Book Review: Language Planning: Fishman (2006)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Oct 10 15:41:13 UTC 2007

Review: Language Planning: Fishman (2006)

Announced at

Joshua A Fishman
 Do Not Leave Your Language Alone
 The Hidden Status Agendas Within Corpus Planning in Language Policy
 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,  2006

LIU Haitao, Institute of Apllied Linguistics, Communication University
of China.


The title of this book recalls Hall (1950), which had almost the same title,
without the words ''do not.'' More interestingly, the title also directly
into the core of language planning, which can be defined as a science of
deliberately changing the status, structure and development of a language,
although the definition of language planning has more or less changed since
birth in societal development (Liu 2006).

The activities of language planning often are differentiated into two
corpus and status planning. Corpus planning is concerned specifically with
attempts to modify language itself, and status planning with attempts to
the environment in which a language is used. For detailed overviews of
planning, see Kaplan & Baldauf (1997).

In practice, it is very difficult to clearly distinguish the two activities
(corpus and status planning) in an activity of language planning. In the
of this book, the author expresses two positions: the two types of language
planning are not as fundamentally separate as previously assumed; corpus
planning per se is also impacted strongly by other factors, such as societal

biases, ideologies and attitudes, which often are the crucial points in
planning. In this way, readers can understand the book's subtitle.

Aiming at readers without prior knowledge of the field, this book begins
with a
beauty contest story in the bible's Book of Esther showing that language
planning/policy has a longer history than commonly supposed. Chapter one is
brief introduction to language planning with the emphases on corpus planning
its connation to societal components. The author clearly examines when and
language planning comes into a language community's agenda: ''societal
changes is
prominent, problem-solving is vital, and a premium is paid for communication

ease and consensual clarity of meaning''(p.9). It is also noteworthy that
language (corpus) planning often aims at the written language.

''Corpus Planning and Status Planning: Separates, Opposites, or Siamese
is the title of Chapter 2. Focusing on the relation between corpus and
planning, the author first asks: if they are really separate from each
''with which one of these two does the total process begin?''(p. 11). Many
examples tell us, that this is a very difficult question, because many
impact such processes. The book provides a very transparent (or fuzzy)
''Where it starts, when it starts, and in which way it develops is
determined by
the context - political, economic, cultural - in which it develops''(p. 17).
is why, in language planning, the sequence of corpus and status planning has

unequalness of intervals and irregularity of sequencing.

''The Directions and Dimensions of Corpus Planning'' is a shorter chapter
4.5 pages), which treats the problem of how to understand the notion
''modernization'' and its relation with corpus planning in an age of
globalization. The author tells readers ''there is no (and can be no)
innocent or value-free corpus planning''(p. 21). If this is true, corpus
planning, just like status planning, is also an activity driven by politics,

profit and other nonlinguistic factors. In the following chapters, the
constructs and presents a framework of corpus planning, which include 4
dimensions: purity and vernacularity, uniqueness and westernization,
classicization and panification, Ausbau and Einbau.

Chapter 4 investigates the relation between purity and vernacularity, which
reflect the attitudes of corpus planners to ''foreignisms'' in their own
If ''[p]urity is not easy to come by, neither in language nor in the rest of

life''(p. 26), why do the language planners still prefer it? Is a pure
more powerful than a mixed language? In this chapter, the author gives some
interesting examples. Americans are more tolerant regarding the messiness of

their language than the French; American English is ''the (international)
franca of an informal, egalitarian, frequently irreverent culture that
much higher value on folksiness and trendiness than on formality and
34). Perhaps, we have to do much more investigation before saying that an
international language should be a mixed language, but at least for now we
say ''vernacularity rules the English waves!''(p. 37).

Compared with purity, as one of two dimensions in Chapter 5, uniqueness
all borrowings from other languages. Chapter 4 indicates that purity is a
difficult goal in corpus planning. So, uniqueness is a much more extreme and

difficultly attained task for language planners. Linguistically, ''very few
the world's 5000+ languages are 'isolates', that is, really unrelated to any

other language or grouping of languages anywhere in the world''(p. 41).
Sociologically, it is also difficult to find a language community completely

unlinked with other communities. Contrasted with uniqueness, Westernization
on the other end of this bipolar in corpus planning. Today, Westernization
is limited to Anglicization, because ''the importance of English in all
sorts of
higher (post-elementary) education makes it appear to be an 'open sesame' in

many parts of the world''(p. 51). Many practices prove, ''neither choice is
without some negative consequences, but both are to some extent, also
and desired at the same time''(p. 60) In this sense, language planning is a
compromised activity (Liu 2006).

Classicization and panification is another bipolar dimension in corpus
and the theme of the sixth chapter. Classicization relates to corpus
that may be desired for the vernacular of an already united and recognized
entity. Panification hopes to reconstruct or reconnect different vernaculars
a hypothetical classical language. Obviously, the latter is more difficult
the former. Thus, in practical language planning, panification has very low
success rate. More commonly, we can find the projects of planned
language based on the panification principle (Blanke 1989).

In chapter 7, the author use two German terms Ausbau and Einbau to explain
relation between two languages in corpus planning. Ausbau is the efforts to
overcome and decrease the similarity between the structural, lexical and
systems in the related languages. Contrastingly, Einbau aims at fostering
increasing the similarity. The cases show that Ausbau and Einbau are not
opposite. They are often sequentially linked and are seriously influenced by

social and political factors. Quoting the latest sentence in this chapter,
''corpus planning is no different from any other tool that enhances human
over the environment; every increase in human power requires a corresponding

increase in human responsibility relative to the uses and users of that
(p. 102).

How do we construct the interdependence and independence clusters for the
bipolar dimensions and eight poles in the corpus planning of written
This is the task of Chapter 8. The author categorizes ''purity, uniqueness,
classicism and Ausbau'' as the independence cluster, because they all try to

foster the ''authentic individuality'' of one's own language. The remaining
poles are labeled as the interdependence cluster for underlining the
relations between the languages.

Viewed from these 8 poles, a natural question is raised: can opposites and
incommensurables be combined? Perhaps, there is not a clear answer yet,
the author tells us ''all in all, corpus planning reflects all of the
foibles of
human nature, rather than runs counter to them, and we are a very
species... Could corpus planning really do otherwise and would it be any
(or less) successful if it did? A greater or lesser decisional inconsistency
be its saving graces, its human grace.''(p. 116-117). In other words,
planning is not a simply activity, because ''to plan language is to plan
society.''(Cooper 1989: 182)

Chapter 10 is the concluding summary of this book. Just like the
implications in
the subtitle, corpus planning is not easily and clearly distinguished from
status planning. ''[C]orpus planning proceeds in accord with the more
politicolinguistic culture of the society that engages in it''(p. 125).

The book provides a new look at corpus planning. As one of the most
figures in language planning, the author tries to build a broad, integrative

framework of corpus planning in written language and discusses many cases of

language planning in detail. His efforts are very useful for understanding
essentials of language planning in general, and political/social factors in
activities in language planning in particular.

The book is intended as an introductory text for higher undergraduate and
graduate level courses in language planning and policy. Formally, it is very

appropriate for such targets with the contents of 126 pages and 11 questions
class discussion or written assignment. Substantively, it is not only useful
the aforementioned course of language planning, but also is valuable for
researchers in the field of language planning and language policy, and more
generally, for all who are interested in human intervention in the language
developmental processes.

It is noteworthy that, although the book is described as a text for corpus
planning alone, if we consider that the author is trying to construct a
framework of corpus planning based on nonlinguistic principles, it is also a

good reference for the students and researchers of status planning. It seems
me, however, if you are searching for a text for corpus planning from a
traditional point of view, there may be better choices.

The book is well organized, but the figures, particularly, the maps accessed

from Internet, have lower quality.

The author writes in the preface, ''Language planning is ultimately judged
not by
the its small coteries of specialized language planners but, most crucially,
its intended consumers''(p. x). This is also true of the book, please judge
for yourself.

Blanke, Detlev (1989) Planned languages - a survey of some of the main
In Schubert, Klaus (ed.), _Interlinguistics. Aspects of the Science of
Languages_ (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 42). Berlin-New
Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 63-87.

Cooper Robert L. (1989) _Language planning and social change_. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Hall, Robert A. (1950) _Leave your language alone!_ Ithaca: Linguistica.

Kaplan, Robert B. & Richard B. Baldauf (1997) _Language planning: from
to theory_. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Liu, Haitao (2006) Language planning and language policy: the definition's
change and field's development. In _Theory and practice of language
Beijing: Yuwen Chubanshe. pp. 55-60. In Chinese.

LIU Haitao is professor of applied and computational linguistics at the
Communication University of China (CUC). His research interests include
planning, computational linguistics and syntactic theory.
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or
sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree
with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list