Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
AUTHOR: Bernard Spolsky TITLE: Language Management PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2009
Marian Sloboda, Charles University, Prague
The book under review can be considered a continuation of an earlier book by the same author (Spolsky 2004), where he presented a triad of concepts which make up his concept of ''language policy,'' namely, ''language practices,'' ''language beliefs,'' and ''language management''. The book under review deals with the last one of these -- language management. The author defines language management as: ''conscious and explicit efforts by language managers to control [language] choices'' (p. 1) and as: ''the explicit and observable effort by someone or some group that has or claims authority over the participants in the domain to modify their practices or beliefs'' (p. 4). The definitions resemble definitions of ''language planning'' (cf. Cooper 1989, Kaplan and Baldauf 1997). The author of the book under review, however, prefers ''language management'' over ''language planning,'' ''because it more precisely captures the nature of the phenomenon'' (p. 5).
The book can be of interest to scholars working in the field of language policy and planning, although it contains rather little theory and methodology. On the other hand, detailed information on language management from many settings around the world makes up most of the content and the book is not demanding in terms of theoretical concepts used; therefore, it could be welcomed by secondary school and undergraduate students interested in how language and language use are regulated in various parts of the world.
In the first chapter, ''Towards a theory of language management,'' Spolsky introduces several concepts which are to form his theory of language management. To the above mentioned concepts of ''language beliefs'' and ''language practices,'' he adds Fishman's (1972) concept of the domain which is characterized by its typical participants, location, and topics. The domain approach is used to structure the rest of the book: individual chapters deal with individual domains. Spolsky focuses especially on the question of which participants (understood as ''social roles'') in language management there are in a particular domain, and pays attention to the question of the extent to which language management is carried out or influenced by domain-internal or domain-external forces. The author also deals with the relationship between language management and domain-specific locations and between language management and domain-specific topics to some extent. Each chapter provides a number of examples of language management from many settings all over the world.
Thus, Chapter 2, ''Managing language in the family,'' deals with the family domain, and Chapter 3, ''Religious language policy,'' with language management in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions.
Chapter 4, ''Language management in the workplace: managing business language,'' focuses on workplace language rules, language management in global (international) business, in naval and air traffic communication and, finally, in advertising.
Chapter 5, ''Managing public linguistic space,'' deals with several sub-domains Spolsky considers closely related, in particular, public signage (or linguistic landscape), printed media, and telecommunications. The author also touches upon the issue of the cultivation of the public use of language.
Chapter 6, ''Language policy in schools,'' focuses especially on the school domain participants, types of bilingual education, other language teaching, and several language management tools in schools (i.e. the teachers, admissions decisions, and punishment).
Chapter 7, ''Managing language in legal and health institutions,'' treats the two (or more) domains -- including the courts, civil rights, police, health institutions -- together on the basis of the same type of participant/role constellation (i.e. professional/lay person, plus interpreters as mediators between the two) and on the basis of the specifically self-regulating character of these domains.
Chapter 8 focuses on ''Managing military language,'' especially on the different language management situation of members of the military hierarchy and on language policy (particularly foreign language teaching) in several selected armies.
Chapter 9 deals with a number of topics pertaining to ''Local, regional, and national governments managing languages.''
Chapter 10, ''Influencing language management: language activist groups,'' supplements the preceding chapter with a special focus on minority/endangered language activist groups as a specific participant group operating in several domains, especially in government policy.
Chapter 11 focuses on ''Managing languages at the supranational level'' and is the last chapter on a domain -- Chapter 12 shifts focus to ''Language managers, language management agencies and academies, and their work.''
The last chapter, ''A theory of language management: postscript or prolegomena,'' repeats the content of the individual chapters of the book in a concise form and adds more examples of language management. The author expresses a sceptical view on the possibility of language management to make a positive contribution to the world society in general. He also formulates a pessimistic view of the chances for language management to be successful, especially in democratic (and unlike in totalitarian) states. Finally, he argues that the domain approach is useful in formulating possible future research questions.
This evaluation section deals with four topics: (1) the concept of language management the book presents, (2) the theory it contains, (3) factual descriptions included, and (4) basic concepts of the book, particularly, the domain, simple vs. organized language management, and linguicentrism.
(1) The Language Management Concept The attributes the author gives to language management are: ''explicit,'' ''conscious,'' and ''done by people with authority.'' The author does not make clear why language management is limited only to this type of activity, while the narrow scope of the definition is contradicted in some parts of the book at the same time. On p. 25, for example, the author writes about moving ''from implicit to explicit language management.'' It is unclear how language management, having been defined as explicit, can also be implicit at the same time. Second, people do actions aimed at language not only consciously but also unconsciously: for example, self-corrections in speech or speech accommodation, which the author lists as types of language management (p. 11), are not always conscious. Third, the definition of ''language management'' presented in the book excludes language-targeted activities done by people _without_ authority, for example, by military occupants who close down all schools teaching a language in the occupied territory. Spolsky's conception of language management can be contrasted to another conception, namely, the one by Jernudd and Neustupny (1987; cf. Nekvapil 2006, Neustupny and Nekvapil 2003), to which Spolsky sometimes refers, but which, in contrast, deals with language management as _any_ behaviour towards language: explicit and implicit, conscious and unconscious, carried out with or without authority.
Spolsky's definition of language management suggests that it should be a mere substitute for the term ''language planning'' (cf. definitions in Cooper 1989, Kaplan and Baldauf 1997). Moreover, the occasional expression ''language policy and management'' (e.g. on p. 13) seems to be somewhat contradictory, as it suggests that ''policy'' and ''management'' are _not_ to be understood as policy subsuming management, as Spolsky suggests in his model of ''language policy'' elsewhere. The terms ''language management,'' ''language policy,'' and ''language planning'' are used loosely and sometimes interchangeably in the book.
(2) The Theory Given the title of the book and the statements in the first chapter, the reader may expect that the book develops the author's concept of language management, namely, that it provides a model of language management or makes an attempt to describe its nature. This, however, is not the case. Although the reader is able to induce what can count as language management on the basis of individual examples, it is a paradoxical feature of this book that it does not say much about the nature of language management in general terms.
This feature may be connected with the way this book is written. The author starts a description of individual domains by introducing the domain and/or actors in several general words. A telegraphic sequence of examples of language management follows. Little space is left for discussion and theoretical considerations. At the same time, the examples are copious and very detailed, which often obscures the main lines of reasoning. The following passage from page 120, section ''Civil rights,'' can be quoted as an example:
''Tests are administered in fourteen languages, and in 2007, twenty states had certification requirements. In the USA in the year 2004, the median wage for a court interpreter was $20.54 hourly and $42,720 annually. There were 18,000 employed, with a projected increase over the next ten years of 10-20 percent each year. In 2000, Federal courts paid US$305 per day to _per diem_ interpreters. Where the volume of work is greatest, courts tend to have full-time staff positions, almost all of them for Spanish-English.''
Such amounts of detailed information, presented in telegraphic sequence, remain unused in discussions or generalizations which themselves are relatively rare in the book. Sections usually end with the final example in the sequence. An exemplary case is the section with the title ''The organization of this chapter'' (p. 146-7). The section begins: ''This chapter will look at all levels of government, ranging from a nation-state to a local body, and ask about the particular kind of management decision or activity that occurs at this level. These activities are divided into a number of categories.'' This is followed by a description of the activity categories and the section ends with a description of the last of the categories. No information on the organization of the chapter is provided, despite the section's title: ''The organization of this chapter.''
Only some sections conclude with generalizations. These are, however, rather too simple: ''The choice among [school language] patterns depends on the goals or beliefs of whoever controls school language policy'' (p. 101). The conclusion of Chapter 2 is similarly simple: ''The domain-internal pressures are challenged by external pressures, making clear that while it is valuable to analyze domains separately, they are regularly open to influences of the wider sociolinguistic ecology. No man is an island, nor a family a closed sociolinguistic unit'' (p. 30). Such conclusions do not seem to bring new knowledge.
(3) Factual Information The book contains high amount of detailed information from various places all over the world. However, the information on the settings and events I happen to be familiar with contain many factual errors. To illustrate this, we can quote the following passage:
''The breakup of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia also produced similar linguistic diversification, usually following political and violent struggle and accompanied by 'ethnic cleansing'. Just as independence in India and the division from Pakistan had led to the splitting of Hindustani into Hindi and Urdu, so did the splitting of Czechoslovakia produce a renewal of separate identities for Czech and Slovak ... The Czech Republic, set up in 1993 with the breakup of the Soviet Union, restored a division that had been blurred when Czechoslovakia was created in 1918. In the interwar period, attempts were made to blend Czech and Slovak, mutually intelligible languages, into a national language.'' (p. 164)
First, not a single person died as a result of the break-up of Czechoslovakia, so classification of the situation as ''ethnic cleansing'' is false. Second, the identification of the split of Hindustani into Hindi and Urdu as similar to a ''renewal'' of the identities of Czech and Slovak is equally inadequate. The simple logic ''split of the country => split of the language'' does not work everywhere and certainly not in the case of Czechoslovakia, where Czech and Slovak were used as separate languages both in speech and in writing for the whole period of Czechoslovakia (for details, see, for example, Berger 2003, Nabelkova 2007, Neustupny and Nekvapil 2003, Zeman 1997). Third, the Czech Republic was not set up with the break-up of the Soviet Union (1991): to seek other than a very indirect connection would be mistaken. The Czech Republic was set up as a culmination of the internal disagreements between the Czech and the Slovak political elites in Czechoslovakia since its creation. Only after the fall of the communist regime and, therefore, of heavily centralized state power in Czechoslovakia (in 1989), did the split of this already federal state become possible (in 1993). Fourth, the identity of Czech and Slovak was not blurred. Although a 1920 constitutional law of the new-born Czechoslovak state (1918) established that ''the Czechoslovak language is the state, official language of the Republic,'' this was a juridical term for the purposes of Czechoslovakia's international recognition as a nation-state. The same law added that in the Czech lands ''the administration should, as a rule, take place in Czech, and in Slovakia, as a rule, in Slovak'' (Law No. 122/1920). At the end of the Second World War, the Czech and Slovak political elites decided to restore Czechoslovakia as a state of two nations -- the 1948 Constitution declared: ''The Czechoslovak Republic is a unitary state of two equal Slavonic nations, the Czechs and the Slovaks'' (Article II, Paragraph 1). Later, in 1968, this state transformed into a federation of two national republics (Czech and Slovak), which lasted until 1992. The fate of the expression ''Czechoslovak language'' was the same: it denoted two languages (two literary standards) and the term went almost completely out of use as early as the Second World War. The split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 did not bring about anything new with respect to the identities of the two languages. Spolsky's claims that there were attempts in interwar Czechoslovakia to create a single national language by ''blending'' Czech and Slovak and that the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 ''produced a renewal of separate identities'' are thus false.
Further, on page 86, ''the Czech reversed cedilla for nasalization'' is mentioned. However, the author must have confused Czech with Polish, where, unlike in Czech, this diacritic sign and nasalized vowels exist. These and other pieces of incorrect information show that the author of the book has not treated his data and sources carefully.
(4) Basic Concepts This insufficiently careful way of treating the sources also concerns theoretical concepts. For example, the author suggests, without providing arguments, that corpus planning be ''perhaps better labelled with the Prague School term 'cultivation' (Prague School 1973)'' (p. 103). However, after a comparison of what specifically the Prague School understood by ''language cultivation'' (jazykova kultura) and what has been widely understood by ''corpus planning,'' it becomes clear that language cultivation in the Prague School sense is a special case of corpus planning. For example, language cultivation in their understanding does not include the selection of script, which is also considered corpus planning (e.g., Kaplan and Baldauf 1997, Hornberger 2006). Some instances of corpus planning can even have different goals and motivation than language cultivation -- an example of such corpus planning is the change in orthography that makes one language less similar to another without the aim to make it a more efficient tool for communication.
Spolsky's rendering of the distinction between ''simple'' and ''organized'' language management, which he has borrowed from Jernudd and Neustupny's (1987) language management theory, also shows misinterpretation of sources. Referring to Nekvapil (2006), Spolsky describes _simple_ language management as language management carried out by an individual and operating on his/her own discourse (e.g., self-correction in one's own speech). He then understands _organized_ language management as any language management with more than one participant (p. 12). However, in the work of Jernudd, Neustupny and Nekvapil, the distinction is understood in a different way: simple language management operates in an individual communicative act on an element of the act itself (i.e. the element is managed ''on-line''), whereas organized language management operates on an aspect of discourse that has been abstracted from the communicative event where it had originally appeared and becomes debated and treated elsewhere (i.e. it is managed ''off-line''). From this follows that simple language management can include not only self-correction but also correction by others (cf. Nekvapil 2006: 96).
This also means that simple language management can take place in any domain, however complex the domain may be (Spolsky excludes simple language management from his description of domains). For example, in a military domain, an army officer may correct a novice private who addressed him without mentioning his rank (e.g. ''captain''), or, in another domain, an air traffic control operator may ask a pilot to repeat his/her previous message which was unintelligible due to transmission noise. Although pre-interaction management (i.e., another language management act preceding these interactions) could have been quite organized (such as setting up general rules of address in the army or general rules for radio communication in air traffic), these are examples of simple language management in highly organized systems of social interaction. Spolsky, however, does not go into these nuances of social interaction, as he does not treat or describe language management as social interaction in general.
Spolsky explicitly refrains from including simple language management in his theorizing because, as he claims, ''one must either guess the implicit motivation of the surface behaviour or carry out a post-event interview [...] or rely on self-conscious accounts'' and because, here, ''as one would expect in a Prague School approach, the concentration is on issues of language cultivation (how well can I perform in the standard variety?) rather than choosing one variety over another, which is my [Spolsky's] main focus'' (p. 13). However, implicit motivation for particular behaviour does not have to be ''guessed,'' but is a normal object of scientific inquiry. Secondly, the author does not make clear why simple language management should concentrate on issues of language cultivation, when self-corrections, including replacement of an item from language A for an item from language B in bilingual speech, or a decision to take a course in a foreign language are also instances of simple language management and involve language variety choice. Despite the fact that the author decided to ''pass over'' the topic of simple language management, he nevertheless includes it in the final chapter. He thus refers to Jernudd's and Neustupny's language management theory, but leaves the relationship of his conception to theirs unclarified. It is typical of the book as a whole that the relationship of the author's conception to others mentioned in the book is not clarified. As a result, the distinctive features of the author's conception of language management are not easy to identify.
Concerning the domain concept which is fundamental for the book, the author treats the domains he selected as universal. Although he deals with situations in places all over the world, he does not propose any theoretical formulations of the differences between them in this respect. This may relate to the fact that he has not identified the domains empirically, as Fishman (1972) required, but has simply postulated them. Therefore, there might be a gap between empirical facts and the author's selection and delimitation of the domains. This would shed doubt on the reliability of his conclusions about mutual influences between the domains. In addition, Spolsky argues that language management, beliefs and practices influence each other within individual domains and across domains. How exactly this influence takes place can only be seen in particular examples of language management, but is not theoretically modelled or described in general terms.
To sum up, although the book presents many issues relevant to a given problem area, it does not deal theoretically with their nature and, what is most important, with how and why various phenomena relate to each other. Moreover, the domain approach is not new in the study of language management, policy and planning. For example, Neustupny and Nekvapil (2003) used the domain concept in their model of language management and the importance of actors, emphasized by the book under review, has been regularly stressed in the study of language planning (since Cooper 1989 at the latest).
Finally, the author criticizes what he calls ''linguicentrism,'' i.e. ''the assumption that language is a central cause of human behavior'' (p. 7). Nevertheless, his model of language policy includes only _language_ management, _language_ practices and _language_ beliefs (pp. 4 and 249). There are, however, for example, language-unrelated beliefs that can heavily influence language practices, for example, when government officials believe that economic crisis may be alleviated by reducing the budget for minority language publications (among other cost items). Many examples in the book itself show how economic factors are important and, in many cases, crucial for language management. Nevertheless, the model of language policy proposed by Spolsky lacks any such primarily non-linguistic components.
The evaluation of the book can be summarized as follows:
- the treatment of data and concepts is very loose and unreliable; virtually any mention of the situations which I am familiar with contains incorrect information;
- the book contains very little theory (even explanation) despite being presented as theoretical;
- excessive amounts of factual details remain unused in theoretical considerations and obscure the lines of reasoning;
- the critical component or discussion that would make the author's theoretical position clear is minimal; almost no explanation is given for the preference of particular terms over others and for their use;
- ''linguicentrism'' is characteristic of the author's concept of language policy;
- surface formulations correspond to current trends in applied linguistics and sociolinguistics, but an out-of-date social theory underlies the overall conception (especially the concept of domains, including roles, as rigid and universal social structures and the total absence of social interaction).
The book concludes with the chapter ''A theory of language management: postscript or prolegomena.'' It is disappointing that even after 260 pages the author -- writing about the building of a theory of language management from the beginning -- has not gone farther than to prolegomena of a theory. He does not provide any reason for the need to build just prolegomena, while, at the same time, a much more elaborated theory of language management already exists (see Jernudd and Neustupny 1987, Nekvapil 2006, Nekvapil and Sherman 2009, Neustupny and Nekvapil 2003) as well as elaborated theories of language policy and language planning (see Cooper 1989, Kaplan and Baldauf 1997, Ricento 2006, among others).
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Marian Sloboda currently works as Researcher in the Institute of
Linguistics and Finno-Ugric Studies at Charles University, Prague, Czech
Republic. He specializes in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and