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Review of  Language Planning and Policy

Reviewer: Haitao Liu
Book Title: Language Planning and Policy
Book Author: Anthony J. Liddicoat
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 19.2859

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EDITOR: Liddicoat, Anthony J.
TITLE: Language Planning and Policy
SUBTITLE: Issues in Language Planning and Literacy
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2007

LIU Haitao, Institute of Applied Linguistics, Communication University of China.

Literacy is a central issue to many language planning works. However, there are
few studies which focus primarily on literacy as a language planning activity.
This volume tries to explore some of the complexities and consequences of
literacy in a range of contexts and from a range of perspectives. It brings
together a collection of fifteen papers on language planning for literacy in
official and vernacular languages and deals with the related issues in first and
additional languages in North America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific. The
following is a summary of these fifteen papers. A similar summary can be found
in the Introduction written by the editor (Anthony Liddicoat) and the abstracts
in each paper.

Liddicoat examines two main issues in language planning for literacy: the ways
in which literacy has been defined and the relationship between literacy and
language selection. This paper argues that contemporary literacy planning has to
consider more than models of delivery and become involved in issues related to
define the nature of literate capability and the selection of languages in which
literate capabilities will be developed. According to the author, these
questions are important to the literate futures of people in a globalizing world.

Stevens explores federal policies for early literacy in the United States and
presents questions of how language and literacy are being defined and for whom.
Using a Foucaultian analysis, she shows that literacy is an ideologically
motivated concept and that although one ideology may be embedded in policy
texts, the conceptualization may be modified through the discursive practices of
implementation. The paper concludes that language and literacy policies would do
best to recognize and work within the complex learning setting of schools and

Muthwn gives a critique of the interaction between language planning and
literacy development in Kenya. The paper looks at the impact of the choice of
English as the language of literacy development. However, the choice of language
is not the single cause of Kenya's literacy problems. Other factors, for
instance the working definitions of literacy used in Africa and school language
practices, also contribute to the literacy problems. The author provides some
practical suggestions to solve these problems. One of them is to redefine
literacy in Kenya because the definition plays an important role in determining
the most suitable approach.

Cray and Currie examine the concept of literacy in Canada's current immigrant
language-training policy. The official policy in Canada is that immigrants
should be assisted in acquiring one of the two official languages as a part of
their integration into Canadian society, but that actually in most parts of
Canada, the priority is on English rather than French. The authors found that
the implementation of this policy fails to fulfill the original promise of
language instruction to a level that would allow for successful settlement and

Chua reviews the ideological roots of literacy in the multilingual context of
Singapore where there is a conflict between the place of English and that of the
local official languages: Chinese, Tamil and Malay. While Singaporeans have to
master the English language for political and economic reasons, ideologically,
they should remain Asian by rejecting the cultural components of English,
replacing them with Asian values. The author argues that this makes Singaporean
citizens as bilingual and bi-literate in English and their mother tongues, but
as mono-cultural. The concept of functional literacy is the basis of this
dichotomization and serves as a framework for understanding language policies in
Singapore. Currently the cultural component is subordinated to the economic in
Singapore's policy practice and the result is a shift from the local languages
to English.

Another investigation about the place of literacy education in a multilingual
context is the paper written by Kamanathan who presents an analysis of the
relationship between English-based and vernacular-based education in India.
Drawing on an eight-year ethnographic study of English and vernacular medium
education in Gujarat, the author argues a situated approach that begins
addressing the related inequities around language planning and policy by first
focusing on what is on the ground. At the core of her argument is a contestation
of what constitutes the literate subject and the value system in which literacy
is acquired.

Zhou investigates the development of minority language literacy planning in the
People's Republic of China since 1949 and claims that language planning for
literacy has shifted from a literacy campaign approach to a legislative approach
which treats compulsory education as the mainstream means for literacy
development. Zhou identifies three stances in Chinese language planning:
promotion, which involves active support for minority language literacy;
permission, which provides a place for such literacies in education; tolerance,
which allows, but does not actively support, minority literacies. While the
national laws generally take a permissive stance towards literacy in minority
languages, local laws adopt stances ranging from promotion to tolerance. The
author argues that the stance that is adopted in legislation depends on two
factors, the political desire and power of the minority and the economic context
in which literacy practices are developed and rationalized.

Kosonen comparatively examines literacy planning for ethnic minorities in three
countries: Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. According to the author, in all three
polities, literacy is understood as a process tied to the standardized official
language and that vernacular language literacy is marginalized, although to
different degrees in each country. In all three countries, minorities benefit
less from the education services currently provided than do the dominant
linguistic groups. Kosonen asserts that the present emphases in language
planning and literacy development appear to be widening the educational gap
between the minority and majority populations, creating an internal literacy
divide. In spite of the lack of official recognition of minority languages in
education and literacy development, the vernaculars are used orally in education
in all three polities for pragmatic purposes. The author argues that these local
vernacular practices may provide the basis for developing viable biliteracy
programs. In other words, language planning at the grassroots is possible and a
change in the conceptualization of literacy at the national level does not
necessarily have to be a ''top-down'' process stipulated by centralized government

Siegal looks at the origins of pidgins and creoles and explores some of the
reasons for their lack of use in formal education. According to the author, one
of the key difficulties of these languages is the low prestige. Therefore, in
developing literacy in these languages, status planning and corpus planning need
to be accompanied by prestige planning in order to respond to the existing
linguistic value system. Only four polities have adopted pidgins or creoles as
languages of education: Seychelles, Haiti, Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, but
in each case only as a transitional program towards literacy in another
language. Siegal argues that, while pidgins and creoles form a range of literate
activities in many societies, literacy in these languages is typically acquired
by transfer from practices learned in the official language, that is, first
language literacy is derived from second language literacy. The practices in
these languages shows that there is a long way to go before these languages are
fully recognized as legitimate vehicles for literacy.

Crowley investigates the question of literacy in indigenous languages from an
ecological perspective. The author argues that literacy in the Pacific does not
give added status to local languages and that it inevitably weakens these
languages, leading ultimately to the replacement of a huge number of languages
by colonial languages. The core problem for language planning, as Crowley points
out, rests with the indigenization of literacy, that is to say, literacy must be
incorporated into local cultures. While literacy may be introduced into a
society as an exotic practice, it will only seem successful if it becomes a
local practice.

Lindstrom examines the ways in which Papua New Guinea's vernacular literacy
policy is implemented in the Kuot speech community of New Ireland. Kuot is a
language in a critical situation. Lindstrom shows some of the problems which
emerge for literacy planning in situations of language death where
understandings of the nature and purpose of vernacular literacy may not be
shared between language planners and communities. While the community expects
this to work for language survival, the aim of the education policy is the
eventual transfer of literacy skills to English. The author describes the
tensions between these conflicting goals and the various components that make up
the specific situation of Kuot, including vernacular literacy, orthographic
considerations arising from the language's precarious situation, and the
eventual extension of the internet era to Melanesia. Dunn investigates
vernacular literacy in the Touo language of the Solomon Islands. First language
speakers of Touo are typically multilingual, and likely to speak other
vernaculars. Touo literacy receives no institutional support and vernacular
literacy is largely seen as the domain of other local vernaculars. While Touo is
used only for linguistically marginal genres such as listing of personal and
tribal names, vernacular literacy is evidently a powerful potential source of
social influence. The Touo people are indigenizing literacy, if only to a
limited extent, and are integrating literate practice and the ideologies which
surround it into traditionally valued practices.

Paviour-Smith reports the issues involved in literacy-related corpus planning
for the Aulua language community of Vanuatu. He examines the questions which can
arise in developing an orthography in a context with a number of alternatives
and argues that community views of appropriate orthographic systems may differ
significantly from those of linguists. In particular, the symbolic associations
that particular graphemic choices have may strongly influence the nature of the
orthography developed. He also explores the process of developing materials for
a literacy program and documents the development of written forms of oral texts.

Dekker and Young deal with language planning for literacy for ethno-linguistic
minorities in the Philippines, and focus on the planning and implementation of
literacy programs. They observe that, in the Philippine context, literacy has
been recognized as valuable by ethno-linguistic minorities and vernacular
literacy is also included in Philippines' policy, although possibly not in
practice. According to the authors, the minorities face two problems in becoming
literate: their local language is not used as the medium of instruction; the
curriculum is culturally distant from the worldview and experience of the
learners. They argue that local language planning work can play an important
role in developing education for ethno-linguistic minorities.

Papapavlou and Pavlou examine the potential for Cypriot Greek to ensure a place
in education. The key issue is the possibility for bi-dialectal education in
Cypriot Greek and Modern Standard Greek in the Cypriot context. The authors note
that the place of non-standard varieties in education is argued and that some of
the questions are linked with the image and value of the non-standard variety in
relation to the standard form of the language. To answer the questions, they
investigate primary school-teachers' attitudes to Cypriot Greek as a language
variety and as a language for use in an educational context. The study shows
that, although a majority of teachers view Cypriot Greek positively, many
teachers maintain a negative image of the variety and reject its use in
education. As long as a non-standard variety is not widely accepted by teachers,
it is unlikely that language planning initiatives with a focus on developing
bi-dialectal literacies will succeed.

Literacy is usually one of main goals in language planning and language policy.
However, it is difficult to find the specific chapter dedicated to literacy in
the works (textbooks or monographs) of language planning and language policy .
For example, we can not see the word ''literacy'' even in the most extensive
framework for language planning goals (Kaplan & Baldauf 2003: 202), although
there are two subchapters in the Introduction on literacy and language
policy/standard languages (Kaplan & Baldauf 2003: 7-9). Two examples of a
literacy campaign can be found in Lo Bianco (2001: 194-198) on Vietnam and
Cooper on Ethiopia (1989: 21-28). In this way, it is necessary and useful to
publish some works on literacy planning in different contexts.

Literacy planning is ignored perhaps because literacy planning is not only an
instance of language-in-education planning, it has also multiple
interrelationships with another three dimensions of language planning: status
planning, corpus planning, and prestige planning.

This volume presents us a complex view of literacy planning, which is not simply
a matter of planning a written form of a language, and is also a highly
ideological activity relating to the nature and practice of literacy and the
power relations which exist within societies. The studies in this volume clearly
show that literacy planning is a language policy and planning activity, and not
just a sub-category of language-in-education planning.

The book is well organized and printed, although several bugs still can be
found. For example, Lisa Patel Stevens was given a wrong surname (Stephens) in
Contents and Introduction written by Liddicoat. In the same Introduction,
another author Zhou was also misspelled as Zhao. It is a pity that the volume
does not include indexes of the names and subject. The chapters are certainly
useful to read and use in this interesting book.

Cooper, Robert L. (1989) _Language Policy and Social Change_. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Kaplan, Robert B. and Richard B. Baldauf Jr. (2003) _Language and
Language-in-Education Planning in the Pacific Basin_. Dordrecht/Boston/London:
Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. (2001) Viet Nam: Quoc Ngu, Colonialism and Language Policy.
In Nanette Gottlieb and Ping Chen (eds.) _Language Planning and Language Policy:
East Asian Perspectives_. Richmond: Curzon Press. pp. 159-206.

LIU Haitao is professor of applied and computational linguistics at the
Communication University of China (CUC). His research interests include language
planning, computational linguistics and syntactic theory.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1853599778
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 272
Prices: U.K. £ 34.95
U.S. $ 69.95