Sedyl - Structure et Dynamique des Langues - UMR8202 - CELIA

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Resp.  I. Léglise, V. Muni Toke et S. Alby
INALCO - Salons -rue de Lille - 10h00-12h00

Thomas Ricento (University of Calgary)
Language Policy and Planning:  The Nature and Goals of a Scholarly Tradition With Multiple Roots and Multiple Functions

 While it is tempting to characterize LPP as sub-discipline of sociolinguistics, or in keeping with the current and ubiquitous term, an inter-discipline (Graff, 2015), such designations tend to break down for various reasons.  The most fundamental problem in placing or locating LPP within particular academic niches is the lack of shared agreement on the goals of research or the nature of the field; in plain terms, the ‘it’ that we are ‘studying’, the ‘why’ we are studying ‘it’, and the ‘how’ our findings will make a difference in the world are disparate and ill-defined (if defined at all in our published research).   The public, generally, can understand the reasons for conducting research to find cures for deadly diseases, for developing cheaper and cleaner sources of energy, even for alleviating poverty in the poorest nations (even though they might oppose paying for such research or question the likelihood that such research will lead to positive social outcomes).  Yet, if we were to ask that same public to identify ‘language problems’ that might be ameliorated or solved by publicly-funded research, they would likely not immediately understand the question and would require lengthy explanations that would inevitably lead to a discussion on values, norms, and personal beliefs and prejudices (‘Don’t tell me I need to learn more languages!  The one I speak is just fine, thank you!’ Or, ‘Language is a private matter, except when it comes to education, etc.’, or ‘My English is not that good, especially the grammar’, etc.).  In the end, what ‘we’ do as researchers/scholars is analyze, describe, assess, and conceptualize conditions of living where language is an important factor by selecting appropriate and relevant ideas, approaches, theories, concepts, and methods from different fields or disciplines.  As Graff (2015: 5) notes, ‘Those choices, whether successful or not, influence central questions and problems…Like disciplines, interdisciplines are diverse in paths, locations, relationships to disciplines, organization and institutionalization.”  I am not arguing for a ‘narrowing’ or reduction of methodological or theoretical approaches or ‘paths’ to enhance the (inter)disciplinary and institutional ‘clout’ of LPP in order to gain more funding or greater academic visibility and prestige; that seems to me to be contrary to the rich scholarly tradition of LPP (see Ricento, 2016: 1-21 for an extended discussion).  The challenge, as I see it, if our work is to have any broad impact on public consciousness, is to clearly identify our values and goals as change agents and be clearer on why we conduct research and why we think our work, our ideas, our findings, and the policies we advocate serve the common good, as best we understand it.  In this talk, I will describe the challenges and benefits of maintaining the highest ethical standards in research while advocating for language policies that are consistent with our most profound moral commitments to equality, fairness, and societal inclusion.
Graff, H. (2015). Undisciplining knowledge. Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins Press.
Ricento, T. (2016).  General introduction.  In T. Ricento (ed.), Language policy and planning: Critical concepts in linguistics, Volume I, (pp. 1-21).  New York:  Routledge.