Language policy and linguistic theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


As the new millennium begins, predictions about the future of languages are proliferating. Two models that have strong political popularity – i.e. ‘free-market’ theory of unfettered capitalism and ‘green’ theory of ecological protection – correspond to two linguistic geostrategies: the race for ‘market share’ among the governments representing the major international languages and the protection of endangered languages undertaken by linguists and by those interested in linguistic human rights. On the one side are aligned the British Council and the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie; on the other, the Linguistic Society of America and MERCATOR (among many others). These two strategies are based on many linguistic presuppositions that are rarely if ever put to the test, even by linguists: the individuality of languages, the equality of languages, the evolution of languages, etc. These notions derive, ultimately, from theories concerning what is natural, and what is not, in linguistic behaviour. The two linguistic geostrategies mentioned above both make use of a strong theory of the so-called ‘Sapir–Whorf’ hypothesis, according to which languages impose limits on the ways in which their speakers conceptualise the world. For the free-market theorists of global language strategy, this theory would justify the domination of the great international languages as a kind of natural selection. English would be the language of capitalism, French – as was often claimed during the French Revolution – the language of republicanism, or in more recent times as the language of human values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLanguages in a Globalising World
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780511613739
ISBN (Print)0521821738, 9780521821735
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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