24.31, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Spolsky (2012)

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Subject: 24.31, Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Spolsky (2012)

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Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2013 09:36:29
From: Meghan Moran [mkm338 at nau.edu]
Subject: The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1744.html

EDITOR:  Bernard Spolsky
TITLE:  The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy
SERIES TITLE:  Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics
PUBLISHER:  Cambridge University Press
YEAR:  2012

Meghan Kerry Moran, Department of English, Applied Linguistics Program,
Northern Arizona University


“The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy” aims to provide a comprehensive
overview of the subject, to be used as a resource in academia.  It consists of
five major parts:  Definition and principles, Language policy at the
macrolevel, Non-governmental domains, Globalization and modernization, and
Regional and thematic issues.  Each of these sections is subdivided into
multiple chapters, each elicited from respected scholars in the field of
language policy.

Beginning with an introduction and overview by Bernard Spolsky (editor), Part
I (Definition and principles) continues with Björn Jernudd and Jiří Nekvapil’s
‘History of the field: a sketch,’ which explains the gradual emergence of
language policy both as a phenomenon and as a researched field within the last
century.  Denise Réaume and Meital Pinto discuss language policy in an
abstract (decontextualized) manner in ‘Philosophy of Language Policy,’
examining arguments in favor of unilingualism and multilingualism, and showing
the complexity of arguments surrounding the idea of language rights.  In
chapter 4, ‘Language policy, the nation and nationalism,’ Sue Wright explains
the idea of the nation-state and the formerly prevalent policy of one-nation,
one-language.  She then describes how this policy is quickly disappearing in
the context of globalization and post-colonialism.  Ofelia García then takes
over with ‘Ethnic identity and language policy,’ in which she compares four
cases (Luxembourgish; Maori; Tseltal and Tsotsil; and Gallo) with regard to
their strength of ethnic language identity and focus on language policy.  She
highlights the link between language and ethnic identity but also the
hybridity of ethnic identities and language practices.  Julia Sallabank
describes the way in which nationalism, globalization, and modernism
negatively affect the vitality of smaller languages; her chapter, ‘Diversity
and language policy for endangered languages’ fits into this section because
of its coverage of the terms ‘endangerment,’ ‘moribundity,’ ‘attrition,’
‘obsolescence,’ and ‘loss.’  To conclude Part I, David Robichaud and Helder De
Schutter note the importance of arguments in support of the dominant language
as opposed to small or minority languages in ‘Language is just a tool!  On the
instrumentalist approach to language.’

Part II (Language policy at the macrolevel) consists of eight chapters.
‘Language policy at the supra-national level,’ by Fernand de Varennes, follows
nicely from the previous chapter in that it looks at the notion of language
rights in the face of a practical issue, namely ease of communication, in
international organizations such as the United Nations.  Colin H. Williams
contextualizes language policy even further with the description of how some
nations deal with heterogeneous states, i.e., Spain, the United Kingdom, and
Canada, in ‘Language policy, territorialism and regional autonomy.’  No
discussion of language policy could take place without the mention of
imperialism, which Robert Phillipson does in ‘Imperialism and colonialism.’
Imperialism has led to a surge in language debates and policies in the former
colonies, with the colonial languages often being seen as symbols of colonial
oppression while at the same time serving as a link to communication in an
increasingly capitalist society.  However, language policy functions as much
on small scales, such as municipalities, as it does at the national level.  In
‘Language policy at the municipal level,’ Peter Backhaus examines a number of
different municipality-level policies, such as those in Tokyo, Ottawa, Upper
Nazareth, and cities in Kosovo, the United States and South Africa.  Chapter
12, ‘Language policy and management in service domains:  Brokering
communication for linguistic minorities in the community,’ by Claudia V.
Angelelli, considers the even narrower context of service domains in the three
settings of health, police, and the legal system, which often lack the
necessary professional interpreters to facilitate communication and grant
equal rights to citizens.  Richard D. Brecht and William P. Rivers further the
discussion of language in specific domains with their argument detailing ‘US
language policy in defence and attack.’  The last two chapters in Part II
focus on language policy in a globalized educational context, coming at it
from two different, but related perspectives:  ‘Language policy and medium of
instruction in formal education,’ by Stephen L. Walter and Carol Benson, and
‘Language policy in education: additional languages,’ by Jasone Cenoz and Durk

Part III (Non-governmental domains) covers ‘Language policy in the workplace’
(Alexandre Duchêne and Monica Heller), ‘Language policy and religion’
(Christina Bratt Paulston and Jonathan M. Watt), and ‘Language policy in the
family’ (Stephen J. Caldas).  An increasingly mobile workforce as well as the
change from a more mechanized workplace in which talk is not encouraged to one
in which linguistic encounters are common, unique, and encouraged makes the
first of these chapters necessary.  Paulston and Watt explain language
management in two case studies (Islam and Quranic Arabic and missionaries’
spread of language) using Dell Hymes’ framework of ethnography of
communication.  Caldas lays out the decisions that families make, whether
consciously or subconsciously, that determine which languages will continue to
thrive and which will not, including if and how to raise children bilingually.
Part III ends with a topic that may not normally receive its due in language
policy scholarship, i.e., ‘Language policies and the Deaf community,’ by
Sherman E. Wilcox, Verena Krausneker and David F. Armstrong.

The theme for Part IV (Globalization and modernization), although threaded
throughout the Handbook, receives its own set of chapters here.  Kendall A.
King and Adam C. Rambow’s ‘Transnationalism, migration and language education
policy’ revisits language policy in the classroom as it struggles to deal with
globalization and the growth of technological literacies.  John Edwards’
‘Language management agencies’ details the tension between descriptivists and
prescriptivists and the role of language agencies in this debate.  The
agencies’ activities tend to focus on status planning (also called prestige
planning) and corpus planning, which includes purism, spelling and writing
reform, and the development of terminology that reflects the modernizing
world.  Zooming in on one of these aspects, specifically the writing system,
Florian Coulmas and Federica Guerini (‘Literacy and writing reform’)
acknowledge the current growth and favorability of using the Roman alphabet
while understanding the difficulty involved in undertaking a mass writing
reform.  Mary Carol Combs and Susan D. Penfield, in their chapter ‘Language
activism and language policy,’ describe how activism can occur both centrally
and at the grass roots level.  Theirs is not only an overview of language
activism, but also a call to action.  Lastly for this section is ‘English in
language policy and management.’  Here, Gibson Ferguson recognizes the massive
expansion of English and explains that this is occurring not only due to
language diffusion from English-speaking nations, but also because of
English’s inherent value in the realm of academia as well as its necessity in
cross-cultural communication.

The final section of the Handbook, Part V, focuses its attention on ‘Regional
and thematic issues.’  Joseph Lo Bianco begins by describing the ‘National
language revival movements:  reflections from India, Israel, Indonesia and
Ireland,’ considering them all ‘classic cases’ while maintaining the
importance of context in any discussions regarding language policy.  Sinfree
Makoni, Busi Makoni, Ashraf Abdelhay, and Padzisai Mashiri then cover select
African countries, briefly explaining different language policies in the
colonial and post-colonial period (‘Colonial and post-colonial language
policies in Africa: historical and emerging landscapes’).  In chapter 27,
‘Indigenous language planning and policy in the Americas,’ Teresa L. McCarty
details the narratives of language loss in the native populations of North and
South America and the resulting language policies aimed to slow or stop this
decline.  Ulrich Ammon discusses ‘Language policy in the European Union (EU)’
and the advantages and disadvantages of the strong views the EU has on
language protection and maintenance.  In ‘Language policy management in the
former Soviet sphere,’ Gabrielle Hogan-Brun and Svitlana Melnyk examine the
roles that Russian and national (‘titular’) languages have played in the
nation rebuilding of the last two decades.  To round out the geographical
sphere, and the Handbook as a whole, Richard B. Baldauf Jr. and Hoa Thi Mai
Nguyen explain the variety of contexts and factors that come to play in
developing ‘Language policy in Asia and the Pacific.’


“The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy” claims to be the first handbook to
give a comprehensive view of the field as a whole.  Surely it is the most
extensive text published on the subject to date, a resource that all language
planning and policy scholars should own, and a clear textbook option for a
course in language policy.

Spolsky’s introduction to and overview of the remaining 29 chapters in the
handbook do an excellent job of orienting the reader.  The chapters
undoubtedly cover many of the most important aspects of language policy, from
the one-nation, one-language idea, to the tensions between language rights and
practicality, post-colonialism, globalization, language endangerment, and
language activism, among others.  All parts of the globe are covered, and less
commonly researched populations such as Deaf and illiterate communities
receive justified attention.  Many of the most prominent scholars in the field
have contributed their thoughts and research.

However, there are some aspects of the Handbook that could be improved upon.
For instance, although Spolsky provides a solid introduction and overview, a
conclusion that tied everything back together is conspicuously missing.  This
could perhaps be due to the fact that the Handbook is not necessarily meant to
be read cover to cover; however, some sort of wrapping up and connecting of
the various chapters written by multiple authors would have lent more
coherence to the text as a whole.  Although the citations were held to the end
in order to create an inclusive bibliography, the similar placement of the
Notes did not have the same effect.  Also placed at the end of the book,
readers are less likely to pay attention to them than if they were footnotes
or endnotes.  Additionally, considering that the Handbook is likely to be used
as a textbook or resource for language policy and/or sociolinguistics-oriented
classes, it would be very beneficial to have incorporated discussion questions
at the end of each chapter to promote reflection, discussion, and analysis.
Furthermore, additional visuals (specifically graphs, charts, and maps) would
have served to present arguments in multimodalities, thus breaking up the, at
times, dense text.

The one component missing from Spolsky’s introduction and overview is his
rationale for dividing the Handbook as he did. More justification could have
been given for the categories into which the Handbook was divided, as they and
their constituent chapters seemed, at times, less than obvious. Thirty
chapters are divided into five main parts:  ‘Definition and principles,’
‘Language policy at the macrolevel,’ ‘Non-governmental domains,’
‘Globalization and modernization,’ and ‘Regional and thematic issues.’  Part I
smoothly initiates the reader into terminology and theory of language policy,
with chapters ranging from the more abstract and theoretical to the more
contextualized and concrete.  ‘Language policy at the macrolevel’ includes
everything from supranational organizations to policy in the spheres of
police, health and the legal system, prompting the reader to question where
macro leaves off and micro begins.  Part III, ‘Non-governmental domains,’ most
likely serves to contrast with the previous part and discusses a few of
Spolsky’s ‘domains’ of language management/policy, namely workplace, religion,
and family.  Oddly, however, ‘Language policies and the Deaf community’ is the
last chapter of this part and seems to be a strange addition.  The fourth
part, ‘Globalization and Modernization,’ is certainly an important enough
issue to receive its own section, although some chapters, like ‘Language
management agencies’ and ‘Literacy and writing reform’, only loosely
correspond to the theme.  Lastly, an appropriate selection of chapters was
chosen to represent all areas of the world in Part V.

While the Handbook covers an impressive amount of relevant material in its 638
pages, there is a slight degree of overlap and a few items that are noticeably
missing.  The overlap occurs in the realm of language education policy; it
receives two chapters in Part II and is then returned to in Part IV with a
perceptible gap between the two.  Likewise, language policy of the European
Union receives attention in Part II and then again in Part V, mostly because
it falls under the dual domains of ‘Language policy at the supranational
level’ as well as  ‘Regional and thematic issues.’  These matters are small,
however, and most likely would not be noticed by the reader.  What is slightly
more concerning is what is missing.  First, there is no chapter on, nor even
mention of, linguistic landscape, the burgeoning subfield of language planning
and policy research.  Refugee populations are largely ignored, as are language
policies in refugee camps.  Similarly, pidginization and creolization only
receive brief attention in Part V.  Language education policy, though
discussed in at least part of three chapters, could have received its own
section due to its importance in the field.  This, then, could have included a
chapter on phenomena in the mainstream United States educational context such
as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and recent Arizona language
educational policies.

Despite these suggestions, however, the Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy
is a commendable overview of the field of language policy, and one that will
serve as an excellent resource for scholars as well as a textbook for
students.  It fills a gap in the language policy canon, and will fill any
individual gaps one might have in their knowledge of the field.  Attempting to
highlight relevant items from a growing field and summarize them into a
30-chapter text would be a daunting and difficult task, but Spolsky and the
contributors have managed to do so with great success and eloquence.


Meghan Moran is a second year doctoral student in the program of Applied
Linguistics at Northern Arizona University. She received a Master’s Degree
from The Pennsylvania State University in Teaching English as a Second
Language in 2008, after which she taught ESOL in a public school in western
New York for two years. Her interests include language planning and policy,
pronunciation, and the intersection between the two.  Upon graduation, she
hopes to teach in a university setting.

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