LINGUIST List 24.4393|
Tue Nov 05 2013
Review: Sociolinguistics: Bastardas-Boada (2012)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
From: Elisabet Vila-Borrellas <e.vilaub.edu>
Subject: Language and identity policies in the 'glocal' age
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-1936.html
AUTHOR: Albert Bastardas-Boada
TITLE: Language and identity policies in the 'glocal' age
SUBTITLE: New processes, effects, and principles of organization
PUBLISHER: Institut d'Estudis Autonòmics
REVIEWER: Elisabet Vila-Borrellas, Universitat de Barcelona
The overarching aim of this updated translation of Les polítiques de la
llengua i la identitat a l'era 'glocal', originally published in Catalan in
2007, is to review the main theoretical principles involved in the study of
the relationship between language and identity and to factor in new proposals
relating to the current state of globalisation. It also emphasises the
difficulties in this relationship and argues for the urgent need to create
language policies to confront the effects of globalisation. The book is
divided into an introduction, five developmental chapters, a chapter with
conclusions and discussions of the previous five, and a final chapter devoted
to language and identity in Catalonia.
The introductory chapter sets out the main purposes of the book, which centre
on the challenges of finding the best organisation for the coexistence and
interrelation of different language groups and identities to promote their
solidarity as members of one and the same culturally developed biological
species. The need to reconsider this question is absolutely paramount because,
according to the author, a sociocultural dynamic ecosystem can be affected by
innovations of techno-economic and political organisation. In this light, the
author delineates a human ecology of linguistic codes and, at the same time, a
linguistic ecology of human beings, with special attention to the continually
interpreted social meaning of reality and upholding a view of reality as
“the-languages-and-their-contexts”. He also focuses on the situations of
minority and majority groups, where most problems among different language
groups and identities can be found.
In the second chapter, “The ‘glocal’ age”, Bastardas-Boada explains his choice
to use the term ‘glocal’ instead of ‘global’ so as to express the complex
view of the interrelation between the ‘localness’ and the globality, since as
Edgar Morin would agree, the local is in the global which is in the local. He
also describes the features and effects of the current situation, such as the
expansion of traditional areas of economic organisation and the
polyglottisation of many individuals. Language policy and planning must take
on the new challenges posed by these changes.
In Chapter 3, the situation of English as the global lingua franca is
analysed. According to the author, this has generally been a process without
any explicit and centralised policy implemented by collective world
institutions. Rather, it has been based largely on the decisions of
techno-economic and scientific agents, educational authorities and individuals
who believe that they will have better job opportunities with a strong command
of English. The author also considers the present consequences of this
situation, which mainly amount to the gain experienced in all fields (e.g.,
economics, media and politics) for any country in which English is the native
Nevertheless, this new lingua franca can be seen as a burden by other language
groups and a fear of linguistic and cultural homogenisation has surfaced.
Thus, institutions that support other languages adopt plans aimed at balancing
the use of English versus languages originally spoken in a region. This is the
case with French in Canada, which Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner
promotes in order to guarantee language plurality in the country, and it is
also the case with Spanish, supported by the Organización de Estados
Although it may be too early to know whether this situation will lead to an
abandonment of other languages, the author claims that one of the important
aims of the language policies must be to protect and promote language
diversity in local communication. Nevertheless, this promotion must also
ensure that, in terms of the international domain, individuals and
organisations are organised so as to all understand one another. This
condition implies sharing at least one foreign language, which seems to be
English at present. This does not, however, contradict the aim of promoting
language diversity within the domain of the state.
Chapter 4 addresses the suprastate unions that have been created to increase
the political-economic weight and the geostrategic influence of Europe and
other continents in order to compete successfully. Examples are the European
Union, NAFTA and Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese). They, too, have to adopt
language policies to integrate diverse populations.
In the case of the European Union, polyglottism is promoted, but in reality
English is the preferred foreign language among EU member states. Thus, there
is a need for a clear distribution of the functions that are assigned to
English so as not to destabilise the roles that the national languages fulfil
in their own territories. In addition, this chapter describes the language
situation in India, where English is a “neutral” language in terms of
identity. In this kind of suprastate situation, the author believes that the
principle of linguistic subsidiarity could be applied. This principle entails
that any global -- or continental -- language must not perform any function
that a local one can perform.
Chapter 5 deals with the effects of globalisation in terms of language
planning and policies in multilingual states that do not have a common
language, such as Switzerland. Examples of countries that do have an official
language for intercommunication (e.g., Spain and Italy) are also considered.
According to the author, these countries present a model for organising
linguistic plurality that recognises an official state language throughout
their territory and also have other official languages limited to the area
where a particular language group lives. This model leads to effective mass
bilingualisation but also to a feeling of lack of respect for the identity of
those citizens who see that their local language is not fully legitimised or
recognised officially in common state institutions. A functional distribution
based on the principle of linguistic subsidiarity could also contribute to a
solution in these cases, since it allows for general intercommunication and at
the same time preserves the main functions for other languages.
In Chapter 6, the effects of migration are examined in the context of
globalisation. In addition to the usual policies facilitating the integration
of newcomers, there has been an increase not only in policies protecting a
host society’s culture and identity, but also in newcomers’ defence of their
own culture and identity. This chapter looks at examples of how these policies
are managed in countries such as the US, the UK and the Netherlands. The
author emphasises that these policies concern not merely language and
communication, but identity as well.
Chapter 7 discusses and sets out the conclusions of the book. Specifically,
‘language’ and ‘identity’ are identified as phenomena that are not necessarily
linked, because languages can exist without any strong sense of identity and
there can be identities without any relation to language. The author points
out that the relationship between these two terms only exists when there is
contact among different groups in a context of resistance, especially when
minoritised and majority groups are involved. Some particular situations of
contact can give rise to a positive or negative self-image in comparison with
the other group. In these circumstances, therefore, creation of language
policies is highly needed. In addition, the author summarises the effects of
globalisation regarding English and other major languages, as well as the
economic and political unions and the migratory movements described in
preceding chapters. Further, Bastardas-Boada offers ideas for how to organise
this multilingual world based on four main conceptual dimensions: linguistic
recognition, communicability, sustainability, and integration.
The eighth and final chapter describes the complex case of Catalonia in terms
of identities and languages. Bastardas-Boada applies the four main dimensions
for analysis set out in Chapter 7. He also draws special attention to the need
to develop language skills and to distribute the uses of different languages
through language policies that promote a new common identity.
This book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the link
between language and identity as felt by people in the current situation of
technological, economic and political change. Although they are interrelated,
it is entirely appropriate to distinguish between the processes that affect
the use of languages and those that have an influence on identities, because,
as Joseph notes, “Knowing who one is belongs to the realm not of
communication, but representation” (2004:91).
The book also provides insight into language policies for multilingual states
and suprastate unions in the context of globalisation, as well as in the case
of new migration movements and the language organisation of plural societies.
In addition, the present-day sociolinguistic situation of Catalonia is
examined in terms of language and identity processes and the book proposes
some principles of organisation.
The book’s fundamental contribution of the book probably lies in the new
principles that it proposes for organising the coexistence of human linguistic
diversity based on the distribution of functions. Starting from the principle
of recognising the benefits to be gained from our sharing languages, the book
nonetheless postulates the priority allocation of functions to ‘local’
languages so as not to upset the sociocognitive ecology supporting their
survival. The principle of subsidiarity, which comes from the European Union’s
approach to political organisation, seems to offer an apt analogy in support
of what the author calls linguistic sustainability, a notion that he has
developed previously (see Bastardas 2007).
The issue of states without a common language is also interesting, because it
shows how outside influences -- for instance, the spreading knowledge of
English -- can contribute to a change alteration in the linguistic relations
among the groups involved. Without any planning, it can even become a language
of intercommunication. What we cannot yet know is what changes this might
bring to the evolution of languages and identities in these countries.
Another highlight is the author’s application of his theoretical principles to
the case of ‘medium-sized’ languages, which he exemplifies in with the case of
Catalonia, where there are simultaneously various causes of contact. In this
immense sociolinguistic laboratory, many factors come into play at once, such
as membership in a state in which another language group is in the majority,
the suprastate integration of the European Union, techno-economic
globalisation, and large-scale migrations that have had major consequences in
from the last century and until today.
Certainly, the many topics addressed are not settled. Rather, they are served
up as initial explorations to be expanded in the future as we begin to see the
sociolinguistic and identity-related influences that will emerge in the
various domains of globalisation and how such influences will affect human
populations. In my view, the author makes a sound decision to take a
perspective that encompasses the human ecology of languages, the linguistic
ecology of human beings, and their respective impacts, although it is also the
case that the author provides only the broad outlines of this perspective and
further development is needed.
The book will be of interest to scholars and students of sociolinguistics,
especially for those who focus on language policies and the effects of
globalisation in human language organisation. It is an excellent theoretical
companion to other works published in recent years (e.g., De Swann 2001,
Maurais & Morris 2003, Wright 2004); the author not only raises general
issues, but also explores specific cases of medium-sized communities that
simultaneously need to internationalise themselves and accommodate large-scale
migrations, all without the benefit of having their own state.
Bastardas-Boada, Albert. 2007. Linguistic sustainability for a multilingual
humanity. Glossa. An Ambilingual Interdisciplinary Journal 2. 180-202
De Swaan, Abram. 2001. Words of the world. The global language system.
Cambridge: Polity Press.
Joseph, John E. 2004. Language and identity: National, ethnic, religious.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Maurais, Jacques, & Michael A. Morris (eds.) 2003. Languages in a globalising
world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wright, Sue. 2004. Language policy and language planning. From nationalism to
globalization. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Elisabet Vila-Borrellas has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics and
Language Acquisition in Multilingual Contexts by the University of Barcelona.
She is currently working in the General Linguistics Department of the
University of Barcelona. Her main academic interests are in sociolinguistics
and early language acquisition.
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