[lg policy] book review: Spolsky: Language Management

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 15 17:07:56 UTC 2010

Language Management

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/20/20-1115.html
AUTHOR: Bernard Spolsky
TITLE: Language Management
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2009

Marian Sloboda, Charles University, Prague


The book under review can be considered a continuation of an earlier
book by the
same author (Spolsky 2004), where he presented a triad of concepts
which make up
his concept of ''language policy,'' namely, ''language practices,'' ''language
beliefs,'' and ''language management''. The book under review deals with the
last one of these -- language management. The author defines language
as: ''conscious and explicit efforts by language managers to control [language]
choices'' (p. 1) and as: ''the explicit and observable effort by
someone or some
group that has or claims authority over the participants in the domain
to modify
their practices or beliefs'' (p. 4). The definitions resemble definitions of
''language planning'' (cf. Cooper 1989, Kaplan and Baldauf 1997). The author of
the book under review, however, prefers ''language management'' over ''language
planning,'' ''because it more precisely captures the nature of the phenomenon''
(p. 5).

The book can be of interest to scholars working in the field of language policy
and planning, although it contains rather little theory and methodology. On the
other hand, detailed information on language management from many settings
around the world makes up most of the content and the book is not demanding in
terms of theoretical concepts used; therefore, it could be welcomed by
school and undergraduate students interested in how language and language use
are regulated in various parts of the world.


In the first chapter, ''Towards a theory of language management,'' Spolsky
introduces several concepts which are to form his theory of language
To the above mentioned concepts of ''language beliefs'' and ''language
practices,'' he adds Fishman's (1972) concept of the domain which is
characterized by its typical participants, location, and topics. The domain
approach is used to structure the rest of the book: individual chapters deal
with individual domains. Spolsky focuses especially on the question of which
participants (understood as ''social roles'') in language management there are
in a particular domain, and pays attention to the question of the extent to
which language management is carried out or influenced by domain-internal or
domain-external forces. The author also deals with the relationship between
language management and domain-specific locations and between language
management and domain-specific topics to some extent. Each chapter provides a
number of examples of language management from many settings all over
the world.

Thus, Chapter 2, ''Managing language in the family,'' deals with the family
domain, and Chapter 3, ''Religious language policy,'' with language management
in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions.

Chapter 4, ''Language management in the workplace: managing business
focuses on workplace language rules, language management in global
(international) business, in naval and air traffic communication and, finally,
in advertising.

Chapter 5, ''Managing public linguistic space,'' deals with several sub-domains
Spolsky considers closely related, in particular, public signage (or linguistic
landscape), printed media, and telecommunications. The author also touches upon
the issue of the cultivation of the public use of language.

Chapter 6, ''Language policy in schools,'' focuses especially on the school
domain participants, types of bilingual education, other language teaching, and
several language management tools in schools (i.e. the teachers, admissions
decisions, and punishment).

Chapter 7, ''Managing language in legal and health institutions,'' treats the
two (or more) domains -- including the courts, civil rights, police, health
institutions -- together on the basis of the same type of participant/role
constellation (i.e. professional/lay person, plus interpreters as mediators
between the two) and on the basis of the specifically self-regulating character
of these domains.

Chapter 8 focuses on ''Managing military language,'' especially on the
language management situation of members of the military hierarchy and on
language policy (particularly foreign language teaching) in several
selected armies.

Chapter 9 deals with a number of topics pertaining to ''Local, regional, and
national governments managing languages.''

Chapter 10, ''Influencing language management: language activist groups,''
supplements the preceding chapter with a special focus on minority/endangered
language activist groups as a specific participant group operating in several
domains, especially in government policy.

Chapter 11 focuses on ''Managing languages at the supranational level'' and is
the last chapter on a domain -- Chapter 12 shifts focus to ''Language managers,
language management agencies and academies, and their work.''

The last chapter, ''A theory of language management: postscript or
prolegomena,'' repeats the content of the individual chapters of the book in a
concise form and adds more examples of language management. The author
a sceptical view on the possibility of language management to make a positive
contribution to the world society in general. He also formulates a pessimistic
view of the chances for language management to be successful, especially in
democratic (and unlike in totalitarian) states. Finally, he argues that the
domain approach is useful in formulating possible future research questions.


This evaluation section deals with four topics: (1) the concept of language
management the book presents, (2) the theory it contains, (3) factual
descriptions included, and (4) basic concepts of the book, particularly, the
domain, simple vs. organized language management, and linguicentrism.

(1) The Language Management Concept
The attributes the author gives to language management are: ''explicit,''
''conscious,'' and ''done by people with authority.'' The author does not make
clear why language management is limited only to this type of activity, while
the narrow scope of the definition is contradicted in some parts of the book at
the same time. On p. 25, for example, the author writes about moving ''from
implicit to explicit language management.'' It is unclear how language
management, having been defined as explicit, can also be implicit at the same
time. Second, people do actions aimed at language not only consciously but also
unconsciously: for example, self-corrections in speech or speech accommodation,
which the author lists as types of language management (p. 11), are not always
conscious. Third, the definition of ''language management'' presented in the
book excludes language-targeted activities done by people _without_ authority,
for example, by military occupants who close down all schools teaching a
language in the occupied territory. Spolsky's conception of language management
can be contrasted to another conception, namely, the one by Jernudd and
Neustupny (1987; cf. Nekvapil 2006, Neustupny and Nekvapil 2003), to which
Spolsky sometimes refers, but which, in contrast, deals with language
as _any_ behaviour towards language: explicit and implicit, conscious and
unconscious, carried out with or without authority.

Spolsky's definition of language management suggests that it should be a mere
substitute for the term ''language planning'' (cf. definitions in Cooper 1989,
Kaplan and Baldauf 1997). Moreover, the occasional expression ''language policy
and management'' (e.g. on p. 13) seems to be somewhat contradictory, as it
suggests that ''policy'' and ''management'' are _not_ to be understood
as policy
subsuming management, as Spolsky suggests in his model of ''language policy''
elsewhere. The terms ''language management,'' ''language policy,'' and
''language planning'' are used loosely and sometimes interchangeably
in the book.

(2) The Theory
Given the title of the book and the statements in the first chapter, the reader
may expect that the book develops the author's concept of language management,
namely, that it provides a model of language management or makes an attempt to
describe its nature. This, however, is not the case. Although the
reader is able
to induce what can count as language management on the basis of individual
examples, it is a paradoxical feature of this book that it does not say much
about the nature of language management in general terms.

This feature may be connected with the way this book is written. The author
starts a description of individual domains by introducing the domain and/or
actors in several general words. A telegraphic sequence of examples of language
management follows. Little space is left for discussion and theoretical
considerations. At the same time, the examples are copious and very detailed,
which often obscures the main lines of reasoning. The following passage from
page 120, section ''Civil rights,'' can be quoted as an example:

''Tests are administered in fourteen languages, and in 2007, twenty states had
certification requirements. In the USA in the year 2004, the median wage for a
court interpreter was $20.54 hourly and $42,720 annually. There were 18,000
employed, with a projected increase over the next ten years of 10-20 percent
each year. In 2000, Federal courts paid US$305 per day to _per diem_
interpreters. Where the volume of work is greatest, courts tend to have
full-time staff positions, almost all of them for Spanish-English.''

Such amounts of detailed information, presented in telegraphic sequence, remain
unused in discussions or generalizations which themselves are
relatively rare in
the book. Sections usually end with the final example in the sequence. An
exemplary case is the section with the title ''The organization of this
chapter'' (p. 146-7). The section begins: ''This chapter will look at
all levels
of government, ranging from a nation-state to a local body, and ask about the
particular kind of management decision or activity that occurs at this level.
These activities are divided into a number of categories.'' This is followed by
a description of the activity categories and the section ends with a
of the last of the categories. No information on the organization of
the chapter
is provided, despite the section's title: ''The organization of this chapter.''

Only some sections conclude with generalizations. These are, however,
rather too
simple: ''The choice among [school language] patterns depends on the goals or
beliefs of whoever controls school language policy'' (p. 101). The
conclusion of
Chapter 2 is similarly simple: ''The domain-internal pressures are
challenged by
external pressures, making clear that while it is valuable to analyze domains
separately, they are regularly open to influences of the wider sociolinguistic
ecology. No man is an island, nor a family a closed sociolinguistic unit'' (p.
30). Such conclusions do not seem to bring new knowledge.

(3) Factual Information
The book contains high amount of detailed information from various places all
over the world. However, the information on the settings and events I happen to
be familiar with contain many factual errors. To illustrate this, we can quote
the following passage:

''The breakup of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia also produced similar linguistic
diversification, usually following political and violent struggle and
accompanied by 'ethnic cleansing'. Just as independence in India and the
division from Pakistan had led to the splitting of Hindustani into Hindi and
Urdu, so did the splitting of Czechoslovakia produce a renewal of separate
identities for Czech and Slovak ... The Czech Republic, set up in 1993 with the
breakup of the Soviet Union, restored a division that had been blurred when
Czechoslovakia was created in 1918. In the interwar period, attempts were made
to blend Czech and Slovak, mutually intelligible languages, into a national
language.'' (p. 164)

First, not a single person died as a result of the break-up of Czechoslovakia,
so classification of the situation as ''ethnic cleansing'' is false.
Second, the
identification of the split of Hindustani into Hindi and Urdu as similar to a
''renewal'' of the identities of Czech and Slovak is equally inadequate. The
simple logic ''split of the country => split of the language'' does not work
everywhere and certainly not in the case of Czechoslovakia, where Czech and
Slovak were used as separate languages both in speech and in writing for the
whole period of Czechoslovakia (for details, see, for example, Berger 2003,
Nabelkova 2007, Neustupny and Nekvapil 2003, Zeman 1997). Third, the Czech
Republic was not set up with the break-up of the Soviet Union (1991): to seek
other than a very indirect connection would be mistaken. The Czech Republic was
set up as a culmination of the internal disagreements between the Czech and the
Slovak political elites in Czechoslovakia since its creation. Only after the
fall of the communist regime and, therefore, of heavily centralized state power
in Czechoslovakia (in 1989), did the split of this already federal state become
possible (in 1993). Fourth, the identity of Czech and Slovak was not blurred.
Although a 1920 constitutional law of the new-born Czechoslovak state (1918)
established that ''the Czechoslovak language is the state, official language of
the Republic,'' this was a juridical term for the purposes of Czechoslovakia's
international recognition as a nation-state. The same law added that in the
Czech lands ''the administration should, as a rule, take place in Czech, and in
Slovakia, as a rule, in Slovak'' (Law No. 122/1920). At the end of the Second
World War, the Czech and Slovak political elites decided to restore
Czechoslovakia as a state of two nations -- the 1948 Constitution declared:
''The Czechoslovak Republic is a unitary state of two equal Slavonic nations,
the Czechs and the Slovaks'' (Article II, Paragraph 1). Later, in 1968, this
state transformed into a federation of two national republics (Czech and
Slovak), which lasted until 1992. The fate of the expression ''Czechoslovak
language'' was the same: it denoted two languages (two literary standards) and
the term went almost completely out of use as early as the Second
World War. The
split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 did not bring about anything new with
respect to
the identities of the two languages. Spolsky's claims that there were attempts
in interwar Czechoslovakia to create a single national language by ''blending''
Czech and Slovak and that the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 ''produced a
renewal of separate identities'' are thus false.

Further, on page 86, ''the Czech reversed cedilla for nasalization'' is
mentioned. However, the author must have confused Czech with Polish, where,
unlike in Czech, this diacritic sign and nasalized vowels exist. These
and other
pieces of incorrect information show that the author of the book has
not treated
his data and sources carefully.

(4) Basic Concepts
This insufficiently careful way of treating the sources also concerns
theoretical concepts. For example, the author suggests, without providing
arguments, that corpus planning be ''perhaps better labelled with the Prague
School term 'cultivation' (Prague School 1973)'' (p. 103). However, after a
comparison of what specifically the Prague School understood by ''language
cultivation'' (jazykova kultura) and what has been widely understood
by ''corpus
planning,'' it becomes clear that language cultivation in the Prague School
sense is a special case of corpus planning. For example, language
cultivation in
their understanding does not include the selection of script, which is also
considered corpus planning (e.g., Kaplan and Baldauf 1997, Hornberger 2006).
Some instances of corpus planning can even have different goals and motivation
than language cultivation -- an example of such corpus planning is the
change in
orthography that makes one language less similar to another without the aim to
make it a more efficient tool for communication.

Spolsky's rendering of the distinction between ''simple'' and ''organized''
language management, which he has borrowed from Jernudd and Neustupny's (1987)
language management theory, also shows misinterpretation of sources. Referring
to Nekvapil (2006), Spolsky describes _simple_ language management as language
management carried out by an individual and operating on his/her own discourse
(e.g., self-correction in one's own speech). He then understands _organized_
language management as any language management with more than one participant
(p. 12). However, in the work of Jernudd, Neustupny and Nekvapil, the
distinction is understood in a different way: simple language management
operates in an individual communicative act on an element of the act itself
(i.e. the element is managed ''on-line''), whereas organized language
operates on an aspect of discourse that has been abstracted from the
communicative event where it had originally appeared and becomes debated and
treated elsewhere (i.e. it is managed ''off-line''). From this follows that
simple language management can include not only self-correction but also
correction by others (cf. Nekvapil 2006: 96).

This also means that simple language management can take place in any domain,
however complex the domain may be (Spolsky excludes simple language management
from his description of domains). For example, in a military domain, an army
officer may correct a novice private who addressed him without mentioning his
rank (e.g. ''captain''), or, in another domain, an air traffic control operator
may ask a pilot to repeat his/her previous message which was unintelligible due
to transmission noise. Although pre-interaction management (i.e., another
language management act preceding these interactions) could have been quite
organized (such as setting up general rules of address in the army or general
rules for radio communication in air traffic), these are examples of simple
language management in highly organized systems of social interaction. Spolsky,
however, does not go into these nuances of social interaction, as he does not
treat or describe language management as social interaction in general.

Spolsky explicitly refrains from including simple language management in his
theorizing because, as he claims, ''one must either guess the implicit
motivation of the surface behaviour or carry out a post-event
interview [...] or
rely on self-conscious accounts'' and because, here, ''as one would expect in a
Prague School approach, the concentration is on issues of language cultivation
(how well can I perform in the standard variety?) rather than choosing one
variety over another, which is my [Spolsky's] main focus'' (p. 13). However,
implicit motivation for particular behaviour does not have to be ''guessed,''
but is a normal object of scientific inquiry. Secondly, the author
does not make
clear why simple language management should concentrate on issues of language
cultivation, when self-corrections, including replacement of an item from
language A for an item from language B in bilingual speech, or a decision to
take a course in a foreign language are also instances of simple language
management and involve language variety choice. Despite the fact that
the author
decided to ''pass over'' the topic of simple language management, he
nevertheless includes it in the final chapter. He thus refers to Jernudd's and
Neustupny's language management theory, but leaves the relationship of his
conception to theirs unclarified. It is typical of the book as a whole that the
relationship of the author's conception to others mentioned in the book is not
clarified. As a result, the distinctive features of the author's conception of
language management are not easy to identify.

Concerning the domain concept which is fundamental for the book, the author
treats the domains he selected as universal. Although he deals with situations
in places all over the world, he does not propose any theoretical formulations
of the differences between them in this respect. This may relate to the fact
that he has not identified the domains empirically, as Fishman (1972) required,
but has simply postulated them. Therefore, there might be a gap between
empirical facts and the author's selection and delimitation of the
domains. This
would shed doubt on the reliability of his conclusions about mutual influences
between the domains. In addition, Spolsky argues that language management,
beliefs and practices influence each other within individual domains and across
domains. How exactly this influence takes place can only be seen in particular
examples of language management, but is not theoretically modelled or described
in general terms.

To sum up, although the book presents many issues relevant to a given problem
area, it does not deal theoretically with their nature and, what is most
important, with how and why various phenomena relate to each other. Moreover,
the domain approach is not new in the study of language management, policy and
planning. For example, Neustupny and Nekvapil (2003) used the domain concept in
their model of language management and the importance of actors, emphasized by
the book under review, has been regularly stressed in the study of language
planning (since Cooper 1989 at the latest).

Finally, the author criticizes what he calls ''linguicentrism,'' i.e. ''the
assumption that language is a central cause of human behavior'' (p. 7).
Nevertheless, his model of language policy includes only _language_ management,
_language_ practices and _language_ beliefs (pp. 4 and 249). There
are, however,
for example, language-unrelated beliefs that can heavily influence language
practices, for example, when government officials believe that economic crisis
may be alleviated by reducing the budget for minority language publications
(among other cost items). Many examples in the book itself show how economic
factors are important and, in many cases, crucial for language management.
Nevertheless, the model of language policy proposed by Spolsky lacks any such
primarily non-linguistic components.

The evaluation of the book can be summarized as follows:

- the treatment of data and concepts is very loose and unreliable;
virtually any
mention of the situations which I am familiar with contains incorrect

- the book contains very little theory (even explanation) despite being
presented as theoretical;

- excessive amounts of factual details remain unused in theoretical
considerations and obscure the lines of reasoning;

- the critical component or discussion that would make the author's theoretical
position clear is minimal; almost no explanation is given for the preference of
particular terms over others and for their use;

- ''linguicentrism'' is characteristic of the author's concept of
language policy;

- surface formulations correspond to current trends in applied linguistics and
sociolinguistics, but an out-of-date social theory underlies the overall
conception (especially the concept of domains, including roles, as rigid and
universal social structures and the total absence of social interaction).

The book concludes with the chapter ''A theory of language management:
postscript or prolegomena.'' It is disappointing that even after 260 pages the
author -- writing about the building of a theory of language
management from the
beginning -- has not gone farther than to prolegomena of a theory. He does not
provide any reason for the need to build just prolegomena, while, at the same
time, a much more elaborated theory of language management already exists (see
Jernudd and Neustupny 1987, Nekvapil 2006, Nekvapil and Sherman 2009, Neustupny
and Nekvapil 2003) as well as elaborated theories of language policy and
language planning (see Cooper 1989, Kaplan and Baldauf 1997, Ricento
2006, among


Berger, T. (2003) Slovaks in Czechia -- Czechs in Slovakia. International
Journal of the Sociology of Language 162, 19-39.

Cooper, R. L. (1989) Language Planning and Social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Fishman, J. A. (1972) Domains and the relationship between micro- and
macrosociolinguistics. In J. J. Gumperz and D. Hymes (eds.), Directions in
Sociolinguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 435-453.

Hornberger, N. (2006) Frameworks and models in language policy and planning. In
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Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell, 24-41.

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Republic. Current Issues in Language Planning 4 (3&4), 181-366.
(Reprinted in R.
B. Baldauf and R. B. Kaplan (eds.) (2006), Language Planning and Policy in
Europe, Vol. 2. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 16-201.)

Prague School (1973) General principles for the cultivation of good language
(translated by P. L. Garvin; appendix to Garvin, P. L., Some comments on
language planning). In J. Rubin and R. Shuy (eds.), Language Planning: Current
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(Reprinted in J. A. Fishman (ed.) (1974) Advances in Language Planning. The
Hague, Paris: Mouton, 417-426.)

Ricento, T. (ed.) (2006) An Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method.
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Spolsky, B. (2004) Language Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zeman, J. (1997) Czech-Slovak. In H. Goebl, P. H. Nelde, Z. Stary and W. Woelck
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Marian Sloboda currently works as Researcher in the Institute of
Linguistics and Finno-Ugric Studies at Charles University, Prague,
Czech Republic. He specializes in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis
and Slavonic languages.

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