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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Local, regional, and national governments managing languages

Summary

Introduction

Studies of language policy, language planning, or language management have generally dealt with the activities of the nation-state. More recent books such as Kaplan and Baldauf (1997: 6) have drawn attention to the existence of a multitude of government and education agencies, quasi-government and non-governmental organizations, even if their emphasis is naturally and quite reasonably on the centralized political agency. Schiffman (1996: 2) too pointed out that a language policy can operate not only at the level of nation-state, but also at that of territorial divisions, and may differ at the municipal level, in educational institutions, at different levels of bureaucracy, and in non-governmental bodies. In his detailed studies, he included three nation-states (France, India, and the United States) and two territorial units (Tamilnadu and California). While Shohamy (2006) sees language policy as essentially the manifestation of hidden ideological agendas, her policy agents are identified as governments, educational bodies, the media, and other guardians of official language hegemony. In this chapter, we move inevitably to the level of government, a domain in which there is an obvious definition of authority, by which we mean rightfully exercised power. It is true that much of language management consists of attempts to persuade, but, as we saw with the military, the simplest situation is when the putative manager can reasonably expect that instructions will be followed; governments like commanders are assumed to have the power to enforce their decisions.