By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Review of Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices
EDITORS: Mar-Molinero, Clare; Stevenson, Patrick TITLE: Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices SUBTITLE: Language and the Future of Europe SERIES: Language and Globalization PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2006
Zuzana Tomková, Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago
The book is one of the first titles in the series on Language and Globalization. It is a volume of several papers presented in July 2004 at a conference by the same title as the book itself. As such, it includes a wide variety of topics and perspectives on language ideological issues, language policy and practices in Europe, as well as other areas related to and influenced by Europe. The book's editors open with an introductory chapter, which is then followed by five papers on the theoretical issues of the European legacy (Part I) and ten papers involving case studies of new developments in language and social change in Europe (Part II). In the words of the editors, ''It [the book] therefore seeks to strike a balance between the theoretical, the descriptive and the analytical, and the various chapters represent a wide range of theoretical influences, draw on different types of data (from official policy papers through internet guestbooks to transcripts of spoken interaction) and relate both to general issues involving language in an era of globalization and to particular case-studies in all parts of Europe. In these ways the book aims to provide a coherent discussion of the diversity and complexity of language questions that characterize the current social and political development of Europe. (...) [I]t aims to make a contribution (...) to the project of developing a 'sociolinguistics of globalization''' (9-10).
In the opening chapter, ''Language, the national and the transnational in contemporary Europe'', Stevenson and Mar-Molinero lay out what they see as the key concepts shaping current European linguistic ideologies, policies, and practices. One such underlying theme is the ''tension between national and supra-national interests'' (2), which is linked to the tension between orientations to Europe's heritage (past) and current ambitions and efforts (present/future). Related to these tensions is also the conflict between the concept of the monoglot nation and ''multilingual constellations of European states'' (2). This politico-linguistic negotiation, as Stevenson and Mar-Molinero point out, frequently reveals itself in standardization/homogenization at the national level co-occurring with promotion of diversity at the supranational level (2-3). Such opposing forces clearly have an impact on policy formulation, which is why the authors argue for more scholarly examinations in this area. They also include their own summaries of each individual chapter (3-9).
Susan Gal's fundamental chapter, ''Migration, minorities and multilingualism: language ideologies in Europe'', provides an important questioning and analysis of the core concepts of the whole volume. Rather than taking terms even as basic as 'future' for granted, she suggests questioning them as aspects of language ideologies (13). She then focuses primarily at exploring the terms 'language' and 'Europe' as culturally specific concepts inseparable from certain ideologies. As she argues, 'language' as a countable, nameable, bounded entity is a characteristically European construct which has been spread into a variety of different settings. It is profoundly impacted by Herderian discourse, and not necessarily helpful when discussed even in pro-diversity policy settings. Gal sheds light on the ironies produced by the Herderian standardization ideology, which arise throughout Europe in the contexts of minority travel, various boundary dilemmas, and many language-policing institutions. For instance, standardization ''creates not uniformity but more (and hierarchical) heterogeneity'' (21). Consequently, Gal argues that a more useful perspective would be to look at 'language' as a process rather than a thing. In her discussion of 'Europe', she focuses on the importance of the motifs of inclusion and exclusion in the ''fractal geography'' (25) apparent in the many discussions of what is or is not 'really Europe'. Finally, she mentions some changes-in-progress visible in contemporary Europe: weaker links to territory, more minorities who do not learn the state language, and more code mixing in some spoken genres.
''A European perspective on language as liminality'' by Christopher Brumfit takes Gal's doubts about the usefulness of 'language' as it has traditionally been conceived and identifies 'liminality' as one of the reasons why this traditional concept does not reflect reality: language is fundamentally varied and speakers continually cross and re-cross permeable thresholds of genre and form in their interactions. By the same token, policy still works with the fuzzy 'language' label and has real, hegemonic effects on language users. Brumfit argues for increased awareness and use of the concept of language liminality in the theory of language policy, recognizing that such awareness may positively influence critical evaluations of the metaphors scholars use in talking about language at least to a limited extent. He suggests talking about linguistic 'repertoires' (a term more helpful to language policy) rather than 'languages' (a term better suited for the arena of politics, p. 43) as a viable alternative to start with.
In ''Americanization, language ideologies and the construction of European identities'', Thomas Ricento considers how discussions of Americanization have been related to similar ideological and identity debates in the European contexts through an investigation of the role language ideologies have played in the construction of American national identity. Ricento notes the parallel between American and European ''tension between the 'is' of a diverse nation (or 'super'nation, in the case of Europe), comprised of a great number of ethnic/cultural groups and languages, and the 'ought' of an often imagined 'American' nation'' (49-50). He warns of the difficulty in effectively analyzing language ideologies, which, being socially shared as they are, can easily be confused with ''commonsense knowledge'' (50). He therefore urges linguists and those working in language policy to realize ''that all ideologies (including those we may support) have inconsistencies and contradictions'' (50). Finally, he suggests that the American case may have interesting implications for Europe, particularly in the realm of integration and power relations between majority and minority communities.
Gerrit Brand centers his contribution around ''The role of 'Europe' in the South African language debate, with special reference to political traditions.'' He analyzes the complicated role of 'Europe' as both the 'destroyer' and the 'developer' of indigenous language and culture in South Africa (59), and the both positive and negative local interpretations of these influences. He lists specific European influences on South African political thinking: liberalism, republicanism/nationalism, and socialism; and compares them with Africanism (also not without European influence). According to Brand, one area where the inadequacy of the standard language ideology is demonstrated in South Africa is the educational domain. ''In initiatives to promote 'mother tongue education', it is often discovered that, say, 'isiXhosa speakers' have difficulty understanding 'standard isiXhosa''' (73). As a result, he suggests developing ''policies that will respect and valorise linguistic diversity, but without creating new dominant standards and elites or misrecognizing certain groups in society on the basis of their supposedly 'deviant' language forms'' (74). He therefore calls for what he calls 'the demystification of linguistic identities', which – as Gal, Brumfit, and others in the volume argue – depends on a better understanding of the nature of 'languages'.
Part I of the volume concludes with Clare Mar-Molinero's chapter titled ''The European linguistic legacy in a global era: linguistic imperialism, Spanish and the Instituto Cervantes''. As her title suggests, she discusses the role of the Instituto Cervantes in the linguistic imperialist developments of Spanish-language policy worldwide. She argues that we should understand much of globalization ''in terms of power dominance'' (78), providing examples specifically from the domain of ''(foreign and/or second) language teaching and learning'' promoted by the institute. In this context, she analyzes the ideological perceptions of the central peninsular Castilian varieties as (disproportionately) ''representative'' or important, which in turn contributes to their imposition in a wide variety of Spanish-speaking and –learning contexts.
Mar-Molinero interprets these consistent efforts as political and economic manipulation from the side of the Spanish governmental authorities seeking to strengthen Spain's national identity and increase its economic gain at a time when nations seem to be more threatened by the globalizing and transnational trends worldwide. In this sense, while turning attention to a global-scope phenomenon (of the power growth of Spanish as a world language), Mar-Molinero also prepares the ground for the case studies of Part II.
The first chapter in the second part of the book is Anna Duszak's ''Why 'new' newspeak?: axiological insights into language ideologies and practices in Poland''. It takes on the (impossible?) task of looking ahead to the future of Polish as it interacts with its ''baggage'' from the past and its new position ''in'' Europe. One of the ways that this transition surfaces linguistically is through hybridization of talk and writing in innovative blends between Polish and English on the one hand, and protective attitudes to Polish on the other hand. Another level of language negotiation has been happening in Poland since its political system change, when a conscious effort was made to turn away from the former political jargon and, through ''vernacularization'' or ''colloquialization'' (99), base the common public (political, academic, etc.) discourses on the principles of directness and openness. However, the result of this process has led to what has been perceived as leveling of styles within Polish, which some academics feel is a threat that needs to be counteracted through education. Duzsak sees as a possible positive development in the Polish public discourses striking a balance halfway between hard-to-understand jargon and what have been called ''careless, common and vulgar patterns of speech'' (101).
Tommaso M. Milani, in ''Language planning and national identity in Sweden: a performativity approach'', tracks the changes in Swedish language planning policy by examining more than three decades of official policy documents. Similarly to Duszak's and Mar-Molinero's observations about Polish and Spanish, Milani shows how emphasis has been put on Swedish ''as a symbol of national identity in order to counteract the increasing pressure of globalization'' (104). In analyzing some of the older documents and comparing them with some of the more recent ones, Milani reveals how ''language planning in Sweden was present even when it was said to be absent, and that national identity is a dynamic reality that is produced, rather than mirrored, in language debates and depends on the interplay of a set of historical, ideological and socio-political conditions'' (104). The Swedish case Milani presents is a good example of the prevailing power of prescriptive linguistics in many European contexts, and his interpretation of the case through a performativity lens offers an interesting way to try to understand the current European developments.
Exemplifying Brumfit's argument about the importance of liminality for language is Christian Voss' chapter, ''The Macedonian standard language: Tito-Yugoslav experiment or symbol of 'great Macedonian' ethnic inclusion?''. In Macedonia, borders are an ever-present element in the lives of the people, whether the borders be political, linguistic, national, or ethnic. In the region, it is still not entirely clear whether the contradictions between the national language ideologies and the ethnic identity ideologies can be resolved, or how (120). Indeed, even the name ''Macedonia'' is not without conflict (123). Voss describes how in Macedonia, standard language policy fails to fulfill the unifying function usually associated with it. Simultaneously an important case for the language endangerment scholarship (in that it shows that language suppression does not necessarily lead to language death, p. 129), the chapter stresses the lack of equation between ethnic and language group membership.
The problem of language command and belonging arises in ''Language loyalty in the Baltic: Russian artists and linguistic nationalism in Estonia'' by Rémy Rouillard. In this chapter, Rouillard analyzes interviews with Russian(-speaking) authors and painters living in Estonia and their expressions of belonging, placing the findings against the backdrop of the Estonian citizenship and language laws. In Estonia, (lack of) knowledge of Estonian has serious consequences for political expression of the large non-Estonian part of the population, language competence being taken to imply loyalty to the state and rights to citizenship (including the right to vote, etc.). The new laws have also created a sizeable number of people without citizenship, in effect turning these individuals into ''aliens'' (136). Rouillard's findings present the complicated layers of identification Estonia's Russian speakers feel towards Estonia, Russia, and Europe, thus revealing that loyalty may not be easy to define or understand.
The theme of loyalty and complicated identities carries over to Patrick Stevenson's chapter on '''National' languages in transnational contexts: language, migration and citizenship in Europe''. Stevenson looks at how in Austria and Germany, the concern with loyalty arises from the perceived threat to their national integrity as a result of the recent waves of migrants and immigrants. The decision to base ''integration'' on linguistic proficiency in a single ''national'' language is not without paradoxes in the Europe that promotes multilingualism, diversity and mobility. However, as Stevenson shows, the apparent paradox of such policies can, again, be well understood from the point of view of ''resistance to the loss of national sovereignty'' (160): in the Herderian equation of nation with language with ethnicity, multilingualism (characteristic of the (im)migrants) is ''a threat to the prevailing monolingual order'' (159). Interestingly, Stevenson also notes that, at least in the German and Austrian contexts (contra Duszak's Polish and Milani's Swedish findings), English may be accepted, not feared like the other (im)migrant languages, because of a lack of a strong link between the language and a specific territory, nation and/or culture. The discrimination between who does and does not constitute a threat is therefore rather complex, since, on the one hand, German proficiency is stressed for migrants, but on the other hand, the requirements do not apply for EU citizens (even the millions who fail to speak any German).
Robert Gould further develops the theme of migrants and foreigners in his chapter ''The European paradox: Swiss discourses of identity between dependence and xenophobia''. He demonstrates ''how the discourses of globalization and security have invaded that of identity and immigration'' (162) by analyzing public Swiss political discourses on these topics. In the consistent presentation of Switzerland as a business unit, foreigners are presented positively, since their presence implies economic advantage for the country (166). Simultaneously, however, foreigners are generally portrayed negatively (167), this being the default and uncontested approach typically seen in the Swiss media. Politicians interested in arguing for the economic importance of the foreign work force for Swiss benefit therefore manipulate the discourse, relabeling the desirable (''highly qualified'') workers or EU citizens as ''persons'' or ''nationals'', rather than ''foreigners'' (168). Gould's exposition uses the Swiss case as an example of the wider phenomenon of double attitudes towards foreigners in European countries: seeing them as both necessary and suspicious.
The in many ways liminal situations of foreigners are next examined by Katrijn Maryns and Jan Blommaert in ''Conducting dissonance: codeswitching and differential access to context in the Belgian asylum process''. These authors look at institutional data from the asylum application procedure in Belgium (178) and demonstrate how the linguistic interactions between the asylum seekers and their interviewers and translators, whose consequences are considerable, are frequently quite beyond the asylum seekers' control precisely because of their linguistic and cultural repertoires and the extent to which these parallel the host country's institutional expectations. This case study ''demonstrates the increasing complexity caused by multilingualism in bureaucratic environments where monoglot ideologies of language and communication are dominant'' (189) and is therefore of importance for the EU context.
The following chapter, ''Multilingual matters and monolingual teachers: the discursive construction of identity in a Flanders primary school'' by Massimiliano Spotti, provides examples of ''identity construction'' for multilingual students by a local primary school teacher. The requirements for children from diverse families to conform to the standard-language requirements in schools result in them being doubly disadvantaged – by their home languages as well as the local, non-prestigious varieties of Dutch which they learn and speak outside the classroom (204).
Yet, there are environments where multilingualism is not only not discouraged, but where it is even catered towards and commercially targeted: Brigitta Busch's ''Changing media spaces: the transformative power of heteroglossic practices'' studies developing patterns in urban (Berlin and Vienna) radio media with heterogeneous populations. She shows how in a number of such radio programs, the role of standard languages is decentered and that of hybrid genres and codes becomes highlighted – thus reflecting more of the actual practices of the migrant populations away from home. While recognizing that ''[t]he presence of a multitude of languages and codes in the media enhances the visibility of diversity within society'' (219), Busch notes that more public spaces need to be created where social cohesion and dialogue among the different groups can be negotiated.
The final chapter of the volume, Lukas Bleichenbacher's ''Dobry den Košice – üdvözlöm Kassát – hello Kosice: Language choice in a Slovak Internet guestbook'', presents an example from one of the media most welcoming to linguistic innovation and diversity, the Internet. Like many other European cities, the east Slovak city of Košice is increasingly multilingual, not only because of its location in the vicinity of three of Slovakia's neighboring countries, but also, among other things, because of tourism and Slovakia's EU membership. Bleichenbacher studies the language choice(s) of the city's Internet guestbook entries based on the country of origin of the contributors, observing that while the contributions from outside Slovakia vary in their language choice(s), most contributions from within the country conform to the dominant monolingual norm. According to him, it would be desirable to overcome ''these monolingual mindsets'' in the future.
The volume is a very interesting selection of works identifying and analyzing a number of current problems from the language ideology, policy, and practice domain of Europe. It informs the reader about a number of important theoretical concepts while presenting cases from eclectic settings, genres and language varieties. As all academic works, it also suffers from some weaknesses, however. I will mention four of them below.
Firstly, while some authors (e.g. Gal) do a good job questioning and seeking to understand the basic terminology around which their work is built, defining some terms is definitely missing from several chapters. For instance, with the exception of Mar-Molinero, the authors do not specify what they mean by concepts as key to this collection as ''globalization'' (about which whole books have been written – e.g. Steger 2003 and references therein). For example, Bleichenbacher (234) claims ''the globalization of the Slovak language'' as one of his two major findings in his analysis, but does not make it clear what the phrase means.
Secondly, a number of claims are made by different authors without sufficient explanation. Mar-Molinero (76-77), for instance, says, ''I believe that ultimately the dominance and power of globalization and linguistic imperialism determine language choice, use and survival''. This statement is not followed by any evidence that would lead one to agree or disagree with her belief. Similarly, Duszak (97) says that opinions claiming ''that Poles are not able (any longer?) to communicate (...) could be a bad indicator for the future of Poland's societal life (in Europe)'' – but she does not suggest why or how that should be the case. Further, her suggestion that ''more attention is needed to teaching critical interpretation of texts and practical skills of self-expression'' (101) seems to imply that Poles are somehow incapable of self-expression, which is a highly questionable position without any supporting evidence. One other example is Bleichenbacher's argument that the prevailingly Slovak-only guestbook contributions from Slovaks within the country reveal a deeply-rooted monolingual bias. However, one could easily object that they were sending their messages to a guestbook of a predominantly Slovak city – Slovak thus seems as a perfectly legitimate language choice. Without parallel examples from other contexts which would differ in this respect, his argument is not particularly persuasive.
Thirdly, some authors' word choice sometimes leads to unhelpful implications. Spotti (200), for instance, uses ''the city dialect'' and ''Dutch'' contrastively, as if the former was not in fact a variety of the latter. Duszak (96) refers to ''the recent invasion of English'' into Polish language settings. It is not clear whether ''invasion'' is the best word for the phenomenon, though: the entrance of English onto the Polish scene can hardly be argued to be violently imposed, and it is probably not fully unwelcome, either, seeing as it is a resource of international communication for many Poles. One more example of questionable word choice comes from Mar-Molinero's chapter (79), in which she personifies Spanish, suggesting that it has agency and an overall life of its own separate from its speakers (for one of numerous arguments to the contrary, see the work of Mufwene 2002, 2004).
Finally, one technical shortcoming of the volume is imperfect proofreading with a high number of typographical errors.
Despite the points brought up above, I think the book is a valuable contribution to the growing scholarship concerned with the phenomena of globalization with respect to language. More than just presenting an interesting mosaic of case studies, the volume's authors make the reader think about questions with no easy answers (e.g. Rouillard's chapter bringing up the problems of what it means to be ''part of Europe'', or being ''apart'' from it; what it means to be loyal to a country, whether of one's own origin or one that has become one's new home, etc.). As a result, the volume is likely to benefit many university classes as well as individual scholars.
Mufwene, Salikoko (2002) Colonization, globalization and the plight of ''weak'' languages. The Journal of Linguistics, 38, 375-395.
Mufwene, Salikoko (2004) Language birth and death. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 201-222.
Steger, Manfred B. (2003) Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. New York NY: Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Zuzana Tomková is a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. Her recent Master's thesis focused on the significance of language ideologies in the field of linguistics. Her other current interests include sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, language endangerment, and descriptive linguistics.