Lecture: Understanding language policy: a growing theoretical model



Professor Bernard Spolsky
Bar-Ilan University, Israel


In two earlier books, I proposed that language policy is best conceived as consisting of three independent but related components: the language practices of a speech community, the language beliefs of individual members and the ideology of the community, and language management, the efforts of an individual, agency or institution claiming authority to modify the practices or beliefs of speakers. I also proposed that this referred to various levels or domains of society: the family, the workplace, the school, religion, a local region, or a state. Most recently, in looking at the fate of language policy in post-colonial states, I have added the influence of non-linguistic factors, such as wars, conquest, civil strife, famines, droughts, or economic disasters. In this paper, I will add the need to consider two more factors. First, persuaded by the work of the Prague school linguists of what they call Language Management Theory, I now see the need to include the individual speaker, whose own practices may be influenced by the values attached to other varieties, to set about expanding or modifying their linguistic repertoire. Second, I also see the need to incorporate the pressure of minority language groups to influence state governments or to resist their management efforts.

Speaker Bio

Born in New Zealand in 1932, Bernard Spolsky was educated at Wellington College and Victoria University College, earning an BA and an MA (with honors in English). After teaching at high schools in New Zealand, Australia and England, he moved to Israel where he taught for two years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served for a year in the Israel Defense Forces. He then moved to Canada, where he taught at McGill University and early a Ph.D. degree at Université de Montréal. In 1964, he became an assistant professor of linguistics at Indiana University, Bloomington, and in 1968 joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, with appointments as Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics and Elementary Education and serving for some years as Director of the Navajo Reading Study and Dean of Graduate Studies. In 1980, he returned to Israel with an appointment as Professor of English, serving terms as Department Chair and later Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. In 2000 he retired as Professor Emeritus.

His research and publications have been in the areas of language testing, educational linguistics, sociolinguistics and language policy. He has written eight books and edited another twenty-two; he has been editor of three international academic journals; and has published over two hundred articles and chapters.

He has served as secretary of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, President of International TESOL and of the International Language Testing Association, and Executive Editor of the Asian Association of English Language Teachers.

His work has been recognized by a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lady Davis Professorship, book prizes from the Modern Language Society and the British Association for Applied Linguistics, research fellowships at the National Foreign Language Center, the University of Auckland, and the Center for Applied Linguistics, and honorary fellowships from the Japan Language Testing Association and the Linguistic Society of America. In 2008, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by Victoria University of Wellington.