another non-English group within Canada. In the view of many they are one of the two founding peoples and a ‘nation’ with the right to separate whenever conditions are right.

    Language planning in Canada is obviously not complete. The ongoing dispute over the constitution and moves to enact various language laws that might be acceptable within the new constitutional framework are but the latest incidents in Canada’s continual concern with language planning. Canada’s two official languages are increasingly becoming territorially based (like the situation in Switzerland and Belgium). However, the constitution rejects such ‘territoriality.’ It is not a happy situation.

    Our final example is China, a state with 1.3 billion inhabitants. Eight differ- ent varieties of Chinese, Hanyu (the ‘Han’ language), are spoken. Linguists call these eight different varieties ‘languages’ but the Chinese themselves prefer to call them different dialects (fang yan) because of the writing system they share. Among those who speak Hanyu, the following percentages are said to speak these varieties: Mandarin 71 percent, Wu 8 percent, Xiang 5 percent, Cantonese 5 percent, Hakka 4 percent, Southern Min (Fukienese) 3 percent, Gan 2 percent, and Northern Min (Fukienese) 1 percent. There are also estimated to be about 5 percent of speakers of non-Chinese languages in China, languages such as Mongolian, Tibetan, and Korean. Although Mandarin is by far the dominant language numerically and geographically, it is only quite recently that it has achieved a political status commensurate with its numbers, since an archaic form of Chinese dominated written usage well into the twentieth century. Language reform and planning has long been a feature of Chinese life, but it has become increasingly important since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

    There are plans to change Chinese in three ways: the first is to simplify Chinese characters; the second is to popularize the Beijing variety of Mandarin, Putonghua (‘the common language’), as it is now referred to; the third is to develop a phonetic alphabet. As we will see, only very limited progress has been made in all three areas, even though the changes advocated by the Committee on Language Reform have the strong support of the State Council of the central government.

    The simplification of the estimated 7,000–8,000 Chinese characters has been given top priority, and periodically the Committee on Language Reform publishes lists of new simplifications and recommends that they be used. The goal is to simplify about half of the characters. The recommendations are widely followed, so that all new publications are printed in simplified characters, many public signs employ them, and they are taught in schools. Today, the effect of this simplification is easily observed: Chinese materials printed in China use simplified characters, whereas those produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan and by most overseas Chinese continue to use the unsimplified ones.

    Much effort has also gone into extending the use of Putonghua throughout the nation. Putonghua actually uses the pronunciation of Beijing, the grammar of the northern dialects, and the vocabulary of modern literary Chinese. It has become the language of Chinese political life, its use is encouraged on various occasions, and it is increasingly taught in schools. However, in such a vast country as China, the extension of Putonghua is a complex and formidable task that will require a long period of time for completion. At the moment, more and more use of Putonghua is noticeable in large urban areas, e.g., Canton and Shanghai. There is also considerable tolerance for local pronunciations of Putonghua, and those who do not speak it at all do not see it as a threat to the varieties they do speak; instead, Putonghua is acknowledged to be the national language just as some other variety is the local one.

    So far as the phoneticization of Chinese writing is concerned, that is, the development of an alphabetic writing system, the current use of Pinyin is merely the latest in a series of attempts to alphabetize; for example, the Wade-Giles system going back to 1859; the proposal for a National Phonetic Alphabet in 1913; the National Language Romanization proposed by Chao and others in 1925–6; and another attempt, Latinxua (‘Latinization’), to develop a Romanized script for the Chinese living in Russia in 1913. Pinyin is now used as an aid in learning Chinese characters, in certain dictionaries, and in the orthographies for several previously unwritten minority languages, e.g., Zhuang, Miao, Yi, and Dong. Its further use seems to depend on the spread of Putonghua, but not everyone agrees on such use. There is agreement, however, that any spread should be slow.

    There is also considerable disagreement concerning whether Pinyin should replace traditional characters or just provide a supplementary system of writing. While Pinyin is taught in early years in elementary schools, it is not used a great deal, it tends to be forgotten since few materials employ it, and the attention of children is quickly directed to learning the more useful Chinese characters. The Chinese are very conscious of their past, have a great reverence for learning, and their traditional writing system provides a strong unifying force; they are unlikely, therefore, easily to abandon it. While there is evidence that more and more Chinese can use Pinyin and do use it for certain purposes in a growing number of places, e.g., on maps and street signs, and in textbooks, the changes are actually very moderate. The plan seems to be to move slowly in this area; simplifying characters and extending the uses of Putonghua are obviously much more important goals in language planning in contemporary China. We must also remember that even fulfilling the simplest of goals becomes an immense task when it involves so many people.

    Winners and Losers

    It seems fitting to close a chapter on language planning in various places in the world by indicating some of the facts about languages in general. We live in a world of more than 6 billion people and by the most generous estimate 6,000 languages. Many of these are endangered or even dying (see Dorian, 1981, 1989, 1998, Fase et al., 1992, Grenoble and Whaley, 1998, and Mühlhäusler, 1996). Dixon estimates that there may be actually as few as 4,000 languages spoken today with that number steadily decreasing. He says (1996, p. 199) that:

    “Each language encapsulates the world-view of its speakers – how they think, what they value, what they believe in, how they classify the world around them, how they order their lives. Once a language dies, a part of human culture is lost – for ever.

    The most important task in linguistics today – indeed, the only really important task – is to get out in the field and describe languages, while this can still be done.”

    Nettle and Romaine (2000) voice a very similar view, say that as many as 60 percent of all languages are already endangered, and go so far as to claim that some of the endangered languages have much to tell us about the natural world, e.g., invaluable information about ecological matters, and even perhaps about the nature of reality (see the Whorfian hypothesis, pp. 221–8): ‘each language . . . [is] a way of coming to grips with the external world and developing a symbol- ism to represent it so that it can be talked and thought about’ (p. 69). Crystal (2000) also deplores the reduction of language diversity brought about by language death.

    Estimates of language loss go as high as 95 percent within the new century if nothing is done to stop the decline. It is for just such a reason that the Linguistic Society of America has gone on record as deploring language loss and established a Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation to help arrest it. However, we should note that not all linguists agree that they should be out in the field trying to describe – and possibly preserve – threatened languages. Mühlhäusler (1996) goes so far as to argue that linguists are some- times part of the problem rather than part of the solution. However, no matter what happens the number of languages spoken in the world will almost certainly continue to decline.

    In marked contrast to such decline, a few languages thrive, e.g., the Mandarin variety of Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, and Spanish (with its enormous growth poten- tial in South America), and one, English, has spread everywhere in the world (see Wardhaugh, 1987, and Crystal, 2003b, 2004). Languages like French (even when promoted by La Francophonie), Russian, German, and Japanese, on the other hand, do not thrive in the same way: they win few converts and, as the world’s population grows, they decrease proportionally. As Crystal has pointed out, English spread initially through conquest and then by being in the right place at the right time for use in international relations, the worldwide media, international travel, education, and now communications. He estimates that one-quarter of the world’s population have some kind of fluency in the language. Its major appeal is as a lingua franca, a common second language with a certain amount of internal diversity (see Meierkord, 2004). In December 2004, a British Council report estimated that 2 billion more people would begin learn- ing English within a decade and by 2050 there would be over 3 billion speakers of English in the world. The main motivation to learn English would continue to be an economic one and an important consequence would be a great increase in bilingualism/multilingualism in English and one or more other languages. (According to this report, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish would also become increasingly important languages.)

    Huntington (1996, p. 61) puts the case for English as follows: “English is the world’s way of communicating interculturally just as the Christian calendar is the world’s way of tracking time, Arabic numbers are the world’s way of counting, and the metric system is, for the most part, the world’s way of measuring. The use of English in this way, however, is intercultural communication; it presupposes the existence of separate cultures. A lingua franca is a way of coping with linguistic and cultural differences, not a way of eliminating them. It is a tool for communication not a source of identity and community.”

    He adds (p. 62): “The people who speak English throughout the world also increasingly speak dif- ferent Englishes. English is indigenized and takes on local colorations which dis- tinguish it from British or American English and which, at the extreme, make these Englishes almost unintelligible one to the other, as is also the case with varieties of Chinese.”

    In its spread English has differentiated; there are New Englishes, and English is not just a single language any more. It also lacks a dominant center; English is pluricentric and is used to express various national identities (Schneider, 2003). (See also Kachru, 1992, Fishman et al., 1996, McArthur, 1998, Gordon et al., 2004, Hickey, 2004, and Trudgill, 2004.)

    Huntington points out that languages inherently compete with each other and voices the following caution (p. 63): As the power of the West gradually declines relative to that of other civilizations, the use of English and other Western languages in other societies and for commun- ication between societies will also slowly erode. If at some point in the distant future China displaces the West as the dominant civilization in the world, English will give way to Mandarin as the world’s lingua franca. However, Bruthiaux (2002), after reviewing possible factors that might diminish the current dominance of English, concludes that no other language will ‘dis- place English as the dominant global language in the 21st century’ (p. 153).

    The spread of English in the world has not gone without critics (see Phillipson, 1992, 2003, Mühlhäusler, 1996, and Pennycook, 1998) who regard the lan- guage as a clear expression of political, cultural, and economic imperialism – a kind of dominance – and assail all efforts to promote the further use of English in the world, e.g., by government-sponsored teaching programs. Writing in the tradition of critical theory (or critical discourse analysis; see p. 350), such critics cannot conceive of English as a value-free language. As Pennycook says, there is nothing ‘neutral’ about English use in Hong Kong: ‘this image of English use as an open and borrowing language, reflecting an open and borrowing people, is a cultural construct of colonialism that is in direct conflict with the colonial evidence’ (p. 143). Others apply this kind of judgment everywhere English has spread. Mühlhäusler (1996), for example, regards languages like English – others are Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin Chinese – as ‘killer languages’ because as national languages of modernization, education, and development they stifle and eventually kill local languages. Dorian (1998, p. 9) states the case unequivocally: ‘Europeans who come from polities with a history of stand- ardizing and promoting just one high-prestige form carried their “ideology of contempt” for subordinate languages with them when they conquered far-flung territories to the serious detriment of indigenous languages.’

    House (2003) draws a different conclusion concerning the spread of English in the European Union. There, English is spreading because it is an effective lingua franca and she says that this spread may actually strengthen local lan- guages as people seek to maintain local identities. The European Union shows how such a compromise has occurred. Wright (2004, p. 14) comes to a similar conclusion but one not limited to the European Union: ‘it is not inconceivable that as intergroup communication happens increasingly in English, speakers from the smaller language groups will move from being bilingual in their own language and the national language to being bilingual in their own language and English. This latter bilingualism might be more stable than the former.’

    There is a paradox here: linguists are told that they save languages best by not acting at all; certainly they should do nothing to promote English in the world, or to standardize a language, or possibly to help in any kind of language planning anywhere. Yet, there is no assurance that they will save a single language by not acting. An alternative possibility is that intervention actually slows down decline and loss. However, there is really no hard evidence for either position. Each is essentially ideologically derived: if you believe this you do one thing and if you believe that you do another. We do well to remember that because we are involved in socio-linguistic matters, ideology is likely to be at least as potent a factor as science in determining which approach we ultimately adopt. Issues of identity and power will also never be far from the surface.

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    Course Conclusion

    Most books that deal with language in society and offer themselves as introductions to sociolinguistics or the sociology of language lack formal conclusions. The reason for such an omission is probably clear by now. Just what can you possibly conclude when the issues are so complex, the data so varied, and the approaches so different? However, I will attempt to say a few words.

    Our consideration of various issues has revealed above all how complex a thing a language is, or any variety of a language. Languages are just as complex as societies, and we all know how difficult it is to make generalizations about those. That languages should be so complex is not surprising. Languages and societies are related, and social and linguistic complexity are not unrelated. Just as it is naive to believe that there are societies that possess only very primitive cultures, so it is equally naive to believe that certain peoples speak primitive languages. All cultures and all languages are extremely complex. Some may actually be more complex than others, but we do not as yet have an exhaustive and definitive study of a single culture or of a single language from anywhere in the world, nor are there any immediate prospects of one. If both the culture and language of any group of people almost defy adequate description, then we can be assured that the relationships that certainly exist between the two are not likely to be more transparent, even to well-informed observers.

    A further complication is added by the fact that, among the various kinds of complexity we observe in language, one kind must give us considerable concern: that is, the amount of variation that is apparent wherever we look. Language varies in many kinds of ways, and investigations repeatedly show that people are aware of this fact, even though they may not be conscious of precisely what they are doing or how they are reacting to the variants that others use. Variation seems to be an inherent property of language. If it is, it creates a number of theoretical problems for linguists.

    Linguists working in the Chomskyan tradition have generally tried not to involve themselves with variation, preferring to adopt a view of language which sees it as homogeneous and describing a linguistic competence which they assume all speakers possess. However, if an important part of the linguistic competence of language users is their ability to handle variation and the various uses of language in society, then the competence that needs to be explained is one that encompasses a much wider range of abilities: it is communicative competence, of which linguistic competence is but a part. While sociolinguists have talked at length, however, about communicative competence, attempts to specify just what it is have not been very successful, probably because it is so complex and all-encompassing. Furthermore, attempts to use the concept in applied work, e.g., the teaching of foreign languages, have tended to rely more on rhetoric than on substance.

    If there is such a thing as communicative competence, and there must surely be in some sense, a further problem arises in trying to explain how it develops in individuals. Just how does an individual learn to use the variants of a linguistic variable, to code-switch, to use sexist language, and so on? Moreover, how does that individual learn to use these in the same way as certain other individuals and in slightly different ways from still other individuals? What are the social forces that bring about such learning, what intellectual abilities are called for, and what survival value follows from the results? These are all very important linguistic and social problems, answers to which will bring us important understanding about human linguistic and social organization.

    One of the facts that our various inquiries have certainly shown is that the data we can use in explorations of the relationships between language and society seem boundless. Moreover, there is no shortage of concepts and categories avail- able to use in our attempts to make sense of those data. We have seen various attempts at such organization. We can begin with concepts like ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ in an attempt to discover how useful these are. In just about every case, such an approach has revealed shortcomings. While such concepts allow us to organize large amounts of data, they fail us too often to become the building blocks of a comprehensive theory. For example, we cannot adequately define either language or dialect, nor can we infallibly distinguish the one from the other.

    Quantification is another approach that has both its strengths and its weaknesses. We can count instances of certain kinds of language use; we can devise tables, draw graphs, and show trends and correlations; we can even subject the resulting quantities to statistical analysis and claim significance for certain findings. I have referred to numbers and percentages throughout the preceding chapters, but have made special reference to such matters in discussion of the linguistic variable. Quantification is useful in showing what kinds of behavior you may expect to find among groups of people and trends in that behavior across various dimensions such as time, space, gender, age, and social class. But any resulting claims are claims about the behavior we can expect of groups, or of sub-groups. In that respect they are statements about an idealized typical member, whoever he or she might be. In actual fact, individuals are never typical, and certainly their behavior is never ideal by almost any criterion. What is interesting is the particular fit between individuals and such idealizations, and especially the fundamental sociological puzzle of whether people model their behaviors on certain ideals they perceive to exist or whether any ideals that people claim to exist are just idealizations arrived at through emphasizing similarities we believe to exist in people’s behavior and down-playing differences. The approach through quantification is therefore not without a whole array of problems, ranging from very simple issues such as collecting data, to profound ones having to do with the nature of social reality.

    An approach through language functions may also be indicated by the fact that language is used for so many purposes. As we have seen, there are many ways of trying to deal with language function. We can try an ethnographic approach, we can analyze conversations, we can attempt to distinguish what people do with language as opposed to what they use language to say, as in a speech-acts approach, and so on. Much understanding of language use has been achieved by investigations conducted with such aims. Above all, though, they show how subtle and varied are the differences that exist, yet how easily and confidently speakers (and listeners) handle these subtleties.

    One thing that our examination of various issues has revealed though is how important such concepts as ‘identity,’ ‘class,’ ‘power,’ ‘solidarity,’ ‘politeness,’ and ‘gender’ are in trying to make sense of the data we find. Unfortunately, we have no grand theory to unite these. Figueroa concludes her study of sociolinguistic theory in general and specifically the ideas of Labov, Hymes, and Gumperz by saying (1994, p. 179), ‘There is no unified theory of sociolinguistics, or even for that matter, a shared metatheory. There is a shared sociolinguistic subject matter – “utterance” – but this would not necessarily delimit sociolinguistics from other types of linguistics.’

    Some sociolinguists insist on a narrow view. We may agree with Chambers (2003, pp. 273–4) that: “we have come to understand how variables function in vernacular and standard dialects. It is time now to go beyond that and ask why. Why do certain variables recur in dialects all around the world? Why is it these particular variables, not others, that persist? Why are they constrained in exactly the same ways in widely separated communities? Why are they embedded so similarly in the social strata?”

    However, his next sentence, ‘This vast, virtually unexplored area lies at the very root of our discipline,’ might give us pause. Are there no other roots? Is that all sociolinguistics should be about?

    Perhaps the study of language in society is best served by resisting premature urges to declare that it must proceed along certain lines and may not proceed along others. Repeatedly, we have seen the multi-dimensional nature of any issue we have looked at. Even when we took a uni-dimensional approach, we did so knowing full well what we were doing and in the knowledge that another approach or other approaches might cast a different light on the issue. Although people have long been interested in the relationships between language and society, it is only fairly recently that scientific approaches have been adopted. It seems wiser to encourage a variety of scientific approaches and the genera- tion of a range of theories than to put our entire trust and hope into a single way of doing sociolinguistics. That is certainly the way I have gone about looking at how language and society are related. I have not avoided theor- etical issues, and I have not avoided looking at data themselves, and not simply in the sense that ‘you cannot have data without a theory.’ However, I have found it neither useful nor possible to adopt a single theoretical approach.

    This, I suggest, is also a correct characterization of current sociolinguistic inquiries; there are numerous theories, vast amounts of data, and important findings, but there is no central doctrine a sociolinguist must adhere to. In no way do I regard the absence of such a doctrine as a fatal flaw; rather, it should serve to encourage us to try to make new discoveries and find new areas to explore in the hope of gaining a still better understanding of both language and society and of the many relationships between the two. Some of us may even be tempted then to try to change some of the relationships we find. I have suggested we use caution if we are so tempted: ideology has too often proved to be a sure path to disaster!

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