SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Language Planning and Policy

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module examines the theory and implementation of language policy and language policy in various polities and jurisdictions. Throughout the module, consideration is given to the application of knowledge gained to real world situations. We will examine various notions of what language policy consists of, how it operates, its historical roots, and ways it can be studied empirically.

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate a broad understanding of the main issues in language policy and planning, and an understanding of the complex factors that go into language planning decisions at local, national and international levels.

Students will be guided towards in-depth reading on the topics and given the opportunity to develop their the skills of analysis and synthesis of theoretical and methodological issues. Students will also be equipped with the core analytical skills necessary to engage in research on language planning and policy, including data collection, analysis and presentation.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a lecture.

Scope and syllabus

This module complements existing modules on Issues in Language Documentation and Language, Society and Communication, and Language Support and Revitalisation. It will help students to gain an understanding of factors in public policy contributing to, and possible solutions to, language endangerment. It will be useful for students on the MA in Language Documentation and Description, especially those in the Support and Revitalisation strand.

The module starts with an overview of language policy and planning at all levels from nation-state governments to the individual (including the most widely accepted frameworks), then look at areas where policy and planning overlap. The module will cover areas such as:

  • the legal status of languages and language rights
  • the relationship between linguistic culture, language attitudes and ideologies and language policy
  • the interrelations between globalisation, nationalism, ethnicity, identity and language policy
  • linguistic ecology
  • language and political economy
  • historical frameworks of language policy
  • social power
  • language in education
  • cross-cultural and international communication
  • languages of wider communication, including international languages
  • multilingualism as a problem or resource
  • language minoritisation and endangerment.

Method of assessment

A project or essay of 3500 words (80%); a presentation (20%).

Suggested reading

Week 1: Overview of language planning and policy

Required reading

  • Hornberger, Nancy. 2005. ‘Frameworks and Models in Language Policy and Planning’ In An Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method, ed. Thomas Ricento. Oxford: Blackwell pp. 24-41.
  • Romaine, Suzanne (2002) The Impact of Language Policy on Endangered Languages, International Journal on Multicultural Societies, Vol. 4, No. 2: 1-28

Week 2: Examples of language planning and policy

Required reading

  • Bradley, David. 2005. Introduction: language policy and language endangerment in China. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 173, pp. 1–21.
  • Pandharipande, Rajeshwari. 2002. Minority Matters: Issues in Minority Languages in India. International Journal on Multicultural Societies vol. 4, no.2, pp. 213-234.
  • Background/further reading
  • Heinrich, Patrick. 2004. Language Planning and Language Ideology in the Ryukyu Islands. Language Policy 3:153-79.
  • Kamwendo, G. H. 2005. Language Planning from Below: An example from northern Malawi. Language Policy 4: 143-165.

Week 3: Frameworks of language planning

Required reading

  • Ruíz, R. 1984. Orientations in language planning. NABE Journal 8:15-34. Reprinted in McKay, Sandra Lee, and Wong, Sau-Ling Cynthia (eds) 1988. Language Diversity: Problem or Resource? New York: Newbury House.
  • Sallabank, Julia. 2005. Prestige From the Bottom Up: A Review of Language Planning in Guernsey. Current Issues in Language Planning 6:44–63.

Gender and language policy

  • Hoffman, Katherine E. 2003. Emigration, gender, and the burden of language preservation. In Blythe, Joe, and McKenna Brown, R. (eds): Making the Links: Language, Identity and the Land. Papers from the 7th Foundation for Endangered Languages conference, Broome, Western Australia. Bath: Foundation for Endangered Languages. Pp. 93-117.

Week 4: Language Attitudes and Ideologies

Required reading

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Introduction. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Bradley, David. 2002. Language attitudes: the key factor in language maintenance. In Bradley, David, and Bradley, Maya eds. Language Endangerment and Language Maintenance: An Active Approach. London: Routledge. Pp. 1-10.
    Ladefoged, Peter. 1992. Another view of endangered languages. Language 68:809-11.
  • Dorian, Nancy C. 1993a. A response to Ladefoged’s other view of endangered languages. Language 69:575-9.
    Woolard, Kathryn A., and Schieffelin, Bambi B. 1994. Language Ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology 23:55-82.

Background reading

  • Choi, Jinny K. 2003. Language Attitudes and the Future of Bilingualism: The Case of Paraguay. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 6:81–94.

Week 5: Language Rights

Required reading

  • May, Stephen. 2003. Rearticulating the case for minority language rights. Current Issues in Language Planning 4:95–125.

Background reading

  • Patrick, Peter L. 2004. ‘Linguistic Human Rights: A Sociolinguistic Introduction.’ Dept. of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex.
    Whiteley, Peter. 2003. Do "Language Rights" serve indigenous interests? Some Hopi and other queries. American Anthropologist 4:712-22.
  • UN 2008. Draft resolution on linguistic rights

Week 6: Language and Globalisation

Required reading

  • Mufwene, S. 2002. Colonisation, Globalisation, and the Future of Languages in the Twenty-first Century. International Journal on Multicultural Societies vol. 4, no.2, pp. 162-193.
  • Trudgill, Peter. 2004. Glocalisation and the Ausbau sociolinguistics of modern Europe. In Speaking from the Margin: Global English from a European Perspective, eds. Anna Duszak and Urszula Okulska. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  • UNESCO International Expert Meeting, Paris, 10 – 12 March 2003. Safeguarding of Endangered Languages: Recommendations for Action Plans.

Background reading

  • Steger, Manfred B. 2003. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Maurais, J., and Morris, Michael A. eds. 2003. Language in a Globalising World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Language and ecology

Required reading

  • Mühlhäusler, Peter. 2000. Language planning and language ecology. Current Issues in Language Planning 1/3: 306–367.

Background reading

  • Calvet, Jean-Louis. 2006. Towards an Ecology of World Languages. Cambridge: Polity Terralingua website

Week 7: Language, ethnicity, culture and identity

Required reading

  • Sallabank, Julia. 2006. Guernsey French, identity and language endangerment. In The Sociolinguistics of Identity, eds. Tope Omoniyi and Goodith White. 131-56. London: Continuum
  • Thieberger, N. 2002. Extinction in whose terms? In Language Endangerment and Language Maintenance: An Active Approach, eds. David Bradley and Maya Bradley. Pp. 310-28. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Background and further reading

  • Bankston, Carl L. III, and Henry, Jacques. 1998. The silence of the gators: Cajun ethnicity and intergenerational transmission of Louisiana French. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 19:1-23.
  • Kramsch, Claire. 1998. Language and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (v. short)
  • Harris, R. and Rampton, B. (eds) 2003. The Language, Ethnicity, and Race Reader. London: Routledge.
  • Schiffman, H. F. 1996. Linguistic Culture and Language Policy. London: Routledge.

Week 8: Language, nationalism and territoriality

Required reading

  • Myhill, John. 1999. Identity, Territoriality and Minority Language Survival. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 20:34-50.

Background reading

  • Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
  • Blythe, Joe, and McKenna Brown, R. 2003. Making the Links: Language, Identity and the Land. Papers from the 7th Foundation for Endangered Languages conference, Broome, Western Australia. Bath: Foundation for Endangered Languages.
  • Blommaert, Jan. 2004. Rights in places. In Language Rights and Language Survival, eds. Jane Freeland and Donna Patrick. Manchester: St Jerome Press.

Week 9: Researching and evaluating language policy and planning:

Required reading

  • Ricento, Thomas (Ed.) 2006. An Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method. Oxford: Blackwell ch’s 3 (Tollefson) and 10 (Wodak)

Background reading

  • Tollefson, J.W. 1991. Planning Language, Planning Inequality: Language Policy in the Community. London: Longman.

Week 10: Language and education policy

Required reading

  • Dei, George J. Sefa and Alireza Asgharzadeh. 2003. Language, Education and Development: Case Studies from the Southern Contexts. Language and Education Volume: 17 Number: 6 Page: 421–449.
  • Hornberger, Nancy H., and King, Kendall. 1996. Language revitalization in the Andes: can the schools reverse language shift? Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 17:427-41.

Background reading

  • Obanya, P. A. I. Language Education In Africa: Lessons for and from Nigeria. Fafunwa Foundation Internet Journal of Education
  • Hornberger, Nancy H. (ed.) 2008.Can schools save indigenous languages? Policy and practice on four continent. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.
  • UNESCO Education Africa (list of countries, map, article by Ayo Bamgbose)
  • Tollefson, J.W. 2004. Medium of Instruction Policies: Which Agenda? Whose Agenda? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

General background reading

  • Batibo, Herman M. 2005. Language Decline and Death in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Challenges. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • Bradley, David, and Bradley, Maya eds. 2002. Language Endangerment and Language Maintenance: An Active Approach. London: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Freeland, Jane, and Patrick, Donna eds. 2004. Language Rights and Language Survival. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.
  • Harris, R. and Rampton, B.(eds) 2003. The Language, Ethnicity, and Race Reader, London, Routledge.
  • Kaplan, Robert B., and Baldauf, Richard B. 1997. Language Planning: From Practice to Theory. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • May, Stephen. 2001. Language and Minority Rights. Harlow: Longman.
  • Ricento, Thomas, ed. 2005. An Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Spolsky, Bernard. 2004. Language Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wright, Sue. 2004. Language Policy and Language Planning: Nationalism and Globalisation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


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