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Sociolingüística internacional
Winter - spring 2001

What happened to language planning?,
per Björn H. Jernudd
Many of the ideas in this paper reflect my discussions with Professor J. V. Neustupný (now at Obirin College, Tokyo) over many years and my reading of his papers. See, for example, chapters on language correction and language planning in his book Post-structural approaches to language, University of Tokyo Press.
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Behavior and disciplined study

Behavior is one. The study of behavior is not one. The student of behavior selects some part of behavior for study and inevitably brings to it a perspective and a discourse. There is discourse because the student communicates with a group of fellow students. Thus networks the group into an invisible college. Invisible because the perspectives and discourses constitute it, yet visible because individuals identify as participants. The invisible college has open admission, and participants bring to it what they wish. Common sense predicts diversity of discourses and perspectives, and even divergent yet related selections of parts of behavior for study. There is variation and that is good. There is no contradiction between diversity and shared understanding in the search for new knowledge. Discipline encompasses diversity and stability of discourse. Discipline is explicit choice and agreement, on selection of behavior for study, and perhaps also constraints on perspectives.

Is the study of language planning a discipline?

Do those who are interested, as I am, in the deliberate behavior towards language that is variously referred to today as "language planning" or "language policy" or "language policy and language planning" (and other labels) recognize and share a discipline? I think not. Do we recognize several disciplines? Yes, there is recognition of inter-/multi-disciplinarity; there is study by political science, sociology, law, and economics. Is there study by linguistics? No. But there clearly should be. Is language planning (policy planning, etc.) the only deliberate behavior towards language? No, it is not. Would it make sense to develop a unified perspective on behaviors towards language? Yes. Do we form an invisible college? Yes, we do.

Obviously college and discipline are not aligned. Can they be aligned without sacrificing diversity and inter-/multi-disciplinarity? Yes, they can. Adding a disciplined perspective to the study of a part of behavior that already benefits from other disciplines is a good so there is no sacrifice, there is only increase of diversity.

The disciplined study of language planning as communication

The college of (students of) language planning may be ready to, and I think should, recognize a discipline -- in addition to the other disciplinary perspectives -- built on language as communication, on the process of language use.

I have in mind a linguistics of language planning. General linguistic theory is not specific enough. If indeed conducted to its limits of investigating human expressive potential to generate any one language, general linguistic theory would necessarily inform all enquiries into language use. It would set the limits. But within those limits of expression there are many choices. Can descriptive linguistics help? Descriptive linguistics (of language as a system) may post facto provide useful measures of language already used but does not deal with language as process.

A disciplinary foundation

A discipline that builds on language for communication takes as its fundamental premise that communication is a process between people and that people want to communicate. Thus, it can identify but excludes from study exclusionary practices; political science takes up what language management cannot. Finding a shared language is a language problem, how to learn a language, any language, is a language problem; but requirements that a particular language must be known or used or displayed (for commerce, access) may reflect some other kind of problem.

It is a fact that difficulties arise in the process of communication. It is equally a fact that when people talk, they manage these difficulties in subsequent turns. This fact is incorporated in several discourse theories, e.g., in conversational analysis and ethnomethodology, and in theories of speaking. These theories recognize the process of repair. A limiting case is that people do not share "a language", yet, the idea that this extreme contact situation can be successfully resolved in discourse is inherent in the fields of pidgin studies and language acquisition.

A disciplinary foundation for language planning rests on the recognition that speaking comprises acts of generating as well as managing discourse so as to accomplish continuing communication.

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