Phillipson, Robert, and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. “English Only Worldwide or Language Ecology?” TESOL Quarterly. 30. 3(1996). 95-109.

Abstract:  The multilingualisms of the United Nations, the European Union, and postcommunist Europe are very different phenomena. English plays a key role in each and is being actively promoted. The language map of Europe and linguistic hierarchies are evolving and are in need of scrutiny so that research and policy in Europe can benefit from insights that come from theoretically informed study of language planning, policy, and legislation. Overall  here seem to be two language policy options, a diffusion-of-English paradigm and an ecology-of-language paradigm. The first is characterized by triumphant capitalism, its science and technology, and a monolingual view of modernization and internationalization. The ecology-of-language paradigm involves building on linguistic diversity worldwide, promoting multilingualism and foreign language learning, and granting linguistic human rights to speakers of all languages. This article explores the assumptions of both paradigms and urges English language teaching professionals to support the latter.

  • P/S highlight how English & 5 other languages are the only languages included in the “multilingualism” policy in the UN; further, despite having a couple more (Finnish, Danish, etc.), the EU fails to recognize the legitimacy of many European languages with millions of speakers.  Finally, in postcommunist countries English is the lingua du jour for individuals hoping to make valuable connections to the capitalist market economy, democratic governance structures, and human rights (431).
  • P/S argue that it is really, really important to pay close attention to how language policy is formulated and put into practice in order to ensure that different hierarchies of language don’t overly influence social production and intercultural communication in favor of particular nationalist agendas (432).  Unfortunately, as P. recognizes, “bargaining” in the realm of language policy tends to favor the dominant languages because (through almost innumerable pressures) they impose a sense of naturalness to their use (through naturalized states/assumptions).
  • A research method problem:  developing a comparative language policy analysis is difficult because it needs to go beyond comparison of a couple domains toward the comparison of fundamentally different sociopolitical institutions/units/etc. (434).
  • Language policy:  a broad, overarching term for decisions on rights and access to languages and on the roles and functions of particular languages and varieties of language in a given polity (434) on the statal, suprastatal, or substatal level.  Policy can be divided into intent, implementation, and experience.
  • Two Paradigms of Language Policy (these exist on a continuum and represent the two termini – from Tsuda 1994):

  • The ecology-of-language paradigm comes out of sociolinguistics work of Haugen.  He defines it as the interactions between any given language and its environment (441).  This view values the cultivation and preservation of languages over periods of time.  Phillipson recommends that when a new language is taught in a location research should be done to understand exactly what impact that new, invasive way of knowing has on the ecosystem in place.  Here you see the connections between language rights and human rights as rights to a particular subjectivity attached (or not) to place and culture and social institutions/practices.
  • P. works to demonstrate that the policies of transnational corporations are completely at odds with the idea of language-as-ecology.

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