By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
EDITOR: Nic Craith, Máiréad TITLE: Language, Power and Identity Politics SERIES: Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2007
Paola Attolino, Department of Linguistics, University of Salerno (Italy)
SUMMARY This book is a collection of eleven papers exploring the interconnections between language and power in the context of identity politics, with particular reference to the process of globalization and its consequences for languages at all levels, major, regional and migrant.
The editor opens the volume with an essay titled ''Languages and Power: Accommodation and Resistance''. She gives a review of past and present studies on the issue of language, power and identity and introduces the different perspectives of analysis adopted in the volume.
The next contribution, Diarmuit Mac Giolla Chríost's ''Globalisation and Transformation: Language Planning in New Contexts'', examines the impact of globalization on the relationships between language, identity and conflict, pointing to the concentration of new information and communication technologies in urban milieus. The author advocates a redefinition of the notions of community and sovereignty that recognize the importance of 'space' rather than 'place' (Kohut 1977) in the globalized world. This is one of the reasons why English, which is a language no longer identified with a particular territory, will continue to gather momentum.
The domination of English is queried in Jane Saville's contribution, ''Linguistic Human Rights in Education: International Case Studies''. In particular, she examines the extent to which linguistic and cultural rights have permeated into educational systems in South Africa, The Philippines and Peru. In all these three countries the conflict between the use of English and indigenous languages is heavily linked to economic globalization and could prevent many individuals from benefiting from the development of their own countries.
Robert Phillipson's chapter, ''English in Europe: Threat or Promise?'', focuses on the ''Janus-faced'' (p. 71) dimension of English in Europe, illustrated as being a language of opportunity and, at the same time, a threat to the autonomy of national language. The author of _English-only Europe? Challenging Language Policy_ (2003) here analyzes the pro-English pressures of the European linguistic market, which are encouraged by the United States and seem to contradict the EU's commitment to maintain linguistic diversity.
Promotion of minority languages in Europe is a key feature of the contribution by Markus Warasin, ''Minority Protection and Lesser-Used Language Promotion: The Convention on the Future of the European Union''. The author considers the achievements of speakers of minority languages in the process of designing a new Constitution for Europe. When the Convention began its works in February 2002, minority protection was not on the agenda. Several debates, conferences and round tables outside the Convention succeeded in generating responses from individual members of the European Convention itself, whose final document could signal a potentially significant step forward for lesser-used language protection.
Philip McDermott's contribution, ''Broadcasting for Minorities: The Case of the Celtic Languages'', analyzes the development of Celtic language broadcasting and draws attention to some of the debates about the use of the media in relation to minority languages. Broadcasting is extremely significant in maintaining the vitality of a linguistic community. Moreover, it has an impact on the consolidation of a language within family and education systems. In the Republic of Ireland the establishment of a dedicated radio and television service for Irish native speakers has also functioned so as to promote a minority language on a national level.
The following three chapters focus on the concept 'community language', used by Price (2000: xiii) to denote the vernaculars of ''reasonably settled communities of (in most cases recent) incomers from such areas as Asia, Africa or the Caribbean'', which have perceptibly achieved the status of ''languages of Europe'' if not ''European languages''.
Mary Delargy's contribution, ''Language, Culture and Identity: The Chinese Community in Northern Ireland'', aims to outline some of the changes that have occurred in the Chinese community since it was first established in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s. A key issue is the influence of English: Chinese children in Northern Ireland acquire fluent English through their everyday contact with the language, but they feel a language barrier growing up between themselves and their parents, which leads to inter-generational problems of communication and understanding.
Rebecca Fong's chapter, ''Intercultural Communication: Chinese Culture in UK Education'', addresses the increasing presence of Chinese students in UK. Countering the over-simplicity of cultural research based on such binary distinctions as high and low context (Hall 1976), she highlights the role that 'cultural awareness' plays in the curriculum, as well as the manner in which this affects teaching and learning expectations.
In his essay, ''Faith, Language and Identity: Muslim Migrants in Scotland and Northern Ireland'', Gabriele Marranci discusses the relationship that his Muslim respondents in Northern Ireland and Scotland have with language and worship. In particular, he focuses on the official role of Arabic within the ummah ('community') and the differences in approach to this language by Muslims in Northern Ireland as opposed to Scotland. In the case of Northern Ireland, Marranci observes how political sectarianism and what he calls 'symbolphagy' (p. 168) have induced the local Muslim community to adopt English rather than Arabic as the main language for their Friday sermons. This approach contrasts sharply with that of the Muslim communities in Scotland, where the symbolic importance of Arabic as the only acceptable language of the 'emotional community' represented by the ummah is not under discussion.
John Dunlop's chapter, ''Language, Faith and Communication'' is also concerned with this view of words as symbols. Looking specifically at barriers to communication between Catholics and Protestants during the Northern Ireland conflict, Dunlop suggests that speaking the same 'mother tongue' does not necessarily guarantee a similar worldview. He argues that Catholics tend to ''read between the lines'' (p. 189) and consider language (including political statements) as open to interpretation and re-interpretation, whereas Protestants approach language (and politics) in a literal fashion.
In the final chapter, ''9/11 and the War on Terrorism: The Clash of 'Words', 'Cultures' and 'Civilizations': Myth or Reality'', Javaid Rehman explores the perception of Islam in the wake of the atrocities of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent war on terrorism. He argues that the ''clash of civilizations'' predicted by Huntington (1993) should not be accepted without question. Instead he queries the differential usage of key words and concepts such as 'civilisation', 'human rights' and 'terrorism', considering the extent to which the application (or misapplication) in the usage of such words has had a major role in exacerbating divisions between contemporary Muslim societies and the Western world. As Rehman puts forth (p. 201), ''The clash, if there is one – between Islamic states and the West – is not so much about values, but is more a manifestation of control, domination and exploitation.''
EVALUATION As Marranci observes in his paper (p. 167), language is more than a medium of communication: it is a symbol of membership in a community, a sign of belonging to a group.
The contributions to this very interesting book succeeds admirably in presenting and analyzing a wide variety of issues - mostly concerning Europe - looking into powerful languages such as English, minority languages such as Irish, and immigrant languages such as Chinese and Arabic.
On the whole, the volume explores the crucial role of language in negotiating identity and highlights that the idea of power is highly contextual.
The volume combines theoretical and practical discourses on linguistic and cultural heterogeneity. From a more theoretical perspective, it contributes to a deeper understanding of the relationship between language and identity and it is worthy of a thorough read by anyone interested in the development of minority language endangerment discourses. Furthermore, it provides grounds for further research.
The contributions are well-balanced with respect to the different approaches presented. Each chapter includes an overview of the literature and offers attested examples, but beyond the intrinsic interest of the single essays the reader does appreciate the strong interconnection between them. The book is surprisingly unified, each chapter seems to anticipate the following, thus the discussion on the various case studies turns out to be enjoyably readable and not fragmentary.
Edited and published in almost perfect quality, the volume displays just a few bugs related to Italian names (''Romani'' rather than ''Romano'' Prodi on page 67 and ''Marannci'' rather than ''Marranci'' on page 13).
Huntington, S. 1993. _The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order_. London: Simon and Schuster.
Kohut, H. 1977 _The Restoration of the Self_. New York: International Universities Press.
Price, G. (ed.). 2000. _Encyclopaedia of the Languages of Europe_. Oxford: Blackwell.
Phillipson, R. 2003. _English-only Europe? Challenging language policy_. London and New York.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Paola Attolino is a researcher in linguistics at the University of Salerno, Italy. Her research interests focus on sociolinguistics, non-standard English, evaluation in language, argumentative discourse, and second language teaching.