- This article is about the field of language planning and policy. See Constructed language for details on the creation of planned or artificial languages.
|Areas of study|
Language planning is a deliberate effort to influence the function, structure, or acquisition of languages or language variety within a speech community. It is often associated with government planning, but is also used by a variety of non-governmental organizations, such as grass-roots organizations and even individuals. Goals of such planning vary; better communication through assimilation of a single dominant language brings economic benefits but also facilitates political domination of minorities.
Language engineering involves the creation of natural language processing systems whose cost and outputs are measurable and predictable as well as establishment of language regulators, such as formal or informal agencies, committees, societies or academies as language regulators to design or develop new structures to meet contemporary needs. It is a distinct field contrasted to natural language processing and computational linguistics. A recent trend of language engineering is the use of Semantic Web technologies for the creation, archival, processing, and retrieval of machine processable language data.
Language planning and language ideology
Four overarching language ideologies motivate decision making in language planning. The first, linguistic assimilation, is the belief that every member of a society, irrespective of their native language, should learn and use the dominant language of the society in which they live. A quintessential example is the English-only movement in the United States. Linguistic assimilation stands in direct contrast to the second ideology, linguistic pluralism - the recognition and support of multiple languages within one society. Examples include the coexistence of French, German, Italian, and Romansh in Switzerland and the shared status of English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin Chinese in Singapore. The coexistence of many languages may not necessarily arise from a conscious language ideology, but rather from the efficiency in communication of a common language. The third ideology, vernacularization, denotes the restoration and development of an indigenous language along with its adoption by the state as an official language. Examples include Hebrew in the state of Israel and Quechua in Peru. The final ideology, internationalization, is the adoption of a non-indigenous language of wider communication as an official language or in a particular domain, such as the use of English in Singapore, India, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.
Language planning goals
- Language Purification – prescription of usage in order to preserve the “linguistic purity” of language, protect language from foreign influences, and guard against language deviation from within
- Language Revival – the attempt to turn a language with few or no surviving native speakers back into a usual means of communication
- Language Reform – deliberate change in specific aspects of language, like orthography, spelling, or grammar, in order to facilitate use
- Language Standardization – the attempt to garner prestige for a regional language or dialect, transforming it into one that is accepted as the major language, or standard language, of a region
- Language Spread – the attempt to increase the number of speakers of one language at the expense of another
- Lexical Modernization – word creation or adaptation
- Terminology Unification – development of unified terminologies, primarily in technical domains
- Stylistic Simplification – simplification of language usage in lexicon, grammar, and style. That includes modifying the use of language in social and formal contexts.
- Interlingual Communication – facilitation of linguistic communication between members of distinct speech communities
- Language Maintenance – preservation of the use of a group’s native language as a first or second language where pressures threaten or cause a decline in the status of the language
- Auxiliary-Code Standardization – standardization of marginal, auxiliary aspects of language such as signs for the deaf, place names, or rules of transliteration and transcription
Types of language planning
Language planning has been divided into three types:
Status planning is the allocation or reallocation of a language or variety to functional domains within a society, thus affecting the status, or standing, of a language.
Language status is a concept distinct from, though intertwined with, language prestige and language function. Strictly speaking, language status is the position or standing of a language vis-à-vis other languages. A language garners status according to the fulfillment of four attributes, described in the same year, 1968, by two different authors, Heinz Kloss and William Stewart. Both Kloss and Stewart stipulated four qualities of a language that determine its status. While Kloss and Stewart’s respective frameworks differ slightly, they emphasize four common attributes:
- Language origin – whether a given language is indigenous or imported to the speech community
- Degree of standardization – the extent of development of a formal set of norms that define ‘correct’ usage
- Juridical status
- Sole official language (e.g. French in France and Turkish in Turkey)
- Joint official language (e.g. English and Afrikaans in South Africa; French, German, Italian and Romansh in Switzerland)
- Regional official language (e.g. Igbo in Nigeria; Marathi in Maharashtra, India)
- Promoted language – lacks official status on a national or regional level but is promoted and sometimes used by public authorities for specific functions (e.g. Spanish in New Mexico; West African Pidgin English in Cameroon)
- Tolerated language – neither promoted nor proscribed; acknowledged but ignored (e.g. Native American languages in the United States)
- Proscribed language – discouraged by official sanction or restriction (e.g. Galician, Basque and Catalan during Francisco Franco’s regime in Spain; Macedonian in Greece)
- Vitality – the ratio, or percent, of users of a language to another variable, like the total population. Kloss and Stewart both distinguish six classes of statistical distribution. However, they draw the line between classes at different percentages. According to Kloss, the first class, the highest level of vitality, is demarcated by 90% or more speakers. The five remaining classes in decreasing order are 70-89%, 40-69%, 20-39%, 3-19% and less than 3%. According to Stewart, on the other hand, the six classes are determined by the following percentages: 75%, 50%, 25%, 10%, 5%, and less than 5%.
Together, origin, degree of standardization, juridical status, and vitality dictate a language’s status.
- Official - An official language "function[s] as a legally appropriate language for all politically and culturally representative purposes on a nationwide basis." Often, the official function of a language is specified in a constitution.
- Provincial - A provincial language functions as an official language for a geographic area smaller than a nation, typically a province or region (e.g. French in Quebec)
- Wider communication - A language of wider communication is a language that may be official or provincial, but more importantly, functions as a medium of communication across language boundaries within a nation (e.g. Hindi in India; Swahili language in East Africa)
- International - An international language functions as a medium of communication across national boundaries (e.g. English)
- Capital - A capital language functions as a prominent language in and around a national capital (e.g. Dutch and French in Brussels)
- Group - A group language functions as a conventional language among the members of a single cultural or ethnic group (e.g. Hebrew amongst the Jews)
- Educational - An educational language functions as a medium of instruction in primary and secondary schools on a regional or national basis (Urdu in West Pakistan and Bengali in East Pakistan)
- School subject - A school subject language is a language that is taught as a subject in secondary school or higher education (e.g. Latin and Ancient Greek in English schools)
- Literary - A literary language functions as a language for literary or scholarly purposes (Ancient Greek)
- Religious - A religious language functions as a language for the ritual purposes of a particular religion (e.g. Latin for the Latin Rite within the Roman Catholic Church; Arabic for the reading of the Qur'an)
Robert Cooper, in reviewing Stewart's list, makes several additions. First, he creates three sub-types of official functions: statutory, working, and symbolic. A statutory language is a language that a government has declared official by law. A working language is a language that a government uses as a medium for daily activities, and a symbolic language is a language that is merely a symbol of the state. Cooper also adds two functional domains to Stewart's list: mass media and work.
Corpus planning refers to the prescriptive intervention in the forms of a language, whereby planning decisions are made to engineer changes in the structure of the language. Corpus planning activities often arise as the result of beliefs about the adequacy of the form of a language to serve desired functions. Unlike status planning, which is primarily undertaken by administrators and politicians, corpus planning generally involves planners with greater linguistic expertise. There are three traditionally recognized types of corpus planning: graphization, standardization, and modernization.
Graphization refers to development, selection and modification of scripts and orthographic conventions for a language. The use of writing in a speech community can have lasting sociocultural effects, which include easier transmission of material through generations, communication with larger numbers of people, and a standard against which varieties of spoken language are often compared. Linguist Charles A. Ferguson made two key observations about the results of adopting a writing system. First, the use of writing adds another variety of the language to the community’s repertory. Although written language is often viewed as secondary to spoken language, the vocabulary, grammatical structures and phonological structures of a language often adopt characteristics in the written form that are distinct from the spoken variety. Second, the use of writing often leads to a folk belief that the written language is the ‘real’ language, and speech is a corruption of it. Written language is viewed as more conservative, while the spoken variety is more susceptible to language change. However, this view ignores the possibility that isolated relic areas of the language may be less innovative than the written form or the written language may have been based on a divergent variety of the spoken language.
In establishing a writing system for a language, corpus planners have the option of using an existing system or inventing a new one. The Ainu of Japan chose to adopt the Japanese language’s katakana syllabary as the writing system for the Ainu language. Katakana is designed for a language with a basic CV syllable structure, but Ainu contains many CVC syllables that cannot easily be adapted to this syllabary. As a result, Ainu uses a modified katakana system, in which syllable-final codas are consonants by a subscript version of a katakana symbol that begins with the desired consonant. An example on an invented script includes the development of the Armenian script in 405 AD by St. Mesrop Mashtots. Though the script was modeled after the Greek alphabet, the original script distinguished Armenian from the Greek and Syriac alphabets of the neighboring peoples.
The process of Standardization often involves one variety of a language taking precedence over other social and regional dialects of a language. Another approach is introducing a poly-phonemic written form that is intended to represent all dialects of a language adequately but with no standard spoken form where the dialects, are on the whole, mutually intelligible. If one variety of a language is chosen that variety comes to be understood as supra-dialectal and the ‘best’ form of the language. The choice of which language takes precedence has important societal consequences, as it confers privilege upon speakers whose spoken and written dialect conforms closest to the chosen standard. The standard that is chosen as the norm is generally spoken by the most powerful social group within the society, and is imposed upon the less powerful groups as the form to emulate. This often reinforces the dominance of the powerful social group and makes the standard norm necessary for socioeconomic mobility. In practice, standardization generally entails increasing the uniformity of the norm, as well as the codification of the norm.
The history of English provides an example of standardization occurring over an extended time period, without formally recognized language planning. The standardization process began when William Caxton introduced the printing press in England in 1476. This was accompanied by the adoption of the south-east Midlands variety of English, spoken in London, as the print language. Because of the dialect’s use for administrative and literary purposes, this variety became entrenched as the prestigious variety of English. After the creation of grammars and dictionaries in the 18th century, the rise of print capitalism, industrialization, urbanization, and mass education led to the dissemination of this dialect as the standard norm for the English language.
Modernization is a form of language planning that occurs when a language needs to expand its resources to meet functions. Modernization often occurs when a language undergoes a shift in status, such as when a country gains independence from a colonial power or when there is a change in the language education policy. The most significant force in modernization is the expansion of the lexicon, which allows the language to discuss topics in modern semantic domains. Language planners generally focus on creating new lists and glossaries to describe new technical terms, but it is also necessary to ensure that the new terms are consistently used by the appropriate sectors within society. While some languages such as Japanese and Hungarian have experienced rapid lexical expansion to meet the demands of modernization, other languages such as Hindi and Arabic have failed to do so. Rapid lexical expansion is aided by the use of new terms in textbooks and professional publications, as well as frequent use among specialists. Issues of linguistic purism often play a significant role in lexical expansion, but technical vocabulary can be effective within a language, regardless of whether it comes from the language’s own process of word formation or from heavy borrowing from another language. While Hungarian has almost exclusively used language-internal processes to create new lexical items, Japanese has borrowed extensively from English to derive new words as part of its modernization.
Acquisition planning is a type of language planning in which a national, state or local government system aims to influence aspects of language, such as language status, distribution and literacy through education. Acquisition planning can also be used by non-governmental organizations, but it is more commonly associated with government planning.
Frequently, acquisition planning is integrated into a larger language planning process in which the statuses of languages are evaluated, corpuses are revised and the changes are finally introduced to society on a national, state or local level through education systems, ranging from primary schools to universities. This process of change can entail a variety of modifications, such as an alteration in student textbook formatting, a change in methods of teaching an official language or the development of a bilingual language program, only to name a few. For example, if a government decides to raise the status level of a certain language or change its level of prestige, it can establish a law that requires teachers to teach only in this language or that textbooks are written using only this language’s script. This, in turn, would support the elevation of the language’s status or could increase its prestige. In this way, acquisition planning is often used to promote language revitalization, which can change a language’s status or reverse a language shift, or to promote linguistic purism. In a case where a government revises a corpus, new dictionaries and educational materials will need to be revised in schools in order to maintain effective language acquisition.
The education sector
The education ministry or education sector of government is typically in charge of making national language acquisition decisions based on state and local evaluation reports. The responsibilities of education sectors vary by country; Robert B. Kaplan and Richard B. Baldauf describe the sectors’ six principal goals:
- To decide what languages should be taught within the curriculum.
- To determine the amount and quality of teacher training.
- To involve local communities.
- To determine what materials will be used and how they will be incorporated into syllabi.
- To establish a local and state assessment system to monitor progress.
- To determine financial costs.
Although acquisition planning can be useful to governments, there are several problems that must be considered. Even with a solid evaluation and assessment system, the effects of planning methods can never be certain; governments must consider the effects on other aspects of state planning, such as economic and political planning. Some proposed acquisition changes could also be too drastic or instituted too suddenly without proper planning and organization. Acquisition planning can also be financially draining, so adequate planning and awareness of financial resources is essential. It is important therefore that government goals, such as those described above, be organized and planned carefully.
There is also a growing concern over the treatment of multilingualism in education, especially in many countries that were once colonized. Deciding on which language of instruction would be most beneficial to effective communication on the local and state level is a task requiring thoughtful planning and is surrounded by debate. Some states prefer instruction only in the official language, but some aim to foster linguistic and thus social diversity by encouraging teaching in several (native) languages. One reason some states prefer a single language of instruction is that it supports national unity and homogeneity. Some states prefer incorporating different languages in order to help students learn better by giving them diverse perspectives.
In addition to the education sector, there are non-governmental sectors or organizations that have a significant impact on language acquisition, such as the Académie française of France or the Real Academia Española of Spain. These organizations often create their own dictionaries and grammar books, thus affecting the materials students are exposed to in schools. Although these organizations do not hold official power, they influence government planning decisions, such as with educational materials, effecting acquisition.
Before the partition of Ireland, a movement began which aimed at the restoration of Irish, as the nation’s primary language, predicated on a widespread sentiment for Irish nationalism and cultural identity. For over a millennium in Ireland, Irish had competed with English and Scots, but not until the Irish War of Independence did the movement gain momentum. The Gaelic League was soon created to promote the acquisition of Irish in schools, thus “de-Anglicizing” Ireland. Immediately after Ireland’s independence in 1922, the League declared that Irish must be the language of instruction for at least one hour in primary schools nationwide. Irish-speaking teachers were recruited and preparatory colleges were established to train them.
The program implementation however, was mostly left to the individual schools, which did not consistently adhere to the program’s rules. Additionally, educating a generation is a long process for which the League was not prepared. There was no consensus as to how Irish should be reinstituted and system assessment plan to monitor progress and the people’s desires was lacking. As a result, the movement lost strength and English remains the nation’s second official language and most spoken first language, leading to the failure (to date) of Ireland’s attempt at language revitalization.
Case study: Quechua in Peru
Peru’s history of language planning begins in the 16th century with Spanish colonization. When the Spanish first arrived in Peru, Quechua served as a language of wider communication, a lingua franca, between Spaniards and Peruvian natives. As the years passed, Spaniards asserted the superiority of the Spanish language; as a result, Spanish gained prestige, taking over as a language of wider communication and the dominant language of Peru. In 1975, under the leadership of President Juan Velasco Alvarado, the revolutionary government of Peru declared Quechua an official language of the Peruvian state, “coequal with Spanish.” Four years later, the law was reversed. Peru’s 1979 constitution declares Spanish the only official language of the state; Quechua and Aymara are relegated to “official use zones,” equivalent to Stewart’s provincial function described above. Quechua has officially remained a provincial language since 1979. Today, Quechua also serves a limited international function throughout South America in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador; communities of Quechua speakers outside Peru enable communication in Quechua across borders. Still, because of Quechua’s low status, Spanish is almost always used as the lingua franca instead. Recently, Quechua has also gained ground in the academic world, both as a school subject and a topic of literary interest.
The three main types of corpus planning are all evident in the development of Quechua languages in Peru. Graphization has been in process since the arrival of the Spanish in the region, when the Spanish imperialists attempted to describe the exotic sounds of the language to Europeans. When Quechua was made an official language in Peru in 1975, the introduction of the language into the education and government domains made it essential to have a standard written language. The task of adopting a writing system proved to be a point of contention among Peruvian linguists. Although most agreed that the Latin alphabet, linguists disagreed about how to represent the phonological system of Quechua, particularly in regards to the vowel system. Representatives from the Peruvian Academy of the Quechua language and the Summer Institute of Linguistics wanted to represent allophones of the vowels /i/ and /u/ with separate letters <e> and <o>, which creates an apparent five-vowel system. They argued that this makes the language easier to learn for people who are already familiar with written Spanish. However, other Peruvian linguists argued that a three-vowel system was more faithful to the phonology of Quechua. After several years of debate and disagreement, in 1985 Peruvian linguists proposed the Pan-Quechua alphabet as an accurate representation of the language and this was adopted in intercultural bilingual education programs and textbooks. However, the Peruvian Academy and the SIL both refused to adopt it and continued to propose new alphabets, leaving the issue unsettled. For more information, see Quechua writing system and Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift. Another of the primary issues disagreements was about how to reflect the phonological differences apparent in different dialects of Quechua. For example, some distinct dialects utilize aspirated and glottalized versions of the voiceless uvular stop /q/, while others do not and some language planners found it important to reflect these dialectal differences. The search for a unified alphabet reflects the process of standardization. Unlike other cases of standardization, in Quechua this has only been applied to the written language, not the spoken language and no attempt was made to change the spoken language of native speakers. Rather the standardization process was motivated by the need to have a uniform writing system to provide education to Quechua speakers in their native language. Language planners in Peru have proposed several varieties to serve as the supradialectal norm. Some saw Qusqu-Qullaw as the natural choice for a standard norm, as it is recognized to be the variety closest to that spoken by the Incas. Others argued that Ayacucho Quechua is a better option, as the language is more conservative and similar to the proto-language, while Qusqu-Qullaw has been influenced by contact with the Aymara language. Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino proposed a standard literary norm, Southern Quechua that combines features of both these dialects. This norm has been accepted by many institutions in Peru. Lexical modernization has also been critical to the development of Quechua. Language planners have attempted to create new Quechua words primarily through Quechua morphemes that combine in new ways to give new meanings. In general, loanwords from other languages are considered only when there are no possibilities to develop the word through existing Quechua structures. If loanwords are adopted into the language, linguists attempt to phonologically adapt the word to match typical Quechua pronunciation norms.
Since Quechua is no longer an official language of Peru, Quechua literacy is not consistently encouraged in schools. Peru’s education system is instead primarily based on Spanish, the nation’s official language. Despite its low prestige, Quechua is still spoken by millions of indigenous Peruvians, a large portion of whom are bilingual in Quechua and Spanish. There is a desire to preserve the uniqueness of Quechua as a language with its own attributes and representations of culture. Some argue that promoting a diverse literacy program gives students diverse perspectives on life, which could only enhance their educational experience. Before 1975, Peru had bilingual education programs, but Quechua was not taught as a subject in primary and secondary schools. After the 1975 education reform, Quechua and Spanish both had standing in bilingual programs, but only in restricted speech communities. These experimental programs were then canceled due to a change in government planning, but again reinstated in 1996. Even with national intercultural bilingual education programs, teachers at local schools and members of the community often prefer using Spanish, destabilizing support for bilingual education. This underscores the importance of community support as a goal for the education sector as mentioned earlier. Some believe that due to Spanish’s higher national prestige, it is more socially and economically beneficial to learn and speak Spanish. It is debatable whether these education programs will benefit education or raise the status of Quechua.
- Abstand and ausbau languages
- Gender-neutral language
- Language acquisition
- Language death
- Language education
- Language ideology
- Language policy
- Language revitalization
- Linguistic relativity
- Language shift
- Linguistic imperialism
- Linguistic protectionism, also called linguistic purism
- Linguistic rights
- Prestige (sociolinguistics)
- Languages in censuses
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- Current Issues in Language Planning (Routledge) Home page
- Language Policy (Springer) Home page
- Language Problems and Language Planning. Home page
- Articles on language planning in West Africa (Journal of West African Languages)
- Infographic: World's Weirdest Language Laws