Language planning

Author

University of Southern California, USA

Abstract

Language planning, in one way or another, is as old as human civilization. Every time that one
polity  invaded  the  territory  of  another,  the  language  of  the  conqueror  was  imposed  on  the
conquered. The Romans imposed their language across the civilized world as they  knew it. In
the  21st  century,  the  practice  of  language  planning  has  become  increasingly  sophisticated.
English, as the result of a series of fortuitous accidents has become the international language
serving  many  activities.  At  the  same  time,  it  has  led  to  an  explosion  in  English  language
teaching, an activity also not based on wise decisions or wise planning. 

Keywords

Main Subjects


An early example
The  Ottoman  Empire  was  initially  founded
in  1299  in  northern  Anatolia  by  Turkish
tribes  under  Osman  Bay.  With the  conquest
of  Constantinople  by  Mehmed  II,  the
Ottoman  state  became  the  Ottoman  Empire.  
The Empire (covering parts of Asia, Europe
and  Africa)  reached  its  peak  at  1590.  The
long-lived  Ottoman  dynasty  lasted  for  more
than  600  years,  until  1922,  when  the
monarchy  was  abolished.  Ottoman  Turkish
(a  Turkic  language  heavily  influenced  by
Persian)  was  the  official  language  of  the
Empire.  The  Empire  recognized  three
influential  languages:  Turkish  (spoken  by
the  majority  of  Muslims  except  in  Albania
and  Bosnia);  Persian  (only  spoken  by  the
educated);  and  Arabic  (spoken  mainly  in
Arabia,  North  Africa,  Iraq,  Kuwait  and  the
Levant).  In  the  last  two  centuries,  usage  of
these  languages  became  limited  --  Persian
served  mainly  as  a  literary  language  for  the
elite;  the  low  rate  of  public  literacy  (about
2–3%  until  the  early  19th  century;  only
about  15%  by  the  end  of  19th  century)
ordinary people had to hire special scribes to
communicate  with  the  government.  The
ethnic  groups  (Armenians,  Greeks,  Jews)
continued  to  speak  their  own  languages
within  their  families  and  in  their
neighborhoods.  In  villages  where  two  or
more  communities  speaking  mutually
unintelligible  languages  lived  together,  the
inhabitants  often  spoke  each  other's
language. In cosmopolitan cities, many non-ethnic  Turks  spoke  Turkish  as  a  second
language  (see,  Encyclopedia  of  the  Middle
East:  www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East
Encyclopedia [retrieved December 2012]).
 
Language planning in the present
Of  course,  this  situation  does  not  represent
language  planning  as  the  term  is  used  at
present.  The  field  is  a  relatively  new
addition to the anatomy of academia, having
come  into  existence  in  the  years
immediately  following  World  War  II  --  a
period  marked  by  the  beginning  of  the
break-up  of  European  colonial  empires  and
the  emergence  of  new  nations,  particularly
 
in Africa and Asia. Initially called language
engineering,  the  discipline  emerged  as  an
approach  to  creating  programs  for  solving
“language problems” in newly independent
“developing  nations.”  Language  planning
was perceived as being done using a broadly
based  team  approach  from  an  objective,
ideologically  and  politically  neutral
technological  perspective  in  which  the
identity  of  the  planners  mattered  little  as
long as they possessed the required range of
technical  skills.  The  intellectual  link
between  language  planning  and
modernization/development  insured  that  the
implicit  assumptions  in  language  planning
reflected  assumptions  in  the  social  sciences
that  have  subsequently  been  subject  to  re-evaluation  and  revision.  Especially  striking
in  hindsight  is  the  optimism  of  early
language  planers;  they  demonstrated  an
underlying  ideological  faith  in  development
and  modernization.  In  early  language-planning research, practitioners were seen as
having  the  expertise  to  specify  ways  in
which  changes  in  the  linguistic  situation
would  lead  to  desired  social  and  political
transformations  (i.e.,  supporting  the
development  of  unity  in  the  socio-cultural
system,  reducing  economic  inequalities  and
providing access to education). The belief in
economic  and  social  progress  was  perhaps
best expressed in Eastman’s introduction to
language planning (1983) in which language
planners  are  depicted  as  being  at  the
forefront  of  fundamental  shifts  in  the
organization of global society:   
    
Modernization  and  preservation  efforts  are
seemingly happening everywhere, to provide all
people with access to the modern world through
technologically sophisticated languages and also
to  lend  a  sense  of  identity  through  encouraged
use  of  their  first  languages  (Eastman,  1983,  p.
31).   
 
Consider terminology
The  terms  language  planning  and  language
policy  are  frequently  used,  in  both  the
technical  and  the  popular  literature,  either
interchangeably  or  in  tandem.  However,
they  actually  represent  two  quite  distinct
aspects  of  the  systemised  language  change
process.  
 
Language  planning  is  an  activity,  most
visibly  undertaken  by  government  (simply
because it potentially involves such massive
changes  in  a  society),  intended  to  promote
systematic  linguistic  change  in  some
community  of  speakers.  The  reasons  for
such  change  lie  in  a  reticulated  pattern  of
structures  developed  by  government  and
intended  to  maintain  civil  order  and
communication,  and  to  move  the  entire
society in some direction deemed "good" or
"useful"  by  government.  The  exercise  of
language  planning  leads  to,  or  is  directed
by,  the  promulgation  of  a  language  policy
by  government  (or  some  other  authoritative
body or person).  
 
A  language  policy  is  a  body  of  ideas,  laws,
regulations,  rules  and  practices  intended  to
achieve  the  planned  language  change  in  the
society,  group  or  system.  Only  when  such
policy  exists  can  any  sort  of  serious
evaluation of planning occur (Rubin, 1971);
i.e.,  in  the  absence  of  a  policy  there  cannot
be  a  plan  to  be  adjusted.  Language  policy
may be realised at a number of levels, from
very  formal  language  planning  documents
and  pronouncements  to  informal  statements
of  intent  (i.e.,  the  discourse  of  language,
politics  and  society)  that  may  not  at  first
glance  seem  like  language  policies  at  all.
Indeed,  as  Peddie  (1991)  observed,  policy
statements  commonly  fall  into  two  types:
symbolic  and  substantive.  The  first
articulates  good  feelings  toward  change  (or
perhaps ends up being so nebulous that it is
difficult  to  understand  what  language-specific  concepts  may  be  involved),  while
the  latter  articulates  specific  steps  to  be
 
 
taken.  This  brief  paper  concerns  itself
primarily  with  language  planning.  Complex
motives  and  approaches,  and  large
populations,  are  involved  in  modern  states,
and  language  planners  have,  up  to  the
present  time,  most  often  worked  in  such
macro situations.
 
The early practitioners
During  the  early  or  classical  period  of
language-planning  development,  emerging
specialists  believed  that  their  new
understanding  of  language  in  society  could
be  implemented  in  practical  programs  of
modernization  and  development  having
important  benefits  for  developing  societies.
This  early  period  was  characterized  by  an
extensive  growth  in  research  by  a  small
number  of  authors  (e.g.,  Fishman,  1968;
1971;  1972;  1974;  Rubin  &  Jernudd,  1971;
Rubin  &  Shuy,  1973)  because  the  field  was
perceived  to  have  practical  significance  for
the  newly  independent  post-colonial  states
(particularly in Africa) as well as theoretical
value in providing “…new opportunities to
tackle  a  host  of…novel  theoretical
concerns…”  (Fishman,  Ferguson  &  Das
Gupta,  1968:  x)  in  sociology  and  political
science since “…few areas are more fruitful
or  urgent  with  respect  to  interdisciplinary
attention…”  (1968,  pp.  x-xi).  Early
practitioners believed that language planning
could  play  a  major  role  in  achieving  the
goals  of  political/administrative  integration
and sociocultural unity (Das Gupta, 1970, p.
3).   
 
Thus,  a  major  focus  of  this  early  research
involved  analysis  of  the  language-planning
needs  specific  to  newly  independent  states.
It appeared that:  
 
1)  language  choice  and  literacy  were
significant  in  the  processes
involving ‘nationism,’ and  
2)  language  maintenance,  codification
and  elaboration  were  significant  in
processes  of  ‘nationalism’
(Fishman, 1968).  
 
This  linkage  of  language  planning  with
development  and  modernization  –  essential
for  the  early  emergence  of  the  field  –  was
influenced  by  modernization  theory  (e.g.,
Rostow, 1960); consequently, early research
focused  primarily  on  the  role  of  language
planning  in  developing  societies.
Consideration of the question of exactly who
the  planners  were  and  what  impact  their
views  might  have  on  the  goals  set  to  solve
language  problems  has  been  raised  only
much  more  recently  (by,  among  others,
Baldauf  1982;  Baldauf  &  Kaplan,  2003;
Zhao,  2011).  By  the  1970s,  it  had  become
apparent  that  language  problems  were  not
unique  only  to  developing  nations,  but  that
they also occurred as “macro” (i.e., state-level)  language  problems  and  situations  in
polities  worldwide.  Despite  the  early
optimism,  in  less  than  twenty  years,  by  the
mid  1980s,  disillusionment  with  language
planning  –  due  to  several  factors  –  was
widespread  (Blommaert,  1996;  Williams,
1992). Since the late 1990s, language policy
and  planning  principles  have  also  been
increasingly  applied in “micro” situations
(for  example,  in  relation  to  language
problems  in  communities,  schools,
organizations  and  companies;  see,  for
instance,  Canagarajah,  2005;  Chua  &
Baldauf, 2011).
 
Ricento  (2000,  p.  196)  has  suggested  that
research  in  language  policy  and  planning
can be divided into three historical phases:  
 
•  decolonization,  structuralism  and
pragmatism (1950s, 1960s);  
•  the  failure  of  modernization,
critical  sociolinguistics    (1980s,
1990s);
•  a  new  world  order,
 
postmodernism, linguistic human
rights (21st century).   
 
An  important  change  in  language  planning
since  the  1980s  lies  in  the  recognition  that
language  planning  is  not  necessarily  an
aspect  of  development  but  rather  that  it
implicates a broad range of social processes
including  at  least  migration  and  the  rise  of
nationalism  in  Europe  and  Central  Asia.
Migration  constitutes  one  reason  for  the
increases  in  the  numbers  of  people
worldwide who are learning languages and –
consequently  –  for  a  significant  increase  in
concern  with  language-in-education
planning.
 
As  a  consequence  of  the  recent
developments  in  language  planning,  two
immediate issues arose:
 
1)  How  should  the  discipline  of
language  planning  be  taught  in
academic institutions? and
2)  How  can  language  planning  be
undertaken  without  recognizing  the
inherently  political  nature  of  the
enterprise?
 
These  concerns  raise  the  question  of  what
one can one do when trying to explicate the
social forces that influence language change,
and the kinds of language change motivated
by  social  forces.  These  questions,  in  turn,
reveal  that  the  basic  concerns  are  really  all
about  political  preference;  language
planning  –  a  subset  of  sociolinguistics  --  is
actually constrained and defined by politics,
since  language  policy  invariably  implicates
someone’s  social  and/or  political  choice.
Much  language  planning  –  past  and  present
–  has  been  undertaken  by  government  and
has been conceived primarily as a top-down
activity espousing  “a set of views, beliefs,
ideas  and  so  forth,  subscribed  to  by  a
specific  dominant  social  group  (class,
language,  gender,  race  or  ethnicity...)  to
maintain the existing social order...” (Webb,
2006,  pp.  147-148;  see  also,  e.g.,
Pennycook,  2000;  Phillipson,  1992;
Tolefson,  2002).  If  politics  were  to  be
excluded  from  sociolinguistics,  there  would
be  nothing  to  teach  (Webb  &  Du  Plessis,
2006).  Indeed,  the  issue  lies  largely  in  the
metaphors  used  to  define  the  values;  but
metaphors  over  time  accrue  a  coating  of
popular  opinion  often  creating
counterproductive effects (Larson, 2011).  
 
Thus,  it  appears  that  language  planning  is
essentially  a  political  activity;  given  that
perspective,  the  practice  of  politics  is  an
inherent  part  of  the  development  and
eventual  implementation  of  any  language
plan.  Language  Planners  cannot  be
absolutely  neutral  individuals,  separating
their  planning  self  from  any  practical
activity.  Rather  than  separating  one’s
scholarly self from one’s partisan self –  an
activity  akin  to  becoming  partially  pregnant
or  partly  virginal  –  would  it  be  possible
instead  to  examine  political  behavior  as  a
part of the human makeup and then to study
that  political  behavior  without  necessarily
instantiating  a  line  of  action?  Students  of
language planning should be free to select a
course  of  action  appropriate  to  the  given
situation  and  the  given  population.  In  doing
so, however, those students should be made
aware  of  the  probable  consequence  of  the
path  chosen  as  well  as  the  probable
consequences of choosing a different path or
of  opting  for  the  status  quo  by  choosing  no
path  at  all.  The  basic  principles  of  doing  so
were explored and articulated by the Prague
School  linguists  in  the  early  years  of  the
20th  century.  While  the  principles  were
clearly  articulated,  application  was  not  well
developed;  however,  contemporary
exercises  do  exist  --  see,  e.g.,  Neustupný  &
Nekvapil, 2006.
 
A  language  plan  in  the  absence  of  an
implementation  plan  is  a  useless  bit  of
academic research – truly an exercise for the
Ivory  Tower.  And  a  language  plan  in  the
absence  of  the  recognition  of  the  political
implications  of  such  a  plan  may  resemble
the proverbial road to hell, paved with good
intentions.  In  brief,  it  is  impossible  to
remove  politics  from  the  classroom  or  from
the  implementation  of  any  language  plan;
whether  those  politics  are  captured  in  a
partisan  stance  is  another  matter,  but  once
the camel’s  nose  is  in  the  tent  it  may  be
virtually  impossible  to  recover  any  space.
Doing  language  planning  involves  the
interaction of three  groups of  actors: people
with  expertise  (e.g.  linguists  and  applied
linguists), people with influence (e.g. people
with  high  social  standing)  and  people  with
power (e.g., national leaders and high placed
officials).  Furthermore,  they  show  that  the
success  or  failure  of  a  particular  language
planning  initiative  may  hinge  on  political
decisions;  this  is  an  important  lesson  for  all
those  involved  with  language  planning  to
understand. Given the normal complexity of
any  language-based  problem,  the  members
of  any  group  organized  to  undertake  a
language  planning  activity  (or  even  to
undertake  a  language-planning  activity  as  a
purely  academic  exercise)  are  obliged  to
inform  their  funding  sources,  whether
governmental or not, of  their individual and
collective  biases.  The  funding  sources,
especially  governmental  funding  sources
(since  governmental  funding  inevitable
derives  from  public  monies),  are  entitled  to
know the planners’ views of language in
general and of the language(s) implicated in
the  planning  activity.  In  addition,
unexpected  'political'  complications  can
arise  that  can  undermine  the  basis  for  a
language  planning  project.  In  short,
language  planning  is  a  profoundly  political
activity,  and  ‘politics’  cannot  simply  be
omitted  from  such  studies.  That  being  so,
there appear to be at least five basic reasons
why language planning, in its political guise,
is likely to fail:
 
1.  In  the  normal  context,  languages  are
commonly  disseminated  primarily
through  educational  systems,  but
educational  systems  often  suffer
from several constraints:  
a)  Education  is  commonly  funded
through  the  annual  national  budget;
consequently,  the  education  sector
competes  with  all  other  government
departments  for  a  share  of  available
national  funds.  In  many  polities,
education  falls  significantly  below
other  departments  in  the  order  of
priority  allocations  –  e.g.,  compared
with  those  concerned  with  defense,
with  the  legal  system,  with
international  affairs,  with  business
and  industry,  and  so  on  –
consequently  receiving  a  more
limited  fund  allocation,  since
education  in  general  does  not  often
attract  high  priority  budgetary
attention.
b)  Education  is  often  subject  to  a  slow
decision-making  process,  of
necessity  operating  through  many
levels  of  bureaucracy  and  through  a
large  segment  of  the  population  and
consequently  through  an  extremely
large  number  of  potential  pressure
groups.
 
i.  collective  teachers  who  rarely
represent a coherent focus but rather,
in  reality,  belong  to  different  cadres
trained  at  different  times  through
different  educational  philosophies
and  representing  different  economic
realities,  
ii.  deeply  layered  school
administrations  (and  consequently
administrators)  also  differing  in
 

experience, training, and needs,  
iii.  local  governmental  bureaucracies
also  differing  in  experience,  biases,
training, and economic conditions,   
iv.  different  economic  functions  in
society  that  may  be  seen  to  depend
on  supplies  of  workers  needed  to
meet pragmatic needs now and in the
future and to reflect rapidly changing
markets,  
v.  parents  focus  on  their  expectations
for  their  children  and  their  views  of
what  aspects  of  education  are  most
important, and ultimately  
vi.  the  children  to  be  taught  --
commonly  perceived  to  constitute  a
homogeneous  group  requiring  a
standardized  educational  content
delivered over a standardized time in
a  standardized  format,  but  in  fact
differing  widely  in  attitudes  toward
specific  languages,  in  attitudes
toward  education,  in  economic
realities and in personality types.
 
2.  Language  planning  strives  to  make
choices among languages and – with
each  language  selected  –  planning
must consider:
 
a)  popular  attitudes  toward  each
language, as well as popular attitudes
toward  literacy  in  general  and
literacy  in  any  particular  language
(i.e.,  the  national  language,  local
vernaculars).
b)  its  suitability  for  wide-spread  usage
(i.e.,  whether  it  is  judged  to  be  a
standard  or  a  sub-standard  variety
[e.g., a Creole, a pidgin]),  
c)  its “value” in the eyes of users (i.e.,
whether  its  users  are  deemed  to  be
superior,  equal,  or  inferior  to  the
most powerful   group),  
d)  its range determined by:  
 
i.  location  of  large  clusters  of  users
(i.e.,  within  the  polity  or  elsewhere
[in  neighboring  polities  or  in  distant
ones;  e.g.,  Standard  French  in
African or Asian dependencies]),  
 
ii.  biases  toward  the  language,  toward
its  lexicon,  toward  the  perceived
relative complexity of its syntax (i.e.,
the  aversion  to  tone  languages  by
speakers of non-tone languages).
 
The  relative  bias  may  be  further
complicated  by  the  fact  that
colonizers  and  missionaries  created
new  languages  by  applying
translation  practices  to  existing
languages  and  by    reworking
indigenous  languages  –  through
translation and standardization – into
the colonizers’/missionaries’ models
derived  from  languages  the
colonizers/missionaries knew.
 
3.   The  logistics  of  the  situation,
considering  the  real  distance  from
the  legislative  seat  to  the  places
where  implementation  is  likely  to
occur,  the  relative  cost  and  the
relative  ease  or  difficulty  of
movement  between  the  legislative
seat  and  the  distant  implementation
loci,  and  any  differences  between
attitudes  at  the  urban  center  versus
those  in  the  outlying  and/or  rural
areas.
   
a)  The  real  logistic  issues  in
transporting  standardized  textbooks
and other teaching supplies from the
site  of  production  (at  or  near  the
urban  center  or  even  outside  the
polity)  to  the  distant  and/or  rural
periphery.
b)  Similarly,  the  feasibility  of  the
movement  back  and  forth  of

 
inspectors,  other  agent  of  the
national  interest,  and  agents
responsible  for  assessing  success  or
failure  and  for  instituting
remediation  in  program  structure,
syllabus, or personnel.  
 
4.  Whether  the  national  language  is
indeed  the  language  of  students,
teachers  and  administrators  in  the
periphery.
 
a)  Determining whether the language(s)
recognized  at  the  periphery  (as
opposed  to  the  standard  language
recognized  at  the  urban  center)
possess an orthography, whether that
orthography is the same as that of the
standard  language,  and  whether
literacy  is  as  well  developed  at  the
periphery  as  it  is  for  the  standard
language  at  the  urban  center,  or  for
that  matter  for  any  language  other
than the national language.    
b)  Determining  whether  differences
from  the  standard  exist  in  local
dialects  of  the  national  language  or
in  minority  language(s)  used  by  the
student-population  and  the  parent-populations  and  their  attitudes
toward  the  official  language,  the
official  governmental  structure  and
its language habits.
c)  Determining  whether  the  teachers  at
the  implementation  loci  are  native
speakers  or  L2  speakers  of  the
standard  national  language  that
constitutes the medium of instruction
(i.e.,  determining  whether  their
fluency in the medium of instruction
is adequate to teaching that language
to children for whom it may be an L2
or an Ln).
 
5.  More  purely  political  matters;  e.g.,
the attitudes of the dominant political
party to the language and its users in
comparison  to  the  attitudes  of  the
minority  party  (or  minority  parties)
to  the  language  and  its  users  –  in
short,  the  probability  that  a
legislative  proposal  is  likely  to
survive,  likely  to  be  funded,  and
likely  to  be  allowed  to  continue
uninterrupted  for  a  sufficient  trial
period.  
 
No  known  extant  language  plan  actually
considers  the  large  and  complex  set  of
variables  summarized  here.  However,  there
is  yet  another  matter  that  needs  to  be
considered  –  whether  the  proposers  of  the
plan  can  expect  to  find  a  consensus  of
opinion  across  the  polity  in  support  of  the
proposed  language  plan/modification  --  in
short,  has  anyone  asked  the  speakers  in  the
community  what  they  think  about  the  plan?
Any  political  structure  may  be  divided  into
two  quite  different  camps,  each  determined
to show that the opposition’s approach is
seriously  flawed  while  their  approach  is  the
correct  one,  since  there  are  likely  to  be
broad  differences  of  opinion  on  whether  to
tax,  what  to  tax,  whom  to  tax,  for  what  to
tax  in  order  to  develop  the  resources
necessary  to  fund  the  activities  essential  to
allow any plan to be implemented.
 
In  many  countries,  language-in-education
planning  has  become  central  in  efforts  to
deal  with  this  massive  movement  of  people
(Tollefson,  1989),  resulting  in  a  range  of
new  questions,  which  are  in  need  of
attention:  
 
•  What  should  be  the  role  of
migrants’ languages in education
and  in  other  official  domains  of
use?   
•  How are local languages affected
by migrants?   
•  What should be the status of new
 
varieties  of  various  linguae
franche?   
•  How can acquisition planning be
most effectively carried out?   
•  What  factors  constrain
acquisition planning?     
 
A  second  concern  in  language  planning  has
emerged  from  the  collapse  of  the  Soviet
Union  and  the  realignment  of  political
boundaries  in  Eastern  Europe  and  Central
Asia  –  a  phenomenon  giving  rise  to  the
emergence  of  new  states  in  which  language
issues are intimately linked with ideological
and political conflicts. Also, these issues are
central  to  the  efforts  of  such  new  (or  re-emerging)  states  to  establish  effective  local
institutions  (see,  e.g.,  Hogan-Brun,  et  al.,
2007). The language planning choices made
by  state  planners,  legislative  bodies,  and
citizens  are  likely  to  play  an  important  role
in  the  management  of  political  conflict  in
these new or re-emerging states for decades
to come.
 
A  third  area  of  current  research  lies  in  the
movement  to  deconstruct  the  ideology  of
monolingualism  that  has  pervaded  much
language  planning  research  (Williams,
1992), exactly because the focus has been on
the  monolingual  state  –  one  polity/one
language/one  culture.  Emerging  research
involves  a  re-examination  of  traditional
assumptions  about  the  costs  of
multilingualism  and  the  benefits  of
monolingualism. The linking of multilingual
policies  and  democratization  (Deprez  &  du
Plessis, 2000) has also become an important
part of political debates elsewhere.  
 
The  movement  for  linguistic  human  rights
offers  another  significant  point  of  view.  
While  some  language  planning  scholars
have  advocated  mother  tongue-promotion
policies  (e.g.,  Skutnabb-Kangas,  2000),
others  have  linked  language  rights  to
political  theory  and  to  efforts  to  develop  a
theory  of  language  planning  (e.g.,  Cooper,
1989;  Dua,  1994;  May,  2001).  Calls  for
expansion  and  implementation  of  language
rights  can  be  expected  to  continue,  with
language planning research heavily involved
in the development of a better understanding
of  the  role  of  language  rights  in  state
formation,  in  international  organizations,  in
political  conflict,  and  in  a  variety  of  other
social  processes.    Similarly,  recent  research
on the links between language planning and
social  theory,  long  advocated  by  Fishman
(1992)  and  Williams  (1992),  can  contribute
to  deeper  understandings  of  language  rights
and  to  new  research  methods  (Ricento,
2006).  Current  research  examines  the  ways
in  which  language  planning  processes  are
constrained  by  constitutional  and  statutory
law (Liddicoat, 2008).  
 
The  failure  of  early  or  classical  language
planning  activities  to  achieve  their  goals  in
many  contexts  and  the  intimate  connection
between  early  language  planning  and
modernization  theory  meant  that  language
planning  was  subject  to  the  same  criticisms
as  was  modernization  theory  generally,
including at least:  
 
•  the  fact  that  economic  models
appropriate for one place may be
ineffective in any other places;  
•  the  fact  that  national  economic
development  will  not  necessarily
benefit  all  sectors  of  any  given
society,  especially  the  poor
(Steinberg, 2001);  
•  the  fact  that  development
generally  fails  to  consider  local
contexts  and  the  conflicting
needs  and  desires  of  diverse
communities; and  
•  the  fact  that  development  has  a
homogenizing  effect  on  social
and  cultural  diversity  (Foster-Carter, 1985; Worsley, 1987).   
    
A second assumption underlying the work in
the early period of language planning was an
emphasis on cost-benefit analysis, efficiency
and  rationality  as  criteria  for  evaluating
plans  and  policies.  An  emphasis  on  the
technical  aspect  of  language  planning  led
Jernudd and Das Gupta (1971) to argue that
planners  may  be  better  able  than  political
authorities to apply rational decision-making
in  the  solution  of  language  problems.  Such
attempts to separate language planning from
politics  reflected  not  only  a  belief  in  the
skills  of  technical  specialists,  but  also  a
broader  failure  to  link  language  planning
with  political  analysis  –  the  failure  to
acknowledge  that  language  planning  is
fundamentally  political  is  central  to
subsequent critiques of language planning.
A third assumption was that the nation-state
is  the  appropriate  focus  for  language
planning  research  and  practice,  since
language  planning  is  a  tool  for  political/
administrative  and  socio-cultural  integration
of  the  nation-state,  a  view  that  had  two
important consequences:   
 
1)  the main actors in language planning
were  assumed  to  be  government
agencies,  and  thus  most  research
examined the work of such agencies;   
2)  many  researchers  adopted  a  top-down  perspective,  limiting  their
interests  to  national  plans  and
policies rather than to local language
practices.
 
Another problem in early language planning
was  its  failure  adequately  to  analyze  the
impact of local contexts on national policies,
partially the consequence of an emphasis on
technical  rather  than  political  evaluation  of
policies  as  well  as  a  general  separation  of
language  planning  from  political  analysis.
As  Blommaert  (1996,  p.  217)  argues,
language planning "…can no longer stand
exclusively  for  practical  issues  of
standardization, graphization, terminological
elaboration,  and  so  on.  The  link  between
language  planning  and  sociopolitical
developments  is  obviously  of  paramount
importance…."  Failing  to  link  language
planning to politics resulted in a situation in
which planners could not predict the impact
of  their  plans  and  policies.  Language
planning  specialists  in  the  early  period
believed that unexpected outcomes could be
avoided as long as adequate information was
available,  but  more  recent  scholarship
assumes  that  unexpected  outcomes  are  a
normal  feature  of  highly  complex  social
systems:  
 
•  where  linear  cause-effect
relationships  between  language
and society do not apply and  
•  where  social  groups  may  have
covert  goals  for  language
planning (Ammon, 1997).  
 
The  more  one  examines  the  language
planning  situations  with  which  one  is
familiar  (or  that  one  reads  about  in  the
literature), the more apparent it becomes that
policy aspects of such planning (as opposed
to  the  cultivation  or  the  implementation
aspect)  are  only  secondarily  a  language
planning  activity;  primarily,  they  are  a
political  activity  (Kaplan  &  Baldauf,  2007).
Language  planning  is  often  perceived  as
some  sort  of  monolithic  activity,  designed
specifically to manage one particular kind of
linguistic  modification  in  a  community  at  a
particular  moment  in  time.  Language
planning  has  tended  to  concern  itself  with
the  modification  of  one  language  only,
having  largely  ignored  the  interaction  of
multiple  languages  in  a  community  as  well
as  multiple  non-linguistic  factors  —  that  is,
the  total  ecology  of  the  linguistic
environment.  Language  planning  is  really
 
about  power  distribution  and  political
expediency; it is about economic issues, and
it is about the distribution of time and effort
of  administrators,  scholars,  teachers  and
students.  Although  a  concern  with  theory
suggests  that  such  policy  decisions  should
be  based  on  data  about  learners  and
community  language  needs  (see,  e.g.,
Kaplan  & Baldauf, 1997; van Els, 2005), in
fact policy decisions are not about the needs
of any given community, nor are they about
the needs of learners. They are, rather, about
the  perceptions  of  language(s)  held  in  the
Ministry of Education and to some extent in
the  generally  perceptions  of  the  society  at
large.  Policy  decisions  rarely  take  into
account  such  matters  as  learners’  age,
aptitude, attitude or motivation. They tend to
be  top-down  in  structure,  reflecting  the
opinions  and  attitudes  valued  at  the  highest
levels  in  the  planning  process;  they  are
rarely about the linguistic needs or desires of
any given society or community. Indeed, the
least  important  factor  in  such  planning
decisions may well be the needs and desires
of the target population (Kaplan, 2004).

 

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