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EDITORS: Creese, Angela; Martin, Peter W.; Hornberger, Nancy H. TITLE: Ecology of Language SERIES TITLE: Encyclopedia of Language and Education Vol. 9. PUBLISHER: Springer YEAR: 2010
Anna Gonerko-Frej, English Department, Szczecin University, Poland.
The ''Ecology of Language'' is a collection of twenty-four articles analyzing some theoretical aspects of the ecological metaphor in language studies and describing the complexity of language networks in selected areas.
All chapters are built around a common structure: after a short 'introduction', the authors move from some historical background in the 'early developments' section, through the overview of linguistic panorama ('major contributions'), analysis of current activity ('work in progress'), summary of 'problems and difficulties' involved, to the final prognosis in 'future directions'.
Section 1, on the historical and theoretical background to the ecological perspective, opens with a chapter by the great campaigners for linguistic rights and language equalities, Tove Skuttnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson. With a number of references to historical and contemporary legislation on the issue, the authors argue for more comprehensive legal protection of languages. The dangers of subtractive language learning are presented as a threat to diversity necessary for harmonious biological survival of our planet. Multidisciplinary focus on LHR (linguistic human rights) is called for and the central role of education is emphasized in the struggle for the preservation of local and strategic knowledge encoded in local languages.
Once the reader is comfortably settled with the ecological metaphor, the second chapter, by John Edwards, upsets the picture, criticizing the 'language ecology' model as limiting instead of enhancing our understanding of the socio-linguistic relations. ''The Ecology of language: insight and illusion'' argues against the biological description of language; the author rejects the approach as of no practical relevance and obscuring the problems of linguistic diversity. For Edwards, the 'ecology of language' is simply another political ideological instrument which does not advance the scientific study. The author criticizes the 'ecological enterprise' in reference to language as biased and one-sided, in contrast to the holistic implication of the term 'ecology'. In the chapter, the language ecology model is presented as ''deeply flawed'' and the advocates of linguistic rights are said to replace one demagogy with another. The campaign for linguistic rights, according to Edwards, has to be relegated to an element of the much more general problem of pluralistic societies, with the suggestions of replacing 'rights' with 'claims', and placing them within the moral rather than legal realm. Edwards discredits the lists of advantages of the ecology-of-language model (Skuttnabb-Kangas 2000, Phillipson 1992, or Mühlhäusler 1996) as largely ''naïve'', ''questionable'', ''unoriginal' or ''truistic''. Sceptical views on the problems of linguistic imperialism seem typical for a representative of the 'inner circle'. In the same manner, Edwards warns against making education and literacy responsible for cultural endangering of minor languages (''villains''). Consequently, he also discards the romantic views on minor languages and cultures, as ''harmful and unrealistic'', to emphasise the benefits of standard international language.
In chapter 3, ''Language ecology and language ideology'', Adrian Blackledge gives an overview of the major applications of the ecological paradigm by Haugen (1972), Fill and Mühlhäusler (2001), Hornberger (2002), Ricento (2000, 2006), and refers to the related linguistic rights issue (Skuttnabb-Kangas 2000 and Phillipson 1992). Blackledge focuses on the interrelation of language ideology and politics, problematising national identity issues, linked to previous scholarly debates and discussions of speech communities. The role of educational policies in supporting identity through language policies is discussed and Bourdieu's (1990, 1998) analysis of symbolic value of language is presented. Blackledge summarizes May's position on the interplay of language and identity (2004, 2005) and refers to the Irvine and Gal studies of language practice (1995). The chapter finishes with suggestions of future research directions; the work of Gal (2006), May (2004), Creese and Martin (2003) or Stevenson and Mar-Malinero (2006) point towards research on multilingual practices, linguistic complementarity. On the whole, Blackledge's chapter is mostly an overview of major research in the area of ecology and ideology of language, past and present, and the presentation of key research ideas.
For Robert B. Kaplan and Richard Baldauf (chapter 4), the ecology perspective helps to present language policy in the context of mutual interaction of languages, inside and across polities. Changes to language ecology, brought about by missionary activities (language spread or translation necessary for religious instruction), colonization or economic globalization (English) have become a frequent problem of modern times. Kaplan and Baldauf use the language context of Japan to illustrate the intricate mix of languages in one country. Language planners are warned not to ignore the whole context of language relations and influences; the biological metaphor proves useful in the analysis, even if not totally appropriate.
Section 1 closes with Leo van Lier's ''The ecology of language learning and sociocultural theory''. Drawing on the work of Vygotsky (1997) and J. Gibson (1979), van Lier relates the theories of perception to language learning. He tries to show 'identity' and 'self' as separate concepts, with sociocultural and ecological argumentation. Neisser's (1988) typology of self-knowledge is used to distinguish between 'the perceived self' and 'the reflected self', to draw analogies to language development later, with central prominence given to perception and action. For more comprehensive application in language learning, Van Lier emphasizes the need to supplement Neisser's model with the emotional sphere and orientation to the future. He views second language learning as the perception and action in the new 'languaculture', accompanied by the development of new 'voice'. Consequently, the active acquisition of a new language should be supported by the appropriate 'pedagogical scaffolding', which van Lier encourages on three levels: macro, meso and micro. Both the ecological and sociocultural framework allow one to mark out the appropriate guidelines.
Having provided the historical and theoretical framework, the book moves on to discuss particular language ecologies of selected areas (Section 2). Sandra Kipp describes the situation of Australian community languages, placing emphasis on changing governmental policies, inconsistent data, educational provisions, language shifts and changing hierarchy of languages. Throughout the history of the country, LOTEs (languages other than English) have been submitted to varied treatment: from a laissez faire approach, through enforced monolingualism, abuse, disregard, to partial recognition and state support of community languages. The data on multilingualism is not consistent or comprehensive; the language question appeared on the National Census in 1976, was excluded from the 1981 census and reformulated in 1986 to refer only to languages used ''in the home''. Kipp includes 4 tables with statistics on top community languages between 1976-2001, use of languages by 0-14 year-olds, language shift in 2001 and 1996 and the languages in schools. Cultural distance, values, group cohesion and geographical concentration are indicated as contributing to the multilingualism of Australia. A number of case studies are quoted, building a clear picture of LOTEs in the country. The author considers the providers of language programmes (regular day schools, schools of languages and after-hours ethnic schools), language examinations, language maintenance and the relative position of languages conditioned by factors such as stringent assessment, language status or economic significance. Still, with 43 languages examinable and more than 200 languages used, Australia is a useful model of rich and changing linguistic demography.
Andy Chebanne traces the historical marginalization of the major languages of Southern Africa’s original inhabitants: the Khoe and the San. A complex situation of numerous other languages in the area is illustrated, with the examples of languages disappearing, dying, threatened, surviving, rejected or codified and standardized to assist in maintenance. The educational policy of Singapore is shown to have shaped its current linguistic mix, with 4 official languages, English as the teaching medium, and some moves towards changes of school policies (Anthea Gupta). In Arturo Tosi's analysis, Italy emerges as a battleground of local dialects with the instrumental imposition of a national language. Yasir Suleiman focuses on phonological aspects of language change in Jordan, with reference to the gender factor; a ''sex-based account'' of language shift or switch. Luis Lopez emphasizes the need for curriculum diversification in Latin America, repositioning of orality in education and the indigenous view of a ''language in life''.
The various panoramas of the linguistic mosaic in different places in the world demonstrate some similarities -- the role of language in creating national bonds, promotion of lingua francas, ''stigmatization of local dialects, called 'weeds''' (Arturo Tosi), language evolution, shift or death.
The linguistic ecology of diasporas is dealt with in a separate section (3). James Collins describes the situation in the Malay world. In his appeal for a thorough study of endangered languages of the Malay, Collins emphasizes the complexity of language choice in the area. Shuhan C. Wang, examining the position of the Chinese language in the US, shows the American language policies as mostly monolingual, prioritizing assimilation rather than pluralism, ignoring real language needs. Peter G. Sercombe, in his study of the language problems of the Penan in Borneo, exposes the mechanisms of stigmatizing the local language. Jacomine Nortier focuses on the Moroccan minority in the Netherlands to question acculturation into Dutch as a way of managing identity problems.
The different pedagogical ways of addressing local language ecologies are presented in Section 4. Margie Probyn writes about the choice of school language in South Africa and its social reasons and consequences. Alexandra Jaffe reports on her fieldwork in a bilingual school in Corsica, considering the role of a polynomic practice in legitimating linguistic variety. Yasoko Kanno studies the relatively recent issue of foreign nationals in Japan requiring Japanese instruction. The code-switching practices and battles of ideologies in bilingual classrooms in Brunei are described by Mukul Saxena. Angela Creese and Peter Martin choose a case study of a Gujarati complementary school in England, to look at ''bilingual and bicultural spaces in an institutional context''.
The final section (5) groups articles on the ecology of literacies. Nancy Hornberger refers to her model of 'continua of biliteracy' to demonstrate its practicality and usefulness in the ecological framework of study. The literacy practices of the inhabitants of Hong Kong are the subject of Angel M.Y. Lin's work. Kat Pahl gives an overview of research (past and present) on the ecologies of language and literacies in homes, schools and communities, emphasising the importance of theoretical frameworks of Bourdieu and Foucault.
The book closes with a chapter on digital literacies (by Karin Tusting). The major contributors to the ecological perspective on the multimodal, interactive, new literacies are presented; the summary of their work illustrates the changing nature of learning and knowledge construction.
It is interesting that in a book devoted to the ecological paradigm there is a place for critical and sceptical evaluation of the usefulness or validity of the approach. Contrasting the strong views of campaigners for the maintenance of linguistic biodiversity (Skuttnab-Kangas, Phillipson) with sceptical comments on the illusory and misleading value of organic description of languages (John Edwards) in the first chapters forces the reader to re-think the ideology and be cautious in drawing further analogies. Alternating enthusiastic and critical stances from the very beginning encourages much more involved reading. Hence, the subsequent analysis of various linguascapes inspires different comments and future prognosis.
The variety of problems linked to language ecology help to expose the multiplicity of possible approaches. At the same time, however, the breadth of the multidisciplinary view can be quite inhibiting. In just the five introductory chapters the reader has to reflect on topics such as: nationalism, social symbolism, sociocultural theory, psychological ideas, modes of seeing and perception typology of self-knowledge, identity problems, pedagogical scaffolding, legal formulations, political ideology biodiversity, educational politics, economic conditioning, discourse analysis, and language planning.
The danger of the spread of English is clearly demonstrated throughout, although significantly downplayed by the British contributor to the volume.
Newcomers to the field can find a good summary of relevant research, as all the chapters are rich in references to previous studies of the problem. On the other hand, the long sequences of names and dates at times make it difficult to grasp the ideas of the author. To give due credit to the research done, the scholars break the sentences so often that the reader is lost trying to grasp the message. However, some chapters, especially in the section devoted to particular case studies, offer a welcome respite from the abundance of scholarly references by providing an interesting and clear comment and prognosis, easy to follow also to those without the necessary academic slant.
The common scaffolding of all chapters organizes the content of the chapters along the same lines; the reader knows what to expect, can compare particular sections (though there are occasional diversions). This predictable routine can be both useful and tiring, sometimes leaving the impression that the authors, forced into identical structure, were limited in their creative approaches. Still, they manage to attract the readers' attention with their topic and style; e.g. Arturo Tosi's chapter on Italy is full of inspiring and poetical ideas, expressed in thought-provoking phrases.
For readers eager to see the practical implications of scholarly debates, the great value of the book lies in the references to education policies and planning. Most chapters refer to language curriculum or the impact of compulsory education and the school system.
Whether the ecological metaphor seems more or less adequate or appealing, the book provides enough interesting material to problematise linguistic diversity in a context conducive to the awareness of the linguistic richness of our globe and the importance of the survival of the fittest and the weakest for preservation of the planet which needs to speak with a variety of voices. The educational sector needs to respond appropriately.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Polity Press, Cambridge.
Gal, Susan And Irvine, Judith. 1995. The boundaries of language and disciplines: How ideologies construct difference. Social Research 62(4), 967-1001.
Gal, S. 2006. Migration, minorities and multilingualism: Language ideologies in Europe. In C. Mar-Malinero and P. Stevens (eds.), Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices. Language and the Future of Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 13-27.
Gibson, J.J. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.
Haugen, Einar. 1972. The Ecology of Language. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.
Hornberger, Nancy. 2002. Multilingual language policies and the continua of biliteracy. Language Policy 1, 27-51.
May, Stephen. 2004. Rethinking linguistic human rights. Answering questions of identity, essentialism and mobility. In J. Freel and D. Patrick (eds.) Language Rights and Language Survival. St. Jerome, Manchester, 35-54.
May, Stephen. 2005. Language Rights; Moving the debate forward. Journal of Sociolinguistics 9(3), 319-347.
Mühlhäusler, Peter. 1996. Linguistic Ecology. Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Region. Routledge. London.
Neisser, U. 1988. Five kinds of self-knowledge. Philosophical Psychology 1, 35-39.
Phillipson, Robert. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Ricento, Thomas. 2000. Historical and theoretical perspectives in language policy and planning. Journal of Sociolinguistics 4(2), 196-213.
Ricento, Thomas. 2006. Americanization, language ideologies and the construction of European identities. In C. Mar-Moilnero and P. Stevens (eds.) Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices. Language and the Future of Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 44-57.
Skuttnabb-Kangas, Tove. 2000. Linguistic Genocide in Education -- Or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ.
Stevenson, Patrick and Mar-Molinero, Clare (eds.). 2006. Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices. Language and the Future of Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Vygotsky, Lev S. 1997. Collected Works. Volume 4, Plenum Press, New York.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Dr. Anna Gonerko-Frej is the Head of the English Department at Szczecin
University, Poland. She is a teacher trainer, language teacher, textbook
consultant and a researcher. Her main areas of interest are linguistic
imperialism, culture in language teaching, intercultural learning, language
policy and identity issues in language.