LINGUIST List 24.4393

Tue Nov 05 2013

Review: Sociolinguistics: Bastardas-Boada (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 09-Aug-2013
From: Elisabet Vila-Borrellas <>
Subject: Language and identity policies in the 'glocal' age
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AUTHOR: Albert Bastardas-BoadaTITLE: Language and identity policies in the 'glocal' ageSUBTITLE: New processes, effects, and principles of organizationPUBLISHER: Institut d'Estudis AutonòmicsYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Elisabet Vila-Borrellas, Universitat de Barcelona

SUMMARYThe overarching aim of this updated translation of Les polítiques de lallengua i la identitat a l'era 'glocal', originally published in Catalan in2007, is to review the main theoretical principles involved in the study ofthe relationship between language and identity and to factor in new proposalsrelating to the current state of globalisation. It also emphasises thedifficulties in this relationship and argues for the urgent need to createlanguage policies to confront the effects of globalisation. The book isdivided into an introduction, five developmental chapters, a chapter withconclusions and discussions of the previous five, and a final chapter devotedto language and identity in Catalonia.

The introductory chapter sets out the main purposes of the book, which centreon the challenges of finding the best organisation for the coexistence andinterrelation of different language groups and identities to promote theirsolidarity as members of one and the same culturally developed biologicalspecies. The need to reconsider this question is absolutely paramount because,according to the author, a sociocultural dynamic ecosystem can be affected byinnovations of techno-economic and political organisation. In this light, theauthor delineates a human ecology of linguistic codes and, at the same time, alinguistic ecology of human beings, with special attention to the continuallyinterpreted social meaning of reality and upholding a view of reality as“the-languages-and-their-contexts”. He also focuses on the situations ofminority and majority groups, where most problems among different languagegroups and identities can be found.

In the second chapter, “The ‘glocal’ age”, Bastardas-Boada explains his choiceto use the term ‘glocal’ instead of ‘global’ so as to express the complexview of the interrelation between the ‘localness’ and the globality, since asEdgar Morin would agree, the local is in the global which is in the local. Healso describes the features and effects of the current situation, such as theexpansion of traditional areas of economic organisation and thepolyglottisation of many individuals. Language policy and planning must takeon the new challenges posed by these changes.

In Chapter 3, the situation of English as the global lingua franca isanalysed. According to the author, this has generally been a process withoutany explicit and centralised policy implemented by collective worldinstitutions. Rather, it has been based largely on the decisions oftechno-economic and scientific agents, educational authorities and individualswho believe that they will have better job opportunities with a strong commandof English. The author also considers the present consequences of thissituation, which mainly amount to the gain experienced in all fields (e.g.,economics, media and politics) for any country in which English is the nativelanguage.

Nevertheless, this new lingua franca can be seen as a burden by other languagegroups and a fear of linguistic and cultural homogenisation has surfaced.Thus, institutions that support other languages adopt plans aimed at balancingthe use of English versus languages originally spoken in a region. This is thecase with French in Canada, which Canada’s Official Languages Commissionerpromotes in order to guarantee language plurality in the country, and it isalso the case with Spanish, supported by the Organización de EstadosIberoamericanos (OEI).

Although it may be too early to know whether this situation will lead to anabandonment of other languages, the author claims that one of the importantaims of the language policies must be to protect and promote languagediversity in local communication. Nevertheless, this promotion must alsoensure that, in terms of the international domain, individuals andorganisations are organised so as to all understand one another. Thiscondition implies sharing at least one foreign language, which seems to beEnglish at present. This does not, however, contradict the aim of promotinglanguage diversity within the domain of the state.

Chapter 4 addresses the suprastate unions that have been created to increasethe political-economic weight and the geostrategic influence of Europe andother continents in order to compete successfully. Examples are the EuropeanUnion, NAFTA and Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese). They, too, have to adoptlanguage policies to integrate diverse populations.

In the case of the European Union, polyglottism is promoted, but in realityEnglish is the preferred foreign language among EU member states. Thus, thereis a need for a clear distribution of the functions that are assigned toEnglish so as not to destabilise the roles that the national languages fulfilin their own territories. In addition, this chapter describes the languagesituation in India, where English is a “neutral” language in terms ofidentity. In this kind of suprastate situation, the author believes that theprinciple of linguistic subsidiarity could be applied. This principle entailsthat any global -- or continental -- language must not perform any functionthat a local one can perform.

Chapter 5 deals with the effects of globalisation in terms of languageplanning and policies in multilingual states that do not have a commonlanguage, such as Switzerland. Examples of countries that do have an officiallanguage for intercommunication (e.g., Spain and Italy) are also considered.According to the author, these countries present a model for organisinglinguistic plurality that recognises an official state language throughouttheir territory and also have other official languages limited to the areawhere a particular language group lives. This model leads to effective massbilingualisation but also to a feeling of lack of respect for the identity ofthose citizens who see that their local language is not fully legitimised orrecognised officially in common state institutions. A functional distributionbased on the principle of linguistic subsidiarity could also contribute to asolution in these cases, since it allows for general intercommunication and atthe same time preserves the main functions for other languages.

In Chapter 6, the effects of migration are examined in the context ofglobalisation. In addition to the usual policies facilitating the integrationof newcomers, there has been an increase not only in policies protecting ahost society’s culture and identity, but also in newcomers’ defence of theirown culture and identity. This chapter looks at examples of how these policiesare managed in countries such as the US, the UK and the Netherlands. Theauthor emphasises that these policies concern not merely language andcommunication, but identity as well.

Chapter 7 discusses and sets out the conclusions of the book. Specifically,‘language’ and ‘identity’ are identified as phenomena that are not necessarilylinked, because languages can exist without any strong sense of identity andthere can be identities without any relation to language. The author pointsout that the relationship between these two terms only exists when there iscontact among different groups in a context of resistance, especially whenminoritised and majority groups are involved. Some particular situations ofcontact can give rise to a positive or negative self-image in comparison withthe other group. In these circumstances, therefore, creation of languagepolicies is highly needed. In addition, the author summarises the effects ofglobalisation regarding English and other major languages, as well as theeconomic and political unions and the migratory movements described inpreceding chapters. Further, Bastardas-Boada offers ideas for how to organisethis multilingual world based on four main conceptual dimensions: linguisticrecognition, communicability, sustainability, and integration.

The eighth and final chapter describes the complex case of Catalonia in termsof identities and languages. Bastardas-Boada applies the four main dimensionsfor analysis set out in Chapter 7. He also draws special attention to the needto develop language skills and to distribute the uses of different languagesthrough language policies that promote a new common identity.

EVALUATIONThis book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the linkbetween language and identity as felt by people in the current situation oftechnological, economic and political change. Although they are interrelated,it is entirely appropriate to distinguish between the processes that affectthe use of languages and those that have an influence on identities, because,as Joseph notes, “Knowing who one is belongs to the realm not ofcommunication, but representation” (2004:91).

The book also provides insight into language policies for multilingual statesand suprastate unions in the context of globalisation, as well as in the caseof new migration movements and the language organisation of plural societies.In addition, the present-day sociolinguistic situation of Catalonia isexamined in terms of language and identity processes and the book proposessome principles of organisation.

The book’s fundamental contribution of the book probably lies in the newprinciples that it proposes for organising the coexistence of human linguisticdiversity based on the distribution of functions. Starting from the principleof recognising the benefits to be gained from our sharing languages, the booknonetheless postulates the priority allocation of functions to ‘local’languages so as not to upset the sociocognitive ecology supporting theirsurvival. The principle of subsidiarity, which comes from the European Union’sapproach to political organisation, seems to offer an apt analogy in supportof what the author calls linguistic sustainability, a notion that he hasdeveloped previously (see Bastardas 2007).

The issue of states without a common language is also interesting, because itshows how outside influences -- for instance, the spreading knowledge ofEnglish -- can contribute to a change alteration in the linguistic relationsamong the groups involved. Without any planning, it can even become a languageof intercommunication. What we cannot yet know is what changes this mightbring to the evolution of languages and identities in these countries.

Another highlight is the author’s application of his theoretical principles tothe case of ‘medium-sized’ languages, which he exemplifies in with the case ofCatalonia, where there are simultaneously various causes of contact. In thisimmense sociolinguistic laboratory, many factors come into play at once, suchas membership in a state in which another language group is in the majority,the suprastate integration of the European Union, techno-economicglobalisation, and large-scale migrations that have had major consequences infrom the last century and until today.

Certainly, the many topics addressed are not settled. Rather, they are servedup as initial explorations to be expanded in the future as we begin to see thesociolinguistic and identity-related influences that will emerge in thevarious domains of globalisation and how such influences will affect humanpopulations. In my view, the author makes a sound decision to take aperspective that encompasses the human ecology of languages, the linguisticecology of human beings, and their respective impacts, although it is also thecase that the author provides only the broad outlines of this perspective andfurther development is needed.

The book will be of interest to scholars and students of sociolinguistics,especially for those who focus on language policies and the effects ofglobalisation in human language organisation. It is an excellent theoreticalcompanion to other works published in recent years (e.g., De Swann 2001,Maurais & Morris 2003, Wright 2004); the author not only raises generalissues, but also explores specific cases of medium-sized communities thatsimultaneously need to internationalise themselves and accommodate large-scalemigrations, all without the benefit of having their own state.

REFERENCESBastardas-Boada, Albert. 2007. Linguistic sustainability for a multilingualhumanity. Glossa. An Ambilingual Interdisciplinary Journal 2. 180-202( ).

De Swaan, Abram. 2001. Words of the world. The global language system.Cambridge: Polity Press.

Joseph, John E. 2004. Language and identity: National, ethnic, religious.Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Maurais, Jacques, & Michael A. Morris (eds.) 2003. Languages in a globalisingworld. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wright, Sue. 2004. Language policy and language planning. From nationalism toglobalization. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERElisabet Vila-Borrellas has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics andLanguage Acquisition in Multilingual Contexts by the University of Barcelona.She is currently working in the General Linguistics Department of theUniversity of Barcelona. Her main academic interests are in sociolinguisticsand early language acquisition.

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