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Review of  Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices

Reviewer: Zuzana Tomková
Book Title: Language Ideologies, Policies and Practices
Book Author: Clare Mar-Molinero Patrick Stevenson
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
History of Linguistics
Issue Number: 17.2154

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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


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.

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.

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ISBN: 140399899X
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Pages: 280
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