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Ethnography of language planning and policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2018

Nancy H. Hornberger
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Aldo Anzures Tapia
University of Pennsylvania, USA
David H. Hanks
University of Pennsylvania, USA
Frances Kvietok Dueñas
University of Pennsylvania, USA
Siwon Lee
University of Pennsylvania, USA


A decade ago, Hornberger & Johnson proposed that the ethnography of language planning and policy (ELPP) offers a useful way to understand how people create, interpret, and at times resist language policy and planning (LPP). They envisioned ethnographic investigation of layered LPP ideological and implementational spaces, taking up Hornberger's plea five years earlier for language users, educators, and researchers to fill up and wedge open ideological and implementational spaces for multiple languages, literacies, identities, and practices to flourish and grow rather than dwindle and disappear. With roots going back to the 1980s and 1990s, ethnographic research in LPP had been gathering momentum since the turn of the millennium. This review encompasses selected ethnographic LPP research since 2000, exploring affordances and constraints of this research in yielding comparative and cumulative findings on how people interpret and engage with LPP initiatives. We highlight how common-sense wisdom about the perennial gap between policy and practice is given nuance through ethnographic research that identifies and explores intertwining dynamics of top-down and bottom-up LPP activities and processes, monoglossic and heteroglossic language ideologies and practices, potential equality and actual inequality of languages, and critical and transformative LPP research paradigms.

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