Language policy and social power – some open questions

Rosita Rindler Schjerve, Eva Vetter

Department of Romance Languages, University of Vienna, Austria

WS121: Language Policy, Planning and Management: From Micro to Macro and Vice Versa

Language policy (LP) is a special manifestation of political intervention which affects communication and thus contributes to changing or maintaining established power relations within society via language. When talking about LP and power it cannot be ignored that two major components engage into the relationship between language and social power, i.e. identity and ideology, which therefore also account for LP.

Identity is a key-term covering a wide range of phenomena which provide for the mental prerequisites concerning the production and reproduction of power relations. It includes stereotyped categorisation of self and others and as such it refers to linguistic valorisations, awareness and attitudes. Ideology, on the other hand, provides for the production of conceptual schemes which serve to rationalise political actions and to create mental dispositions for the assertion of specific political interests. Ideologies operate as an interpretive filter of attitudes and beliefs and may be explicitly or implicitly directed to political action. As implicit LP frequently lacks a sense of direct political action, it is intimately connected with processes which can be analysed under the heading of language ideology. Yet, an open question is if and how identity interferes in implicit political actions?

Against this background and analytically speaking, we hypothesise that the working of identity and ideology within LP can be assessed more precisely if we distinguish between explicit and implicit LP. Still another question will be whether explicit LP might rather refer to macro policy while implicit action could be associated with micro policy.

The present paper will concentrate on multi-ethnic settings as pointed out in “Diglossia and Power. Language Policies and Practice in the 19th Century Habsburg Empire” Rindler Schjerve (ed.) 2003, since it is in settings of this kind that the relationship between LP and social power becomes particularly evident.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Language Policy, Planning and Management: From Micro to Macro and Vice Versa
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 04