Representation in the articulation of language policy objectives

Patrick Stevenson, Jenny Carl

University of Southampton, UK

WS153: Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives

The formulation of language policy in the European context entails not only an abundance of documentation (position papers, reports, guidelines, strategies, legislative proposals etc) but also the involvement of many individual political actors operating at different levels within civil society: officials and advisers in the Commission and other supranational bodies (such as the Council of Europe), government ministers, civil servants, directors of government-funded agencies (such as the Goethe Institute or the Instituto Cervantes), representatives of minority groups and so on. While policy documents are scrutinised by political and linguistic analysts in terms of their content and the discourses in which it is embedded, the articulation of policy objectives by diverse individual actors, which prefigures and shapes the policies, generally remains unobserved below the level of public statements by politicians. It may inform the analysis of published policy, but is not typically subjected to analysis itself.

In this paper, we will suggest that an analysis of ways in which language policy objectives are articulated in discussion is an important but often neglected dimension of the investigation of language policy development. Drawing on interviews with individuals involved in the formulation of policy in relation to German in central Europe (in particular in Hungary and the Czech Republic), we will look at how government officials (both in Germany and Austria and in their neighbouring states), functionaries in government-funded agencies, representatives of German minority associations, and German language teachers position themselves as both a) individuals, who have their personal experiences with and opinions on the subject, and as b) representatives of a wider community with certain vested interests.

Our attention will focus on ways in which our interviewees repeatedly move between expressions of their personal motivations and the goals of the community they speak for. The question then is how these two dimensions – the personal/micro and the collective/macro – relate to one another, how they influence each other, and whether they strengthen or conflict with each other. Using the conceptual framework of positioning theory, we will try to shed light on the discursive ‘mechanics’ of the interplay between individual and collective positions adopted by these representative figures.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 18