Workshop Paper

Francis M. Hult

University of Texas at San Antonio, USA

WS152: Scales of Multilingualism: Towards a multi-layered analysis of linguistic diversity

Nexus Analysis of Fractal Discourses in Language Policy and Planning: A Swedish Example

A central concern among scholars of language policy and planning (LPP) is how macro- and micro-sociolinguistics can be used in concert to understand relationships between individual language use and societal multilingualism and, in turn, how this relationship might be managed through LPP (e.g., Ricento 2000). Although this has been a perennial issue, it has proven challenging to address. Following innovative developments in discourse analysis (Lemke 2000, Wortham 2006), it is suggested here that it may be fruitful to move beyond macro-micro dichotomies by focusing on dynamic discourse processes through which LPP is shaped, contextualized, and interpreted simultaneously across multiple levels of social organization (Ball 2006, Lo Bianco 2005). Such a tack would serve not only the investigation of specific layers of LPP (e.g., individual, institutional, community, and national) but also the study of how these layers are intertwined.

In this vein, the present paper advances a multi-level, discourse analytic approach to investigating LPP by synthesizing Agar’s (2005) notion of fractal analysis for societal issues and Scollon and Scollon’s (2004) nexus analysis for discourse cycles. The concept of fractals, self-similar recursive patterns, serves as a useful analogy for identifying salient discourses that operate across levels of social organization. Nexus analysis, an ethnographic sociolinguistic approach to studying ways in which discourses operate as cycles across space and time, provides guidance as to how fractal discourses can be mapped. Drawing on data collected in Sweden from July 2004 to July 2005, this combined approach is illustrated by an examination of discourses that cycle through educational language policy. An examination of data from national language policies, curricular documents, visual public language use, and classroom practice related to English language teaching are used to illustrate conceptual and methodological issues inherent in the approach.


Agar, M. (2005). Local discourse and global research: The role of local knowledge. Language in Society 34: 1-22.

Ball, S.J. (2006). Education Policy and Social Class: The Selected Works of Stephen J. Ball. London: Routledge.

Lemke, J. (2000). Across the scales of time: Artifacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems. Mind, Culture, and Activity 7(4): 273-290.

Lo Bianco, J. (2005). Including discourse in language planning theory. In P. Bruthiaux, D. Atkinson, W.G. Eggington, W. Grabe, & V. Ramanathan (Eds), Directions in Applied Linguistics (pp. 255-263). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Ricento, T. (2000). Historical and theoretical perspectives in language policy and planning. Journal of Sociolinguistics 4(2): 196-213.

Scollon, R. & Scollon, S.W. (2004). Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet. London: Routledge.

Wortham, S. (2006). Learning Identity: The Joint Emergence of Social Identification and Academic Learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Session: Workshop
Scales of Multilingualism: Towards a multi-layered analysis of linguistic diversity
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 17