LINGUIST List 23.3813

Wed Sep 12 2012

Review: Sociolinguistics: Schiffman (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 12-Sep-2012
From: Richard Littauer <>
Subject: Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and Its Neighbors
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EDITOR: Harold SchiffmanTITLE: Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and Its NeighborsSUBTITLE: The Changing Politics of Language ChoiceSERIES TITLE: Brill's Studies in South and Southwest Asian LanguagesPUBLISHER: BrillYEAR: 2011

Richard Littauer, Computational Linguistics, Saarland University

SUMMARY''Language Policy and Language Conflict in Afghanistan and Its Neighbors: TheChanging Policy of Language Choice'', edited by Harold F. Schiffman and co-editedby Brian Spooner, is a collection of papers presented at a workshop at theUniversity of Pennsylvania in December 2003. (The book cover and the publisherinformation online cite Schiffman as the editor, but throughout the text and inthe introduction, Spooner is referenced as the co-editor.) The papers offer anoverview of the complicated history of language use and policy in Central Asia,covering a wide range of relevant topics, from diglossia to minority languages,from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan to Pakistan to Iran, from governmental languagepolicy to resources for scholarly study. The volume is intended to provide anupdate on language policy in the region, an overview of language use in theregion, both historically and currently, and means and areas of potentialresearch. It can serve as an introductory text for on Central Asian linguistics,as a course book for language learners interested in knowing more about therelative scope of language policy issues in the area, and as a concise summaryand resource for experienced scholars. Afghani languages cannot be considered inisolation, due to almost constant political and social upheaval historically;this book expands on their interactions, and how multilingualism and languagepolicy, either implicit or explicit, play a constant role in this dynamic region.

The volume is divided into four main sections, covering various regions inCentral Asia, and wrapping up by providing resources. In the introduction, abroad history is given of the languages of Afghanistan, as well as an in-depthanalysis of diglossia. In Section 1, ''Afghanistan and Iran'', three chapterscover the state and history of the diverse languages and the policiessurrounding them in Afghanistan, covering not only their history, but inparticular the relationship between the Pashto and Persian languages in depth.In Section 2, ''Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union'', the nextthree chapters cover language shift in Kazakhstan, as well as the current andprojected situation of Uzbekistani languages. In Section 3, ''The NorthwestFrontier Province and Pashto, Punjabi, and Balochi'', the state of minoritylanguages with substantial populations is covered, particularly those which havemigrated from their native areas. Finally, in Section 4, various resourcesavailable to potential researchers in Central Asia are presented, before a finalconcluding chapter.

The first, introductory chapter (1-28), ''Afghan Languages in the Larger Contextof Central and South Asia'', by the editor Harold F. Schiffman and Brian Spooner,briefly covers the history of language study of Central Asian languages, andplaces the languages themselves in a larger geographical and historical context.It gives a very good summary of language models relevant to the region,providing a suitable linguistic review of Ferguson's (1959) theory of diglossia,and Fishman's (1967) later extension. It wraps up with a discussion ofimplementing language policy.

In the first section, ''Afghanistan and Iran'', the second chapter (31-52),''Language Policy in Afghanistan: Linguistic Diversity and National Unity'',Senzil Nawid briefly covers Pashto, Dari, and Uzbek, the three major languagesby speaker numbers in Afghanistan, providing historical background. She thengoes on to discuss the problem for each successive government, from the Pashtungovernment in the 1930s until today, of choosing an official language forAfghanistan, as Dari is the historical state language, although Pashto has thelargest ethnic group. She clearly explains how official implementation oflanguage policies in such a linguistically and ethnically diverse countryaffects language attitudes and national identity.

In Chapter 3 (53-88), ''Locating 'Pashto' in Afghanistan: a Survey of SecondarySources'', Walter Hakala considers the state of Pashto in Afghanistan, startingwith defining 'Afghan' and 'Pashtun', words steeped with ideological andcultural implications, particularly since the arbitrary Durand Line, establishedby British state-makers in 1893, split the historical region of ethnic Pashtunsbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan (formerly India). He discusses the variousdialects, and the issues surrounding identifying a standard for Pashto, as wellas the state of literature in Pashto, and the current and projected state of thelanguage in the region.

In Chapter 4 (89-117), ''Persian, Farsi, Dari, Tajiki: Language Names andLanguage Policies'', Brian Spooner considers the significance of the use of thevarious names for Persian -- Persian, Farsi, Dari, and Tajiki - in Central Asia,and overviews the language's long history as a written language, as well ascurrent views of the language from outside of the region. He goes on to coverthe implications of the differing policies regarding Persian and otherlanguages, such as Arabic (particularly in Iran), before questioning whetherPersian is diglossic in the classical Fergusonian sense.

In Section II, ''Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union'', the focusturns to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and so more time is spent on the Turkiclanguages and Russian.

In Chapter 5 (121-175), ''Reversing Language Shift in Kazakhstan'', WilliamFierman discusses the process of language shift and work on reversing it, mostlyfrom the perspective of Fishman (1991). Fierman discusses the geographical anddemographic background in Kazakhstan, as well as Soviet interests and policiesin the area. He covers in detail the educational issues and administrativepolicies that have influenced the native Kazakh, and the relative success ofreverse language shift today.

In Chapter 6 (176-207), ''Language Policy and Language Development inMultilingual Uzbekistan'', Birgit Schlyter treats the standardization of andformation of a literature for Uzbek in Uzbekistan, and the influence of Russian,before considering current language ideologies. She then gives some attention toKarakalpak, a Turkic minority language, and lastly considers the state ofmultilingualism, as concerns both the many minority languages as well as foreignlanguages, such as English.

In Chapter 7 (208-260), ''The Fate of Uzbek Language in the 'Other' Central AsianRepublics'', Fierman's second chapter concerns Uzbekistani minority languagegroups in the other former Soviet countries of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. He identifies various factors influencing change inUzbek: borders, national policies, implementation and repression, the lack of anindependent arbiter, economic changes, and technology. He then describes, foreach country, the state of the language, as well as prospects for its use andimplications of shifting attitudes, particularly in regards to education and themedia.

In Section III, ''The Northwest Frontier Province and Pashto, Punjabi, andBalochi'', the relationship between southern languages, now Urdu, Panjabi, andBalochi, is brought into focus.

In Chapter 8 (263-281), ''Pashto Language Policy and Practice in the North WestFrontier Province'', Robert Nichols outlines the history of Pashto in Pakistan,focusing on the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pushtunkhwa), touchingon its relationship with Persian, and then proceeds to focus on the recent stateof education in Pashto, looking in-depth at the available textbooks. The chaptercovers the implementation and effects of regional language policies, and therecent influence of Urdu.

In Chapter 9 (282-318), ''A 'Vernacular' for a 'New Generation'? HistoricalPerspectives about Urdu and Punjabi and the Formation of Language Policy inColonial Northwest India'', Jeffrey M. Diamond treats the history of languageattitudes and the influence of missionaries, administrative decisions, andIndian literature in Punjab. He covers in-depth the history of languagerelationships there, where Persian was predominantly the written language, whilePunjabi was the most widely spoken, before colonial attitudes brought about ashift towards Urdu as the administrative vernacular, while Punjabi was notformalised or standardised until recently.

In Chapter 10 (319-336), ''Balochi: Towards a Biography of the Language'', BrianSpooner in his second chapter covers the history of Balochi, another Iranianlanguage, spoken widely throughout Central Asia and into the Persian Gulf. Healso speaks of attitudes towards the language, largely from within the ethnicBaloch communities, and its current state and future.

In Section IV, titled ''Pedagogical Resources and Conclusion'', there is only onechapter (339-353), ''Resources for the Study of Language Policies and Languagesof Afghanistan and Its Neighbors'', in which Cynthia Groff provides electronicand print resources for interested scholars, students, and teachers of CentralAsian language policy. She lists various universities and centers for relevantgeneral study of the Central Asian languages, as well as relevant books andconference proceedings regarding language policy. She gives information forpotential resources for learners, as well as specifically for researchers. Thereferences section is helpfully split into resources by region and country.

Finally, in the concluding chapter (354-357), Harold F. Schiffman closes bydiscussing diglossia again in light of the articles discussed, highlighting thatthe dynamic nature of language interaction in Central Asia inhibits a clear-cutalignment of theory to specific cases. He also discusses briefly the reversinglanguage shift issue dealt with by some of the authors, and how it can beproblematic in this region.

EVALUATIONIn the final chapter, Harold F. Schiffman returns to the volume's goal, ''toconstruct an updated picture of languages and language policy in the region, andgive potential language learners a clearer picture of what kinds of resourcesexist, and what is still needed.'' This goal was certainly attained; the essaysdo just that, and are brought together adroitly, given the wide range ofcountries, languages, and policy decisions covered. All of the essays are wellwritten, and show a detailed analysis of the state of multilingualism in theirrespective countries. As such, the volume can serve as a good springboard forcurrent researchers seeking to draw comparisons between different countries andtime periods, for those seeking avenues of research for particular languages orlanguage interactions, as well as for students of language policy interested inCentral Asia and the ramifications of cultural, ethnic, and political flux onlanguage use. Many of the chapters provide good background for their specifictopics, and several provide long lists of resources for further study; in this,they are invaluable resources themselves. For experienced researchers of thisregion, the book may provide interesting comparisons and insights by virtue ofits breadth, but for detailed analysis of a certain region or policy decision,it may provide more of an overview than an exhaustive study -- as the intent ofthe volume is not to close but to open up research in this area, however, thisis not consequential.

At certain points, the volume could have been drawn together more. For instance,diglossia as a theory of language interaction in the region may not be the bestfit, as several chapters do not touch upon it, and as the dynamic nature ofpolitical and language change in the area has lead many High and Low varietiesto shift in more complicated ways. The introductory chapter covers diglossia asif the entire volume were to be dedicated to it, which is not the case --language shift could have just as easily been the central theme. The sameconcerns could be raised about some of the chapters' relations to the book'stitle -- Afghanistan is often downplayed or ignored in several chapters. Thetopic of this book is Central Asia more than Afghanistan in itself, and thisshould be made more clear, especially as over a third of the book concerns onlyother Central Asian republics further north. Furthermore, while the initialconference which inspired this volume was in 2003 (SALRC 2003), some of thepapers reference more recent Afghani policy decisions, which is both timely andcalled for -- but more time could have been spent on the influence of English inthe region, particularly given the last decade of intense Western influence. Atthe same time, little attention is paid to other minority languages. Some timeis given to Karakalpak, Uzbek in Afghanistan, Balochi, and others, but there islittle about the Nuristani languages, Sindhi, Uyghur, Tatar, Munji, Shugni,Wakhi, and other minority languages in the region. Given the participants at theoriginal conference, it is a shame that more time was not spent on this.However, as the main languages are all covered, and very well so, there can beno doubt that this is a valuable contribution to the field of Central Asianlinguistics and language policy studies.

REFERENCESFerguson, Charles F. 1959. Diglossia. WORD 15(2). 352-40.

Fishman, Joshua. 1991. Reversing Language Shift: Theoretical and EmpiricalFoundations of Assistance to Threatened Languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

South Asia Language Resource Center (SALRC). 2003. SARLC Sponsored Workshops:Workshop on the Languages of Afghanistan, December 12th and 13th, 2003. (19 July, 2012.)

ABOUT THE REVIEWERRichard Littauer is a graduate student in Computational Linguistics,studying for a joint degree at Saarland University and the University ofMalta. He completed an MA (Hons) in Linguistics at the University ofEdinburgh. His main research interests include minority languagedocumentation and conservation, particularly involving developing resourcesfor low-resource languages, as well as understanding language change on ahistorical and evolutionary timescale.

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