1995 Global Cultural Diversity Conference Proceedings, Sydney
Pluralist Nations: Pluralist Language Policies?
Continued, from part one
The Super State
I am going to make some broad speculations. I am aware of how ambivalent these trends really are and how tentative any prognostication must be. I could qualify all these assertions endlessly and find plenty of counter-instances but this would not serve my primary purpose which is a speculative one about the prospects for more pluralistic policy in these broad changes.
The emergence of the super state is still everywhere in embryonic form. However in Europe it is sufficiently developed for us to see some of the broad outlines that may be possible. A secure generalisation about it is that for the transfer of power to a super state from nation states to work it will need to be very much more than an act of will, imagination, or ideology. Though these play a part the endeavour of creating supra-national structures requires necessary pre-conditions in the material realm. The clearest of these is economic interdependence. Also important are instantaneous and uncontrolled communications media, unrestricted travel and a press for labour mobility.
The world appears to be galvanising into three gigantic trading blocs, geographically- based and driven by a currency: a Yen bloc, a Deutschmark bloc and a US dollar bloc. Each of these blocs aggregates vastly different cultural, national and ethnic systems and societies. This has coincided with a transfer of economic power, especially trading power, away form English dominant nations to non-English dominant nations, in North Asia led by Japan but with strong contributions from Korea, Taiwan, increasingly from China too, and in a German-powered Europe. In these contexts we can see a global form of what socio-linguists call accommodation theory. The relatively less powerful adapt their linguistic forms and behaviours to converge towards those of the dominant, if by such convergence there is advantage to be gained. Divergent language forms are evident when either no advantage is perceived or when the cost of adaptation is too great. It is evident that in all English speaking nations there has been a much greater stress placed on foreign language education in recent years; this stress is accompanied by instrumentalist reasoning on the assumed economic needs to be gained, and is accompanied by a corresponding stress within the more powerful non-English speaking nations on others using their languages and making the linguistic effort to facilitate communication. At the same time the trading blocs, especially in Europe, are allowing for population mobility, lessening internal mobility controls and, but not everywhere, allowing markets to dictate cultural and educational policy.
Conversely, although some of the nation's reasons for cultivating national languages have irretrievably changed through the global economy and its taking over of economic space that the state, as nation, once dominated totally, there has also been a greater defence of the social and cultural space controlled by the nation. I think that a large part of the motivation for the efforts of legislators in the US to "officialise" the English language, when its de facto status as national language is secure, is to do with asserting the symbolic functions of language when internal diversity seems to them to be out of hand. Indeed many nation states may become more concerned with symbolic domination and discipline in the face of growing pluralism and in the context of supra national organisation.
The emergence everywhere of demographically multicultural societies is one of the most evident effects of global integration of economies. Citizenship rights everywhere are, for pragmatic reasons, being challenged to become neutral of ethnic affiliations and meaning. What is being claimed by the diverse citizens of these nations is citizenship to reflect their political membership of the nation and not citizenship as a mirror of one group's domination of the nation. In multilingual settings national languages may well be diminished in their roles as effective vehicles, languages for marking solidarity at a macro level. We may see the emergence (or rather, the re-emergence) of local languages to fulfil these roles. This though is more true of Europe than of America or Australia but has echoes here as well.
In Western Europe there is evidence that the primary vehicle of effective links may be reforming around new attachments, or revised attachments, to the more localised forms of speaking. Linguistic minorities that are territorially-based vote in higher proportion to other groups in Spain, Italy, Britain, France and other countries. Brussels and Strasbourg are less problematical to them than Madrid, Rome, Paris or London. Political borders that imposed interruption of otherwise continuous gradations of spoken language forms are being removed and so are the divisions they have created.
The acceleration of migration and of population dispersals and transfers around the world is making developments such as these global. Once the province or the concern of immigrant receiving nations, mainly Australia, Canada and America, or Argentina and Brazil, i.e. the New World, multicultural population issues have now affected even the nations of emigration. Castles and Miller (1993) in a recent study of international population movements call the present period the Age of Migration.
They identify four salient tendencies of present population shifts:
- the globalisation of migration. There is now an increased number of nations experiencing migration flows at the same time and there is also diversification of source nations.
- the acceleration of migration. The volume of migration has increased in all parts of the world affecting resettlement and integration policies of host nations.
- the differentiation of migration. The range of types of population shifts, especially the massive international student and worker mobility of the last decade, add to the more long-standing refugee and labour recruitment schemes new types of population shift requiring different responses.
- the feminisation of migration. This trend replaces the historically male-dominated migration patterns and in itself raises qualitatively different policy issues. This could have an unanticipated effect in that in Australian research on language maintenance it may be the case that women and girl are both more supportive of inter-generational language maintenance and, at least in the first generation, more successful as well (Clyne 1991: 72-74).
Much of modern European history has been about the construction of national affiliation and loyalty and the discarding of contesting or rivalrous attachments such as local cultural mores and languages.
The instrumental use of linguae francae for communication beyond the confines of region, and even of the nation, and the revitalisation of local and regional languages for effective functions is well advanced in Western Europe. It is now taking legal and administrative form (see Proposal for European Convention on the Protection of Minorities (Strasbourg, 1991).
In 1991 a draft Chapter for Regional and Minority Languages was drawn up for the Council of Europe. One of its goals is funded education in these languages and their widespread recognition in the public domain. The draft has led to a European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages available for adoption by national governments from late 1992. It is hard to believe that national governments that have allowed this to be opened for ratification (and who have been tardy in its signing) would spontaneously have initiated the process of its examination were it not for the overarching structures of the European Union and the pressures of their own minority communities.
Australia's integration into the Asian economic region is well advanced and already our language policy choices have been directly and dramatically affected. We are, and officially and proudly claim to be, the nation with the highest enrolments in Japanese and Indonesian of any country other the Indonesia and Japan; we have embarked on a longitudinal plan for Asian foreign language teaching which involves a level of planning rigour not traditionally found in our education and training systems; and projecting 10 and 15 years hence.
Curriculum ideology clearly describes Australia as a nation of and in the region, sometimes as an Asian nation (though with a contested meanings of that term) and the effect of economic integration on national debates about identity (and even on our forms of governance and national symbols) are very strong and well recognised publicly. I believe that it is possible to trace language policy changes in the USA and in Britain equally strongly to global economic integrationism and, in Britain's case, to its obligations within Europe and to its perceptions of its place and the opportunities there.
I believe that it is possible to trace the new-found concern with spoken English language standards in Britain, and with the determination of government to pursue forms of formal correctness to views about language and discipline, and, though with a little more effort, to pluralism and diversity in spoken English generally, to control of the language. Control and ownership. Concern about norms of correctness for English are very sharp at a time when its native speakers are mostly not Britain's natives or natives of Britain.
Conservative think tanks in the UK such as the Centre for Policy Studies have issued many papers on English, one in 1988 by John Marenbon called "English our English", is redolent with the flavour of proprietorial English and its progressive loss. In both clear and subtle ways language is a realm in which social images are played out in which the pattern of pluralism inevitably will be seen.
It is also surely a large part of the explanation of the movement to "officialise" English in the USA that language diversity, which has always been present, has reached such numerical proportions as to challenge the ways at least some Americans imagined their nation. In this imagining they felt a loss and English came to have an attachment and a need for protection previously neglected (see Marshall 1986, Adams and Brink 1990). As it happens the only language that has benefited from what language planners inelegantly call "officialisation" in New Zealand is Maori, and of the USA Ruiz says: "What the great majority of us had taken for granted was a myth: English is not now nor has it ever been the official language of the US." (Ruiz 1990: 12). In different ways the effects of inexorable domestic pluralism are brought about by economic integrationism. We might say the same in Australia; English has no de jure status but it is so entrenched as the common language that it is de facto the official language as well as the national language, but it is not a trivial point to make that the only declaration about the national language of Australia in not of or for English in some general way. The only statements about the national language have been to assert that ours is Australian English. This is because it is felt to be so and the dimension of language for solidarity is what really counts for nationally qualified entities. Such statements assert not the de facto status of English as a communicative tool in Australia but to make a point about the symbolic value of a national variety.
Pluralistic nations do not by any means always evolve pluralistic language policies. Pluralism can coincide with conditions and ideologies that in fact produce restrictive and even repressive policies even to the point of what Skutnab-Kangas and Philipson have called linguicidal policies. In Australia's case there are many who believe that the stress of modern foreign language education for external economic reasons has been at the expense of local multilingualism (see Ozolins 1993 and Moore 1991) in Britain and in North America it is clear that some forces of linguistic reactionism have also been unleased as a reaction to pluralism or to particular forms of pluralism.
But of course this is not the whole picture in these countries. As advocacy for pluralistic policies in language proceed, policies that are anti-linguicidal and supportive of the rights and opportunities of minorities, indigenous and immigrant, develop. Powerful reactions are also common.
What is clear is that an inevitable outcome of greater diversity is the elevation of linguistic and cultural issues in many countries of the world and that these present a challenge to a culturally exclusive role for national languages.
According to the historian on 19th century nation-state making in Europe, Hobswawm, nationalism has an objective need for homogeneity in language. The developments in global and accelerated pluralism have led to heterogeneity in national definition in some nations and the separation of ideas of political nation from cultural nation via the means of common citizenship.
Language policies can act as a criterion for judging the claims of openness and pluralism of modern nations because so much of the nation-state itself is founded on the criterion of narrow interpretations of language, language for exclusion, for distinctiveness, sometimes for chauvinism.
2001 will be the year of the celebration of the centenary of federation in Australia. In its August 1994 report the Centenary of Federation Committee (CFAC 1994) described 1901 when the colonies of Britain in Australia federated into a commonwealth as a moment of political democracy. The Committee is a committee of the Council of Australian Governments and is therefore representative of all the main political forces in the country. Remarkably, it commented that not all that occurred in that moment of political democracy is worthy of celebration by the standards we set ourselves today. They identify 1901 also as a moment of "exclusion".
Aborigines were written out of the constitution and not counted in censuses until a referendum in 1967 re-admitted them. Women, who had had the right to vote in at least one of the federating colonies some decade before, were disenfranchised. The White Australian Policy was inaugurated.
What is worth celebrating, according to the report, is that the political democracy of federation has been retained whilst the nation has evolved into a successful "cultural democracy". "The motto of 1901 was: 'One people, one destiny'. For 2001 it must be: 'Many cultures, one Australia'. And this must be achieved at a time when many forces will be attacking the very notion of nationhood around the world. We will be celebrating Australia's nationhood at a time when global winds are eroding local cultures and blurring national identity" (CFAC 1994:1). Australia began by defining itself as a classic nation-state in the European mould. The committee appears to believe that Australia may be in the forefront of new forms of defining and understanding the modern nation.
In a later section reviewing Australian achievements in moving away from narrow cultural prescriptivism for Australia to "inclusiveness" the report comments:
"Australia's education and training system has also responded to the changing ethnic composition of our population. A system of language training was put in place to provide migrants with access. Community languages were integrated into school curricula and became an important national resource. In 1987 the Federal Government adopted a National Policy on Languages, becoming the first English speaking country to have such a policy and the first in the world to have a multilingual languages policy" (CFAC 1994:29).
These statements represent compromises of a wide and representative array of political and cultural forces advising all the governments of Australia and all the more remarkable for that.
If in the context of global cultural diversity Australia could retain a commitment to itself as pluralistic nation, and make reinvigorated commitments to policies of support for Aboriginal and other minority language communities who want to preserve intergenerational transmission of their languages, and given that the technologies for doing this in a naturalistic and effective way (because of their interactivity) are progressively becoming available, it would indeed be pioneering new conceptions of nation and state. Politically unitary but culturally pluralistic. It will need to retain a commitment to language policies that are just as well as economic, and cultural understandings that are domestically pluralistic as well as externally needed. This new concept will involve a diverse cultural nation within a unified political one.
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