CRITICS: a confession of my interests

Robert Phillipson ROBERT at
Tue Jun 6 15:38:46 UTC 1995

My "Linguistic imperialism" (Oxford UP, 1992) attempts to theorize
and analyse how linguistic hierarchies are formed and maintained, and
the role of language specialists (applied linguists, English as a
Foreign/Second Language people) in contributing to the strength of
some languages and the weakness of others. In draws on my personal
neo-colonial experience in pushing English, as well as current
involvement in the restructuring of the linguistic map of Europe,
where I happen to have a post in English at a continental university
and am concerned about the triumphalist spread of English in western,
and also in eastern and central Europe. The risk is that
some of the uncritical acceptance of English by post-colonial elites
may be repeated by post-communist elites.
Theoretically I have been inspired by work in racism research, and
have worked closely with Tove Skutnabb-Kangas over many years (not
surprising as we are spouses), and her elaboration of linguicism as a
significant concept in studies of minority education I have attempted
to develop in my study of English as a "world" language. And in work
with her on linguistic human rights (references to which are in what
she circulated to CRITICS today).
I am currently researching into language policy in Europe, and keen
to probe into processes of hierarchisation in the European
"integration" process, whose interests are being served, and who is
setting the agenda, overtly and covertly. Competition between the
"big" languages is an important dimension, another is whether
minority languages will de facto be accorded the rights that many
covenants and charters decree that they should. Provisionally I am
attempting to work in tandem with scholars in several other western
and eastern European countries, but how practicable this is will
depend on whether there will be improved funding for research into
language policy, which is an area where politicians would probably
prefer to have a free hand rather than interfering academics. Tove
and I are interested in global comparisons (e.g. Australia, India)
and maintain an interest in post-colonial language policy.

Robert Phillipson
Department of Languages and Culture
University of Roskilde
4000 Roskilde

More information about the Critics-l mailing list