LINGUIST List 23.5134

Sun Dec 09 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Sociolinguistics: Koffi (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 09-Dec-2012
From: Dave Sayers <>
Subject: Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Ettien KoffiTITLE: Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and PolicySUBTITLE: Game-theoretic SolutionsSERIES TITLE: Contributions to the Sociology of LanguagePUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonDATE: 2012

Dr. Dave Sayers, College of Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK

SUMMARYEtienn Koffi’s monograph begins by noting that it represents a major reworkingof ideas he previously found 'unimplementable', 'in the language planningtrenches' (p.viii) of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. The book's overallaim is to highlight flaws in language planning in multilingual Africa, andpropose a new model. This is to have economic as well as educational, culturaland psychological benefits: “planning multiple languages can turn the vastlinguistic resources of Côte d’Ivoire into a multimillion dollar economicbonanza” (p.xi).

Chapter 1, 'Ten deadly impediments to language planning in Africa', takes aimat weaknesses in Language Planning and Policy (LPP) to date, and the last 60years especially. The ten are as follows. 1. 'Excessive theorization': 'nearly60 years of writing and publishing ... has not changed reality in many Africancountries one iota' (pp.2-3). 2. 'The glorification of the LWC [Languages ofWider Communication] model': equated with the belief that 'One Nation = OneLanguage' and that 'multilingualism is a liability, not an asset' (p.4). 3.'Faulty assessment of ethnolinguistic loyalty': oversimplification of thelanguage-identity link. 4. 'Elite hypocrisy': elites 'give lip service tolanguage planning' (p.12) but quietly educate their children in LWCs, causingwider disenchantment. 5. 'Unaddressed parental concerns': the 'indigenous LWCmodel that has been in vogue since the 1960s' is based on 'the opinion ofeducated city dwellers' -- some reports are cited favouring wider LWCs,principally English, and additive mother-tongue education (pp.22-23). 6. 'Thelow marketability of African languages': mother-tongue education should notcome from 'sentimentality or some nebulous ideological concept of''africanness''' (p.19), but utility and practicality. 7. 'The ''dependency''syndrome', i.e. on former colonisers, for economic matters and for LPP,causing the current shortfall in indigenous African LPP and the persistence of'the national LWC model even though there is compelling ethnolinguisticevidence that this model is no longer viable' (p.22). 8. 'The rigidity ofmother-tongue acquisition models': 'UNESCO uses strong-arm tactics againstAfrican governments ... to adopt its prescriptive approach to mother-tongueeducation' (p.27) with idealised notions of ethnolinguistic authenticity. (Theauthor's own proposed 'Maintenance Model' (MM) is first mentioned here.) 9.'The alleged prohibitive cost': MM is again signalled as 'an affordable modelof language planning', promising overall profits (e.g. $22 million annuallyfor Côte d'Ivoire in 2010 figures: p.29). 10. '''Manifesto syndrome'' and thelanguage plan of action for Africa' (LPAA). The LPAA (1986) is criticised as'the work of language activists and the political and academic elite' (p.32).'Both anecdotal and statistical evidence show that most Africans want to beeducated in ex-colonial languages' (p.32). The point of Chapter 1 is to quashany sense of adequacy that language planners might have been entertaining.

Chapter 2, 'The strategic Game theory and 3±1 language outcome', deploys aversion of game theory to 'help explain why the language policies of Europeancolonists failed to meet the expectations of Africans' (p.36), and to begindeveloping a better solution. The overall goal of the book is aptly summarisedhere, on page 58:

'My contention in this book is that an attractive language of education policycan be formulated using the Game theory so that people ... can be fullybilingual and biliterate in their local language and in the ex-coloniallanguage. Moreover, some who choose to study the local language can make asmuch money or more money than those who operate in the ex-colonial language.'

The 'predictioneer's model' is then introduced, a game-theoretic methodologyused to identify 'players' in the language planning 'game', and to assesstheir prioritisation of language issues. Players in 'the language game incolonial Africa' (p.60) are listed, and their various interestsoperationalised. A computation is then performed which concludes that if the'colonial powers had consulted with each other, they would have agreed on MM... across Africa. ... Instead, the French and Portuguese ... imposed AIM[Assimilationist Immersion Model]. The Belgians and the Germans used FIM [FullImmersion Model], while the British groped along until they eventually settledfor TIM [Transitional Immersion Model]' (p.73).

Chapter 3, 'A Game-theoretic assessment of language of education policies inFrench and Portuguese colonies', identifies the players in these coloniallanguage games, for example French citizens and assimilated Africans. Coloniallanguage policies are reviewed, and the weighted priorities of playerscalculated to show overwhelming preference for AIM (i.e. using only thecolonial language). It is then argued that, to date, proposals to includeAfrican languages in school curricula 'have not been implemented' (p.107).

Chapter 3's structure is repeated in Chapter 4, 'A Game-theoretic assessmentof language of education policies in Belgian, British and German colonies'.These three colonial powers were 'diametrically opposed' (p.110) to the Frenchand Portuguese, flexible in the use of various languages. The samecalculations of preferences are performed, and similar analyses offered aboutreasons for different language policies.

Chapter 5, 'Case study: Rethinking mother-tongue education in Côte d'Ivoire',begins by reviewing some population and language usage statistics,particularly the 'co-habitation of French and indigenous Ivorian languages'(p.153). Developments in language policy since the Berlin conference of 1884-5are reviewed, especially the continued dominance of French. Thepredictioneer's model is applied to players in Côte d'Ivoire, and MM is foundto be preferred. German and Spanish, currently introduced in the 9th grade,are proposed to be replaced by Ivorian regional LWCs: 'there is no convincingrationale for teaching [German and Spanish] and ... the space they currentlyoccupy in the curriculum can be put to good use by teaching indigenous Ivorianlanguages' (p.173).

Chapter 6, 'Game-theoretic assessment of language of education policies inAfrican megacities', addresses urbanisation -- to which 'language planners ...hardly pay attention' (p.181). A brief historical review is given of cities inAfrica. 'Ethnolinguistic vitality' and 'ethnolinguistic loyalty' arecontrasted, and the latter seen as more applicable in francophone Africa, forits focus on emotional investment and freedom from concerns aboutinstitutional support. African megacities are put into three categories(p.194): ethnolinguistically homogenous (e.g. Addis Ababa with Amharic);ethnolinguistically dominant (i.e. 50%+ speaking one language, e.g. Kinshasawith Lingala); and ethnolinguistic equilibrium, where 'no indigenous Africanlanguage is spoken by the majority …. Only a handful of African megacitiesfall into this category' (no examples). Policies are recommended for each: forthe first, 'formulating a ... policy is easy': either '{1+1}' or '{1+0}'(p.202); for the second, an international LWC is to be taught alongside theindigenous urban LWC and another indigenous language; for the third,policymaking is 'extremely challenging' (p.206), and Abidjan is used as anexample to recommend MM. In Abidjan, 'it is impractical to teach all 17regional LWCs' (p.208), and so five are chosen, Anyi-Baule, Bété, Senoufo,Duila, and Yacouba -- representing 'the four language families found in thecountry' (ibid.). So, each school would teach French + English + one of thesefive which replace German and Spanish.

Chapter 7, 'Framework and rationale for literacy planning in rural Africa',focuses on NGOs and charities, principally UNESCO and SIL International. Basedon his own experience, the author suggests that African 'rural inhabitantshave a preference hierarchy' of 'International LWC > Mother tongue >Regional/National LWC' (p.216). Literacy rates in these languages arereviewed, and a series of other suggestions offered.

Chapter 8, 'Planning multiple languages on a shoestring budget for profit',develops the book's earlier claims that 'many African countries can turn theirvast linguistic resources into an economic bonanza' (p.251), 'generatingmultimillion dollar revenues' (p.255). Côte d'Ivoire is used as a hypotheticalcase study for how this boon might be realised, focusing on utilitarianmotivations: 'It is precisely because language consumers see language as aneconomic good that [they] acquire high-yield languages' (p.253). Costs areestimated for status, corpus, acquisition and personnel planning for thevarious languages involved. Recommendations for legislation are offered,principally 'that every Ivorian national [in] grades 9th-13th ... must studyand demonstrate proficiency in at least one ancestral Ivorian language as aprecondition for graduation' (p.269). The 'multimillion dollar economicbonanza' (p.xi) to be reaped from this LPP endeavour is then described (seebelow for details).

Chapter 9, 'Individual efforts in language planning', provides a brief reviewof the LPP achievements of 'three distinguished language planners of pastcenturies', 'St. Stefan of Perm, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, and Bishop Samuel AjayiCrowther' (p.285), plus a range of other European missionaries.

EVALUATIONThe book makes a troublesome first impression with poor housekeeping.Terminology is not consistently explained, for example the acronym 'LWCs' isused first in the Preface but only defined later in Chapter 1 (p.1). At theend of the Preface the abbreviations list is mentioned, but the wrong page isgiven. The contents page itself comes after the Acknowledgments and thePreface. Chapter 9 seems out of place entirely; it is an interesting essay butit does not speak to, much less conclude, the rest of the book. A few citedsources are relied upon conspicuously heavily, such as Laitin (1992), DeMesquita (2009) and Schaaf (1994). That overreliance comes mainly in Chapters2, 3, and 4's discussions of historical developments, which suggests anattitude towards such scene-setting as a perfunctory chore. The 'languagegame' is a term borrowed from Laitin (1992), though without clear citation.This is not a reference to Wittgenstein, incidentally, who is not mentioned --that terminological duplication seems accidental. The author claims variousother terms as his invention, but Google readily demonstrates otherwise; forexample 'ethnolinguistic loyalty' (p.191) -- found at least as far back asGeertz (1963) -- or 'de-ethnicization' and 're-ethnicization' (p.195). Thesehasty claims contribute to a growing sense of stridence. But all this isnit-picking in a way. There are graver problems ahead, which can be arrangedunder three main headings: exhortation; 'garbage in, garbage out'; and tenuouspostulation.

1. Exhortation. The author takes a generally conversational tone throughoutthe book. That can be done to good effect in academic writing, but only whennot combined with overt exhortation, and open mockery of people with whom onedisagrees. Chapter 1 begins by lampooning a broad swathe of linguists, thengovernment bureaucrats, then indistinctly drifting between the two. It remainsunclear for example, who foolishly 'assumed that as soon as an indigenous LWCwas decreed and imposed on the citizenry, they would gladly adopt it' (p.6).One interpretation suggests an anaphoric reference to Robert Kaplan, lambastedin the previous subsection. Meanwhile a recurrent mocking, almost insultingtone pervades the book, e.g. the 'gullibility of leading African linguists'(p.26). Elsewhere (p.164) Salikoko Mufwene is yanked out of context for adressing-down. There are easier and fairer bones to pick with LPP; all thisrabble-rousing seems excessive.

A further aspect of exhortation is the troubling frequency of vague appeals toauthority without citation, and other baseless generalisations. 'Surveyreports indicate that ...' (p.23) -- no reports are cited. '[M]any Malianparents are unconvinced' (p.26). How many? No evidence is given. 'The costprojections [of LPP] are astronomical!' (p.28). How astronomical? No data areforthcoming. 'Game theory ... has been used ... with an amazing rate ofsuccess' (p.44). What is that rate? 'As is well known in Africa ...' (p.162).By whom? According to what surveys? Meanwhile, claims about generaldisinterest in national LWCs, shakily rhetorical to begin with, are referredback to and embellished as a solid foundation: 'Both anecdotal and statisticalevidence show that most Africans want to be educated in ex-colonial languages'(p.32). Chapter 1 mentions some vaguely relevant reports to this end, butnothing like a convincing basis for such a sweeping assertion. There are manysuch statements which feel somewhat designed to convince unquestioning readers-- and which, as a result, frustrated this questioning reader.

A normative overtone pervades the book in sympathy with 'African languages'.Fair enough perhaps, but this becomes problematic when in Chapter 5, forexample, indigeneity is clearly denied to French, apparently in perpetuity,even in its localised varieties which are spoken nowhere else. There is onlyone mention of Nouchi (p.207) -- a creole based on French and a range ofIvorian languages -- and then only as something of a curiosity, ignoredthereafter. This becomes something of a skewed argument foregrounding aconstrained selection of languages, based as much on historicalethnolinguistic associations as evidence about present usage. The problem ofexhortation grows worse in the author's description of 'linguisticschizophrenia' suffered by Ivorians, who apparently feel like 'ethnolinguistictraitors for having sacrificed their mother tongues on the altar ofsocio-economic mobility and modernity. ... They are hungry and thirsty for aworkable mother-tongue education model ...' (p.159). This rhetorical flourishdrifts free of substance. If there are such conflicts in the minds ofIvorians, why not give any evidence? And, given this excessive pathos, it is alittle hard to stomach the accusation that both linguists (p.164) and languageplanners (p.253) use 'guilt-laced emotive arguments'.

2. 'Garbage in, garbage out'. The author cites this common phrase in relationto misapplying game-theoretic models (p.74). In many places, though, one isleft wondering about the quality of what has gone into his own models. Thegame-theoretic calculations rest on identification of 'players'. These includemissionaries, colonial teachers, and various groups of Africans. If thejustification for their initial identification in Chapter 2 (e.g. p.60)contains any premises other than the author's own opinion, then those premisesare not actually reported anywhere. Similarly, the 'rating' of the playersappears determined largely by thought exercise (p.66). The argument is veryinteresting, but it is essentially premised on unsubstantiated reckonings. Onpage 74 it is stated: 'Extreme care has been taken to make sure that playershave been identified accurately', and that their ratings 'are based onreliable information that can be independently verified'. That rigour is notactually described though.

Chapters 3 and 4 give a bit more coverage to the identification of the players(e.g. pp.88-92), but still it seems almost entirely the author's introspectivedecision. Puzzling over-simplifications continue here, for example: 'ThePortuguese's colonial ideology was a carbon copy of the one that the Frenchused in their colonies. Therefore, there is roughly the same number of playersin both colonial language games. The influence scores are also identical'(p.99). A little later: 'all the players in the language game agreed thatusing Portuguese as the medium of instruction in all colonial schools for allgrades was what they wanted. Portuguese nationals wanted it. AssimilatedAfricans, Euro-Africans, and all the colonized people wanted it ...' (p.103).Game-theoretical calculations like this obviously require a degree of groupingpopulations into categories, and some simplifications of rationales, but thisall seems rather too imprecise and self-assured.

A further reminder of the author's caution 'garbage in, garbage out' comes inChapter 5. Highly aggregated educational attainment data across age groups arebrashly used to assert the effect of language use, overlooking all otherfactors affecting students as they grow up. 'A cursory glance at the tablereveals' (p.161); 'A quick glance at the data shows' (p.163) -- this does seemto speak to the depth of the analysis going on here.

3. Tenuous postulation. Despite often breathless confidence that the authorcan 'prove based on solid data' (p.254) the reliability of his proposals, noneactually emanates from worked examples, or even preliminary trials. They arebased on fairly porous predictions of what might happen. The only mention ofany actual experience is in small-scale literacy classes (mainly in Chapter7). As a result, details of implementation come across as naïve at least. 'Nospecial curriculum change is needed since the indigenous languages will simplytake the time slot allotted to German and Spanish' (p.175). All very well, butwhat are the implications for separating students out based on 'their'indigenous language? One could foresee the problems found in Singapore wherestudents are heavy-handedly separated on this basis (e.g. Lim 2009), but theauthor seems unaware of those lessons. And what about new contact-based urbanvernaculars like Nouchi, which do not follow clear ethnic lines and haveunclear historical associations? What of migrants who would encounter adifferent language selection in each place? Complications or unintendedconsequences, when they do get a mention, are swept aside with obfuscatinggarrulity -- for example the possible reactions of Germany and Spain to theexclusion of their languages (p.178). Elsewhere (p.176), the author assertsthat the '8,262 German and Spanish language teachers' in Côte d'Ivoire canstraightforwardly be 'retrained to teach one or two of the regional LWCs'.There follows an oblique reference to retraining of teachers in Russia andChina following historical language policy changes, as if relevant tocontemporary Côte d'Ivoire. Any finer details, such as possible resistancefrom teaching unions, or from individual teachers and their lawyers, areglided over.

Meanwhile, South Africa's famous paradox of de jure support for nativelanguages but de facto dominance of English is mentioned only once (p.253),and injudiciously summed up merely as a problem of low marketability forindigenous languages. The solution, apparently, is that 'the more Africanlanguages are used in the educational system ... the more their market valuewill increase' (p.254). It all just seems dangerously unaware of lessonslearnt elsewhere, often at great expense.

A more troubling aspect of this overconfidence and lack of forethought is ageneral recourse to force and coercion. 'Making [regional LWCs] compulsory ...will force students to take them seriously' (p.176). Proficiency in 'at leastone ancestral Ivorian language' should be 'a precondition for graduation'(p.269). 'If strong legislation is not passed, some parents may find cleverways to exempt their children from learning Ivorian languages at school'(ibid.). Coercion seems too readily deployed, which is not only inherentlydistasteful but also unduly faithful in the strength of the state, incountries frequently discussed in the book as cash-strapped and politicallyprecarious.

The reliance on conjecture and supposition reaches its unsettling peak inChapter 8, which marks the book's normative crescendo. The Maintenance Model(MM), mentioned throughout the book, is filled out and elaborated upon here.The aim is to present a workable model for including a range of indigenouslanguages and LWCs in education, while also making a profit on the wholeventure. The chapter does little to deliver on such promises. Ultimately, the'multimillion dollar economic bonanza' (p.xi) turns out to be comprisedexclusively of profits made by the government from the sales of indigenouslanguage textbooks. To begin with, the crucial calculations of up-front costsare hazy and uncorroborated, for example an assumption of a discounted $2.00per textbook (p.264) -- citing one textbook experiment in the 1970s as a basisfor contemporary planning. The author mentions none of the extra costs oftransport, storage, filing and administration arising from so many new books-- not to mention the political stability and continuity necessary for theproposed 15-year plan (p.277). Overall, this is a puzzling alley to be leddown. Firstly, buying the books would be mandatory for parents, which isbasically a stealth tax, the only 'profit' being to government coffers.Secondly, there is no anticipation of parents' inability to afford these extracosts, or of opposition to the plans (if anything, as noted above, the law isseen as a way to quash dissent). Thirdly, if this 'bonanza' is to besustainable -- as the predicted $22 million annual return suggests (p.29) --then it relies on parents dutifully buying fresh textbooks every year, ratherthan reusing or buying second hand. All in all, with its shaky premises, lackof trials or worked examples, and manifold conspicuous weaknesses, thismuch-hyped solution is a disappointing anti-climax.

'Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy: Game-theoretic Solutions'seems out of place. Rhetorical grandstanding far outweighs substantialarguments, and anyone looking for a true paradigm shift will likely need tolook elsewhere.

REFERENCESDe Mesquita, B.B. 2009. The predictioneer's game: Using the logic of brazenself-interest to see and shape the future. New York: Random House.

Geertz, Clifford. 1963. The integrative revolution: Primordial sentiments andpolitics in the new states. In Clifford Geertz (ed.), Old societies and newstates: The quest for modernity in Asia and Africa. New-York: The Free Pressof Glencoe. 105-157.

Laitin, D.D. 1992. Language Repertoires and State Construction in Africa.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lim, L. 2009. Beyond fear and loathing in SG: The real mother tongues andlanguage policies in multilingual Singapore. AILA Review 22: 52-71.

Schaff, Y. 1994. L'histoire et le Role de La Bible en Afrique: II Poursuivitsa Route avec Joie. Lavigny, Suisse: Ed. Groupes Missionaires.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERDr. Dave Sayers is an Honorary Research Fellow in the College of Arts &Humanities at Swansea University, UK, and Visiting Lecturer (2012-13) in theDepartment of English at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His research is onlanguage policy and planning, and sociolinguistics.

Page Updated: 09-Dec-2012