LINGUIST List 14.2141

Tue Aug 12 2003

Review: Sociolinguistics: Maurais & Morris (Eds) (2003)

Editor for this issue: Tomoko Okuno <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at


  1. Lorenzo Zanasi, Languages in a Globalising World

Message 1: Languages in a Globalising World

Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2003 22:03:21 +0200
From: Lorenzo Zanasi <>
Subject: Languages in a Globalising World


Jacques Maurais and Michael A. Morris ed. (2003) Languages in a
globalising world, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Lorenzo Zanasi, Universit� per Stranieri di Siena, Italia.

The collection of papers edited by Maurais and Morris (already
published) in French, in 2001 by Terminogramme) has like a common
denominator the ability to show the current vitality and diffusion of
some languages (above all English and French) examining their
political and linguistics planning dimensions. The contributions are
arranged along a macroterritorial structure representing political
entity (EU, NAFTA, Mercosor), territorially and culturally homogeneous
state groups (Eastern Europe, Central Asia regions, East Asian
countries) and, finally, vaster regions interested by linguistic
changes (Sub Saharan Africa). On the second level of focus, it brings
to bear another common goal: the new technologies, particularly new
media, as vectors of communication for languages.

The text is divided into three parts. The first part contains five
theoretical papers, about the linguistic dynamics perspective in a
more globalised future. Jacques Maurais sets some questions on how
the spreader languages will be in contact and in competition after the
collapse of the URSS and the end of apartheid in South Africa. For
this purpose, avoiding the rash game of prediction, the author
identifies and analyses three modalities of possible relationships
that will be reprised in the next contributions: the spreading of
English as international lingua franca; the use of technology and
multilingual teaching. Mark Fettes compares several interlinguistic
strategies: plurilingualism, word English, language brokers and
technology. After having precisely defined and individually evaluated
them weighting up qualities and defects, Fettes observes how both are
socially oriented toward the richer elites and not towards the
masses. The author proposes a parameter of language ecology, which has
to be realised through the concept of esperantism. Douglas A. Kibbee
has his focus on the critical appraisal of theoretical concepts of
language ecology and the imposition of English as an international
code. The two linguistic geostrategies, corresponding to two political
models (free-market theory of capitalism and green theory of
ecological protection) with roots in Darwinian view and Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis, represent the extreme interpretation of a deterministic
version. According to the first model, the predominance of a language
is a fruit of natural selection and of a democratic predisposition in
that language. The second model reverses the interpretation,
representing determinism as an imposition of an ideology, a partial
system of values damaging other systems carried by different languages
destined therefore to die. The author identifies like as a real
danger, in both models, the negation of language contact on
theoretical bases. Jean Laponce proposes a territorial strategy in
favour of minority languages: he suggests avoiding position of radical
linguistic autarchy, but rather accepting, according to cases and
domains, a policy led by a territoriality principle and a policy led
by a laissez fair conception (for benefit of English). Finally
William F. Mackey reminds us how forecasting the diffusion or
contraction of a language is uncertain without to considering the
multidimensionality and multifunctionality aspects. Demographic
indices, geopolitical and economical factors are the keys to
linguistic change. An attempt to describe, interpret, predict
linguistic data, will include these factors.

The second part consists of eight papers describing the current
linguistic contexts in some geographical areas. Extremely interesting
are the careful examinations of linguistic policies in EU, Mercosur
and NAFTA by Claude Truchot, Rainer Enrique Hamel and Michael
A. Morris. After having briefly described politic and economic
integration in the EU, Truchot considers the community linguistic
survey, observing the official uses and the empirical uses. He
concludes with an analysis of English, French and German as lingua
franca. This use, opposed to the historical multilingualism in the EU
is really the most uncertain political problem. The South American
Common Market (Mercosur) is an agreement between Brazil, Argentina,
Paraguay and Uruguay in order to promote an internal economic
co-operation. Such a wish is reflecting on the linguistic policy
too. It plans an integration of regional languages (Spanish and
Portuguese) as official languages with the aim to block English the
spread of English (English however retains an important position). The
observations of Hamel on geolinguistic perspectives offered by
Mercosur are preceded by a synthetics and detailed description of the
linguistic situation of every member country. NAFTA is the
co-operation pact between USA, Mexico and Canada. Morris notes how the
USA undisputed expansion on the economic internal market is not
automatic on a linguistic level. In fact contrary to EU and Mercosur,
in NAFTA there is not any agreement between partners on the
unification of linguistic and cultural features. Particularly, the
challenge appears to be between the monoglottic and homogeneous
English culture and the linguistic diversity with Spanish spreading
into several areas of a traditionally Anglophone territory. The next
five essays deal with some recognition of the languages spoken in
several parts of the globe. In few pages Ferenc Fodor and Sandrine
Peluau are able to design the linguistic landscape of Eastern Europe
both before and after the Soviet regime. It brings out the Russian
decline and the increase of English. Birgit N. Schlyter and Stefan
Kaiser examine respectively, the sociolinguistic situation of the
Central Asian societies and the problems of non phonetic Korean,
Japanese and Chinese alphabets, for the electronic codification. In
both papers the spread of English in these territories is underlined.
In Central Asia, English is becoming much more popular and it is
considered to be increasing at the same rate as Turkish. In
technological Japan anglophonia has become an important part of some
job environments, even though the level of learning is still low and
the political will to spreading Japanese in the world remains
strong. Roland Breton brings us into the African continent. To be
precise, into the Southern part of the Sahara: the South Saharan
Africa. The African mosaic is very crowded with local languages still
subordinated and unfortunately threatened by the three greater
colonial languages: English and especially French and
Portuguese.Australasia is described linguistically by Richard
B. Baldauf and Paulin G. Djit�. Past, present and future are
scrupulously examined through by means of the categories proposed by
Fettes: world English, plurilingualism, esperantism, language brokers,
and technologism. There arises a picture of a territory where English
is still dominant in international relationships, but Chinese and
Indonesian languages are very strong too.

The third part includes a series of contributions having as a focus
the international languages of wider communication. All of these
languages are spoken in a number of countries, all have the potential
for expansion although some or all may end up declining in a
competitive, globalising world, and all enjoy some degree of
international status (from the Introduction). Ulrich Ammon shows us
the use of German in international settings through several
parameters: numerical, political, economic and cultural. The weight of
the German, though some predict it to be lessening, will depend on the
economic and technological developments of the germanophones
(germanophone) countries.The Arabic standardization is the topic
considered by Foued Laroussi; particularly the author is concentrates
on the ortographic problem in electronic media like the Internet and
on the difference between written code (homogeneous) and spoken code
(diatopically connoted). Vida Io. Mikhalchenko and Yulia Trushkova
survey the multifaceted status of Russian in Russian Federation, in
CIS and the Baltic states. Also in this paper the consideration of
information technologies is important. Robert Chaudenson and Grant
McConnel assess respectively challenges for French and Fracophonie in
a globalising world and development of a strategy for measuring the
diffusion and contraction of English. The first paper focuses
particularly on the context of Africa; the second one attempts to
promote a future language observatory. Finally Maria da Graca Krieger,
calls attention to the rising importance of Portuguese, especially
with reference to Mercosur. Moreover the Professor marks the rising of
a mixed code called Portunhol (Brazilian Portuguese and Southern Cone
Spanish). This code evidences the necessity of a political promotion
of bilingualism for the Latin American region.

Critical evaluation.

Languages in a globalising world is a rich text of cues, stimuli and
reflections. It has the merit of analysing a great number of
linguistic themes scattered throughout all the corners of the earth in
a synthetic way. All the contributions do not conform to the easy game
of the long term forecasts and, actually, many of them criticize this
risky habit. It is a text that leaves the authors free to take their
own positions and to be openly critics towards of others. Perhaps the
more evident merit of the volume is to open a series of windows on
linguistics reality less known as Eastern Europe, the Arabophone world
and central Asia. The frequent use of tables and outlines and the
bibliographies concluding every contribution, lends the entire work
the quality of a handbook, happily adapted both to the specialist and
to the curious university student. I find the historical-descriptive
part in almost every paper very good; A little bit weaker, I would
say, is the propositive aim that rarely opens doors particularly
attractive to the reader. There is a lot of prudence when discussing
topics of language policy; maybe too much.



Lorenzo Zanasi is a doctor in linguistics since 2000. Currently he is
concluding a PhD program in geolinguistics of languages in contact. He
is also working with the Observatory of immigrant languages and of
Italian spoken by immigrants created in 2001 at the University for
Foreigners of Siena.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue