ERIC Identifier: ED303051 Publication Date: 1988-12-00
Author: Robinson, David Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Language Policy and Planning. ERIC Digest.
Language planning is official, government-level activity concerning the
selection and promotion of a unified administrative language or languages. It
represents a coherent effort by individuals, groups, or organizations to
influence language use or development.
WHY IS LANGUAGE PLANNING NEEDED?
Language policy and
planning decisions arise in response to sociopolitical needs. Language planning
decisions may be required, for example, where a number of linguistic groups
compete for access to the mechanisms of day-to-day life, or where a particular
linguistic minority is denied access to such mechanisms. Two examples of such
decisions are the Court Interpreters Act, which provides an interpreter to any
victim, witness, or defendant whose native language is not English, and the
Voting Rights Act of 1975, which provides for bilingual ballots in areas where
over 5% of the population speak a language other than English. Both governmental
and social institutions must effectively and equitably meet the needs of the
population so that groups varied in linguistic repertoire have an equal
opportunity to participate in their government and to receive services from
Language planning decisions typically attempt to meet these needs by reducing
linguistic diversity, as in instances where a single language is declared a
national language in a multilingual country (such as Bahasa Indonesia in
Indonesia) or where a single variety of a language is declared "standard" to
promote linguistic unity in a country where divergent dialects exist. For
example, although many dialects of Chinese exist, the promotion of a single
variety as the national language contributes to a sense of national unity.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF LANGUAGE PLANNING?
efforts typically include several stages. The first stage is a needs analysis,
involving a sociopolitical analysis of communication patterns within the
society. The next stages in the language planning process involve the selection
of a language or language variety for planning purposes. These stages are
sometimes referred to as "status planning" and include:
o Codification. Characteristics or criteria of a "good" language are
o Standardization. A unified variety of the language is established, if
"Fine-tuning" the selected language or language variety is referred to as
"corpus planning" and includes the following stages:
o Elaboration. Any of a variety of developments, including expansion of
vocabulary, expansion of stylistic repertoire, and creation of type fonts, allow
the language to function in a greater range of circumstances.
o Cultivation. The establishment of arbiters, such as dictionaries or
language academies, maintains and advances the status of the language.
In addition to the establishment and implementation of changes through status
and corpus planning, evaluation and feedback provide a mechanism for determining
how well the language planning efforts are progressing.
WHAT SPECIFIC AREAS OF LANUGAGE USE DO THESE STAGES
Language planning may affect all areas of language use but typically
concentrates on the more observable ones.
o Writing. The written form of a language may have to be developed, modified,
or standardized. For example, Turkish was written for centuries with the Arabic
alphabet, which does not represent vowels. Since Turkish has eight vowels,
writing with the Arabic alphabet was very difficult, and, in the 1920s, Ataturk
responded to this problem by mandating that Turkish be written using the Roman
o Lexicon. The vocabulary of a language may need to expand to keep pace with
increasing technological development. For example, the primary function of
institutions such as the Swedish Center for Technical Terminology is to
coordinate standard spoken and written forms for new terminology in media,
government, and industry.
o Syntax. The syntax of the language may need to expand as the language takes
on a national function. Tok Pisin started as a pidgin in Papua New Guinea.
However, as Tok Pisin became a lingua franca for the New Guinea area, the small
vocabulary, restricted syntax, and lack of tense markings forced a necessary
syntactic development of the former pidgin to accommodate the more widespread
use of the language in legal documents and in governmental proceedings.
HOW DO EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS RESPOND TO LANGUAGE PLANNING
The response of educational systems to government language
planning legislation may either promote or reduce linguistic diversity.
Responses that reduce linguistic diversity include:
o Monolingual instruction in the target language.
o Transitional bilingual education, in which instruction time in the child's
native language is gradually reduced. Responses that promote linguistic
o Language maintenance programs that emphasize equally the child's native
language and culture and the target language and culture.
o Immersion programs, such as the St. Lambert program in Quebec, where
English-speaking children are taught in an entirely French-speaking environment
(Lambert & Tucker, 1972).
WHO IS INVOLVED IN LANGUAGE PLANNING EFFORTS?
language planning typically responds to problems that are sociopolitical in
nature, sociologists or political scientists may first identify and assess the
need for some sort of action.
Linguists can properly participate in the needs assessment stage to determine
if the languages or dialects chosen adequately address the problem. Linguists
may suggest ways in which syntax or morphology may be standardized, or may
assist in expanding technical vocabularies.
Educators incorporate language planning legislation into action and develop
programs to fulfill the needs identified.
Writers keep up the tradition of writing in a dying language or complete
written works in a previously unwritten language. This stylistic expansion makes
possible the formulation of governmental documents in the planned language.
National language academies may oversee one or more phases of the language
planning process. For example, the Acadamie Francaise works for continued
cultivation of the French language largely through attempts at purification. The
Turkish Linguistic Society pursues the continued codification and
standardization of Turkish through the elimination of Arabic and Persian
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF LANGUAGE PLANNING IN THE UNITED
The de facto national language of the United States is English.
However, increasing immigration has resulted in large and viable communities in
the United States whose native language is not English.
The changing linguistic composition of the population has resulted in
legislative action, such as the Bilingual Education Act (Title VII) of 1968 and
the provision of bilingual ballots, aimed at ensuring that non-English speakers
have equal access to participation in government and society. Other legislation,
such as the proposed English Language Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and
California's 1986 Proposition 63, is aimed at restricting the official use of
languages other than English and promoting the official status of English alone.
WHAT ARE SOME FUTURE CHALLENGES FOR THE UNITED STATES?
the recent proliferation of efforts to legislate problems of language difference
attests, language planning is becoming more and more essential in an
increasingly multilingual society. A coherent and informed legislative response
to the social and political questions raised by the changing composition of the
population is needed so that legislators and educators can make informed choices
about language policy in areas such as educational policy and access to basic
FOR FURTHER READING
Cobarrubias, J., and Fishman, J.
(Eds.). (1983). Progress in language planning: "International perspectives." The Hague: Mouton.
Eastman, C. (1983). "Language planning: An introduction." San Francisco: Chandler and Sharp Publishers, Inc.
Grosjean, F. (1982). "Life with two languages: An introduction to bilingualism." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lambert, W. and Tucker, G. (1972). "Bilingual education of children: The St. Lambert experiment." Rowley, MA: Newbury House. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 082 573).
Rubin, J. (1981). "Spanish language planning in the United States. Keynote address at the Conference on "El Espanol in Los Estados Unidos" (Chicago, IL, October 3, 1981). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 222 081).
Sirles, C. (1986). "Evaluating language planning: A procedural outline." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (New York, NY, December 28, 1986). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 285 391).
Weinstein, B. (1983). "The civic tongue: Political consequences of language choices." New York, NY: Longmans.
Please note that this site is privately owned and is in no way related
to any Federal agency or ERIC unit. Further, this site is using a
privately owned and located server. This is NOT a government sponsored
or government sanctioned site. ERIC is a Service Mark of the U.S. Government.
This site exists to provide the text of the public domain ERIC Documents
previously produced by ERIC. No new content will ever appear here
that would in any way challenge the ERIC Service Mark of the U.S. Government.