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LINGUIST List 23.5134

Sun Dec 09 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Sociolinguistics: Koffi (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Dec-2012
From: Dave Sayers <dave.sayerscantab.net>
Subject: Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-753.html

AUTHOR: Ettien Koffi
TITLE: Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy
SUBTITLE: Game-theoretic Solutions
SERIES TITLE: Contributions to the Sociology of Language
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
DATE: 2012

Dr. Dave Sayers, College of Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK

Etienn Koffi’s monograph begins by noting that it represents a major reworking
of ideas he previously found 'unimplementable', 'in the language planning
trenches' (p.viii) of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. The book's overall
aim is to highlight flaws in language planning in multilingual Africa, and
propose a new model. This is to have economic as well as educational, cultural
and psychological benefits: “planning multiple languages can turn the vast
linguistic resources of Côte d’Ivoire into a multimillion dollar economic
bonanza” (p.xi).

Chapter 1, 'Ten deadly impediments to language planning in Africa', takes aim
at weaknesses in Language Planning and Policy (LPP) to date, and the last 60
years especially. The ten are as follows. 1. 'Excessive theorization': 'nearly
60 years of writing and publishing ... has not changed reality in many African
countries one iota' (pp.2-3). 2. 'The glorification of the LWC [Languages of
Wider Communication] model': equated with the belief that 'One Nation = One
Language' and that 'multilingualism is a liability, not an asset' (p.4). 3.
'Faulty assessment of ethnolinguistic loyalty': oversimplification of the
language-identity link. 4. 'Elite hypocrisy': elites 'give lip service to
language planning' (p.12) but quietly educate their children in LWCs, causing
wider disenchantment. 5. 'Unaddressed parental concerns': the 'indigenous LWC
model that has been in vogue since the 1960s' is based on 'the opinion of
educated city dwellers' -- some reports are cited favouring wider LWCs,
principally English, and additive mother-tongue education (pp.22-23). 6. 'The
low marketability of African languages': mother-tongue education should not
come from 'sentimentality or some nebulous ideological concept of
''africanness''' (p.19), but utility and practicality. 7. 'The ''dependency''
syndrome', i.e. on former colonisers, for economic matters and for LPP,
causing the current shortfall in indigenous African LPP and the persistence of
'the national LWC model even though there is compelling ethnolinguistic
evidence that this model is no longer viable' (p.22). 8. 'The rigidity of
mother-tongue acquisition models': 'UNESCO uses strong-arm tactics against
African governments ... to adopt its prescriptive approach to mother-tongue
education' (p.27) with idealised notions of ethnolinguistic authenticity. (The
author's own proposed 'Maintenance Model' (MM) is first mentioned here.) 9.
'The alleged prohibitive cost': MM is again signalled as 'an affordable model
of language planning', promising overall profits (e.g. $22 million annually
for Côte d'Ivoire in 2010 figures: p.29). 10. '''Manifesto syndrome'' and the
language plan of action for Africa' (LPAA). The LPAA (1986) is criticised as
'the work of language activists and the political and academic elite' (p.32).
'Both anecdotal and statistical evidence show that most Africans want to be
educated in ex-colonial languages' (p.32). The point of Chapter 1 is to quash
any sense of adequacy that language planners might have been entertaining.

Chapter 2, 'The strategic Game theory and 3±1 language outcome', deploys a
version of game theory to 'help explain why the language policies of European
colonists failed to meet the expectations of Africans' (p.36), and to begin
developing a better solution. The overall goal of the book is aptly summarised
here, on page 58:

'My contention in this book is that an attractive language of education policy
can be formulated using the Game theory so that people ... can be fully
bilingual and biliterate in their local language and in the ex-colonial
language. Moreover, some who choose to study the local language can make as
much money or more money than those who operate in the ex-colonial language.'

The 'predictioneer's model' is then introduced, a game-theoretic methodology
used to identify 'players' in the language planning 'game', and to assess
their prioritisation of language issues. Players in 'the language game in
colonial Africa' (p.60) are listed, and their various interests
operationalised. A computation is then performed which concludes that if the
'colonial powers had consulted with each other, they would have agreed on MM
... across Africa. ... Instead, the French and Portuguese ... imposed AIM
[Assimilationist Immersion Model]. The Belgians and the Germans used FIM [Full
Immersion Model], while the British groped along until they eventually settled
for TIM [Transitional Immersion Model]' (p.73).

Chapter 3, 'A Game-theoretic assessment of language of education policies in
French and Portuguese colonies', identifies the players in these colonial
language games, for example French citizens and assimilated Africans. Colonial
language policies are reviewed, and the weighted priorities of players
calculated to show overwhelming preference for AIM (i.e. using only the
colonial language). It is then argued that, to date, proposals to include
African languages in school curricula 'have not been implemented' (p.107).

Chapter 3's structure is repeated in Chapter 4, 'A Game-theoretic assessment
of language of education policies in Belgian, British and German colonies'.
These three colonial powers were 'diametrically opposed' (p.110) to the French
and Portuguese, flexible in the use of various languages. The same
calculations of preferences are performed, and similar analyses offered about
reasons for different language policies.

Chapter 5, 'Case study: Rethinking mother-tongue education in Côte d'Ivoire',
begins by reviewing some population and language usage statistics,
particularly the 'co-habitation of French and indigenous Ivorian languages'
(p.153). Developments in language policy since the Berlin conference of 1884-5
are reviewed, especially the continued dominance of French. The
predictioneer's model is applied to players in Côte d'Ivoire, and MM is found
to be preferred. German and Spanish, currently introduced in the 9th grade,
are proposed to be replaced by Ivorian regional LWCs: 'there is no convincing
rationale for teaching [German and Spanish] and ... the space they currently
occupy in the curriculum can be put to good use by teaching indigenous Ivorian
languages' (p.173).

Chapter 6, 'Game-theoretic assessment of language of education policies in
African megacities', addresses urbanisation -- to which 'language planners ...
hardly pay attention' (p.181). A brief historical review is given of cities in
Africa. 'Ethnolinguistic vitality' and 'ethnolinguistic loyalty' are
contrasted, and the latter seen as more applicable in francophone Africa, for
its focus on emotional investment and freedom from concerns about
institutional support. African megacities are put into three categories
(p.194): ethnolinguistically homogenous (e.g. Addis Ababa with Amharic);
ethnolinguistically dominant (i.e. 50%+ speaking one language, e.g. Kinshasa
with Lingala); and ethnolinguistic equilibrium, where 'no indigenous African
language is spoken by the majority …. Only a handful of African megacities
fall into this category' (no examples). Policies are recommended for each: for
the first, 'formulating a ... policy is easy': either '{1+1}' or '{1+0}'
(p.202); for the second, an international LWC is to be taught alongside the
indigenous urban LWC and another indigenous language; for the third,
policymaking is 'extremely challenging' (p.206), and Abidjan is used as an
example to recommend MM. In Abidjan, 'it is impractical to teach all 17
regional LWCs' (p.208), and so five are chosen, Anyi-Baule, Bété, Senoufo,
Duila, and Yacouba -- representing 'the four language families found in the
country' (ibid.). So, each school would teach French + English + one of these
five which replace German and Spanish.

Chapter 7, 'Framework and rationale for literacy planning in rural Africa',
focuses on NGOs and charities, principally UNESCO and SIL International. Based
on his own experience, the author suggests that African 'rural inhabitants
have a preference hierarchy' of 'International LWC > Mother tongue >
Regional/National LWC' (p.216). Literacy rates in these languages are
reviewed, and a series of other suggestions offered.

Chapter 8, 'Planning multiple languages on a shoestring budget for profit',
develops the book's earlier claims that 'many African countries can turn their
vast linguistic resources into an economic bonanza' (p.251), 'generating
multimillion dollar revenues' (p.255). Côte d'Ivoire is used as a hypothetical
case study for how this boon might be realised, focusing on utilitarian
motivations: 'It is precisely because language consumers see language as an
economic good that [they] acquire high-yield languages' (p.253). Costs are
estimated for status, corpus, acquisition and personnel planning for the
various languages involved. Recommendations for legislation are offered,
principally 'that every Ivorian national [in] grades 9th-13th ... must study
and demonstrate proficiency in at least one ancestral Ivorian language as a
precondition for graduation' (p.269). The 'multimillion dollar economic
bonanza' (p.xi) to be reaped from this LPP endeavour is then described (see
below for details).

Chapter 9, 'Individual efforts in language planning', provides a brief review
of the LPP achievements of 'three distinguished language planners of past
centuries', 'St. Stefan of Perm, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, and Bishop Samuel Ajayi
Crowther' (p.285), plus a range of other European missionaries.

The book makes a troublesome first impression with poor housekeeping.
Terminology is not consistently explained, for example the acronym 'LWCs' is
used first in the Preface but only defined later in Chapter 1 (p.1). At the
end of the Preface the abbreviations list is mentioned, but the wrong page is
given. The contents page itself comes after the Acknowledgments and the
Preface. Chapter 9 seems out of place entirely; it is an interesting essay but
it does not speak to, much less conclude, the rest of the book. A few cited
sources are relied upon conspicuously heavily, such as Laitin (1992), De
Mesquita (2009) and Schaaf (1994). That overreliance comes mainly in Chapters
2, 3, and 4's discussions of historical developments, which suggests an
attitude towards such scene-setting as a perfunctory chore. The 'language
game' is a term borrowed from Laitin (1992), though without clear citation.
This is not a reference to Wittgenstein, incidentally, who is not mentioned --
that terminological duplication seems accidental. The author claims various
other terms as his invention, but Google readily demonstrates otherwise; for
example 'ethnolinguistic loyalty' (p.191) -- found at least as far back as
Geertz (1963) -- or 'de-ethnicization' and 're-ethnicization' (p.195). These
hasty claims contribute to a growing sense of stridence. But all this is
nit-picking in a way. There are graver problems ahead, which can be arranged
under three main headings: exhortation; 'garbage in, garbage out'; and tenuous

1. Exhortation. The author takes a generally conversational tone throughout
the book. That can be done to good effect in academic writing, but only when
not combined with overt exhortation, and open mockery of people with whom one
disagrees. Chapter 1 begins by lampooning a broad swathe of linguists, then
government bureaucrats, then indistinctly drifting between the two. It remains
unclear for example, who foolishly 'assumed that as soon as an indigenous LWC
was decreed and imposed on the citizenry, they would gladly adopt it' (p.6).
One interpretation suggests an anaphoric reference to Robert Kaplan, lambasted
in the previous subsection. Meanwhile a recurrent mocking, almost insulting
tone pervades the book, e.g. the 'gullibility of leading African linguists'
(p.26). Elsewhere (p.164) Salikoko Mufwene is yanked out of context for a
dressing-down. There are easier and fairer bones to pick with LPP; all this
rabble-rousing seems excessive.

A further aspect of exhortation is the troubling frequency of vague appeals to
authority without citation, and other baseless generalisations. 'Survey
reports indicate that ...' (p.23) -- no reports are cited. '[M]any Malian
parents are unconvinced' (p.26). How many? No evidence is given. 'The cost
projections [of LPP] are astronomical!' (p.28). How astronomical? No data are
forthcoming. 'Game theory ... has been used ... with an amazing rate of
success' (p.44). What is that rate? 'As is well known in Africa ...' (p.162).
By whom? According to what surveys? Meanwhile, claims about general
disinterest in national LWCs, shakily rhetorical to begin with, are referred
back to and embellished as a solid foundation: 'Both anecdotal and statistical
evidence show that most Africans want to be educated in ex-colonial languages'
(p.32). Chapter 1 mentions some vaguely relevant reports to this end, but
nothing like a convincing basis for such a sweeping assertion. There are many
such statements which feel somewhat designed to convince unquestioning readers
-- and which, as a result, frustrated this questioning reader.

A normative overtone pervades the book in sympathy with 'African languages'.
Fair enough perhaps, but this becomes problematic when in Chapter 5, for
example, indigeneity is clearly denied to French, apparently in perpetuity,
even in its localised varieties which are spoken nowhere else. There is only
one mention of Nouchi (p.207) -- a creole based on French and a range of
Ivorian languages -- and then only as something of a curiosity, ignored
thereafter. This becomes something of a skewed argument foregrounding a
constrained selection of languages, based as much on historical
ethnolinguistic associations as evidence about present usage. The problem of
exhortation grows worse in the author's description of 'linguistic
schizophrenia' suffered by Ivorians, who apparently feel like 'ethnolinguistic
traitors for having sacrificed their mother tongues on the altar of
socio-economic mobility and modernity. ... They are hungry and thirsty for a
workable mother-tongue education model ...' (p.159). This rhetorical flourish
drifts free of substance. If there are such conflicts in the minds of
Ivorians, why not give any evidence? And, given this excessive pathos, it is a
little hard to stomach the accusation that both linguists (p.164) and language
planners (p.253) use 'guilt-laced emotive arguments'.

2. 'Garbage in, garbage out'. The author cites this common phrase in relation
to misapplying game-theoretic models (p.74). In many places, though, one is
left wondering about the quality of what has gone into his own models. The
game-theoretic calculations rest on identification of 'players'. These include
missionaries, colonial teachers, and various groups of Africans. If the
justification for their initial identification in Chapter 2 (e.g. p.60)
contains any premises other than the author's own opinion, then those premises
are not actually reported anywhere. Similarly, the 'rating' of the players
appears determined largely by thought exercise (p.66). The argument is very
interesting, but it is essentially premised on unsubstantiated reckonings. On
page 74 it is stated: 'Extreme care has been taken to make sure that players
have been identified accurately', and that their ratings 'are based on
reliable information that can be independently verified'. That rigour is not
actually described though.

Chapters 3 and 4 give a bit more coverage to the identification of the players
(e.g. pp.88-92), but still it seems almost entirely the author's introspective
decision. Puzzling over-simplifications continue here, for example: 'The
Portuguese's colonial ideology was a carbon copy of the one that the French
used in their colonies. Therefore, there is roughly the same number of players
in both colonial language games. The influence scores are also identical'
(p.99). A little later: 'all the players in the language game agreed that
using Portuguese as the medium of instruction in all colonial schools for all
grades was what they wanted. Portuguese nationals wanted it. Assimilated
Africans, Euro-Africans, and all the colonized people wanted it ...' (p.103).
Game-theoretical calculations like this obviously require a degree of grouping
populations into categories, and some simplifications of rationales, but this
all seems rather too imprecise and self-assured.

A further reminder of the author's caution 'garbage in, garbage out' comes in
Chapter 5. Highly aggregated educational attainment data across age groups are
brashly used to assert the effect of language use, overlooking all other
factors affecting students as they grow up. 'A cursory glance at the table
reveals' (p.161); 'A quick glance at the data shows' (p.163) -- this does seem
to speak to the depth of the analysis going on here.

3. Tenuous postulation. Despite often breathless confidence that the author
can 'prove based on solid data' (p.254) the reliability of his proposals, none
actually emanates from worked examples, or even preliminary trials. They are
based on fairly porous predictions of what might happen. The only mention of
any actual experience is in small-scale literacy classes (mainly in Chapter
7). As a result, details of implementation come across as naïve at least. 'No
special curriculum change is needed since the indigenous languages will simply
take the time slot allotted to German and Spanish' (p.175). All very well, but
what are the implications for separating students out based on 'their'
indigenous language? One could foresee the problems found in Singapore where
students are heavy-handedly separated on this basis (e.g. Lim 2009), but the
author seems unaware of those lessons. And what about new contact-based urban
vernaculars like Nouchi, which do not follow clear ethnic lines and have
unclear historical associations? What of migrants who would encounter a
different language selection in each place? Complications or unintended
consequences, when they do get a mention, are swept aside with obfuscating
garrulity -- for example the possible reactions of Germany and Spain to the
exclusion of their languages (p.178). Elsewhere (p.176), the author asserts
that the '8,262 German and Spanish language teachers' in Côte d'Ivoire can
straightforwardly be 'retrained to teach one or two of the regional LWCs'.
There follows an oblique reference to retraining of teachers in Russia and
China following historical language policy changes, as if relevant to
contemporary Côte d'Ivoire. Any finer details, such as possible resistance
from teaching unions, or from individual teachers and their lawyers, are
glided over.

Meanwhile, South Africa's famous paradox of de jure support for native
languages but de facto dominance of English is mentioned only once (p.253),
and injudiciously summed up merely as a problem of low marketability for
indigenous languages. The solution, apparently, is that 'the more African
languages are used in the educational system ... the more their market value
will increase' (p.254). It all just seems dangerously unaware of lessons
learnt elsewhere, often at great expense.

A more troubling aspect of this overconfidence and lack of forethought is a
general recourse to force and coercion. 'Making [regional LWCs] compulsory ...
will force students to take them seriously' (p.176). Proficiency in 'at least
one ancestral Ivorian language' should be 'a precondition for graduation'
(p.269). 'If strong legislation is not passed, some parents may find clever
ways to exempt their children from learning Ivorian languages at school'
(ibid.). Coercion seems too readily deployed, which is not only inherently
distasteful but also unduly faithful in the strength of the state, in
countries frequently discussed in the book as cash-strapped and politically

The reliance on conjecture and supposition reaches its unsettling peak in
Chapter 8, which marks the book's normative crescendo. The Maintenance Model
(MM), mentioned throughout the book, is filled out and elaborated upon here.
The aim is to present a workable model for including a range of indigenous
languages and LWCs in education, while also making a profit on the whole
venture. The chapter does little to deliver on such promises. Ultimately, the
'multimillion dollar economic bonanza' (p.xi) turns out to be comprised
exclusively of profits made by the government from the sales of indigenous
language textbooks. To begin with, the crucial calculations of up-front costs
are hazy and uncorroborated, for example an assumption of a discounted $2.00
per textbook (p.264) -- citing one textbook experiment in the 1970s as a basis
for contemporary planning. The author mentions none of the extra costs of
transport, storage, filing and administration arising from so many new books
-- not to mention the political stability and continuity necessary for the
proposed 15-year plan (p.277). Overall, this is a puzzling alley to be led
down. Firstly, buying the books would be mandatory for parents, which is
basically a stealth tax, the only 'profit' being to government coffers.
Secondly, there is no anticipation of parents' inability to afford these extra
costs, or of opposition to the plans (if anything, as noted above, the law is
seen as a way to quash dissent). Thirdly, if this 'bonanza' is to be
sustainable -- as the predicted $22 million annual return suggests (p.29) --
then it relies on parents dutifully buying fresh textbooks every year, rather
than reusing or buying second hand. All in all, with its shaky premises, lack
of trials or worked examples, and manifold conspicuous weaknesses, this
much-hyped solution is a disappointing anti-climax.

'Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy: Game-theoretic Solutions'
seems out of place. Rhetorical grandstanding far outweighs substantial
arguments, and anyone looking for a true paradigm shift will likely need to
look elsewhere.

De Mesquita, B.B. 2009. The predictioneer's game: Using the logic of brazen
self-interest to see and shape the future. New York: Random House.

Geertz, Clifford. 1963. The integrative revolution: Primordial sentiments and
politics in the new states. In Clifford Geertz (ed.), Old societies and new
states: The quest for modernity in Asia and Africa. New-York: The Free Press
of Glencoe. 105-157.

Laitin, D.D. 1992. Language Repertoires and State Construction in Africa.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lim, L. 2009. Beyond fear and loathing in SG: The real mother tongues and
language policies in multilingual Singapore. AILA Review 22: 52-71.

Schaff, Y. 1994. L'histoire et le Role de La Bible en Afrique: II Poursuivit
sa Route avec Joie. Lavigny, Suisse: Ed. Groupes Missionaires.

Dr. Dave Sayers is an Honorary Research Fellow in the College of Arts &
Humanities at Swansea University, UK, and Visiting Lecturer (2012-13) in the
Department of English at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His research is on
language policy and planning, and sociolinguistics.
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