Language and status: On the limits of language planning

Lloyd Hill


'Language status' is a concept that has been central to South African language policy debates since the early days of the negotiated transition, which culminated in the 1996 Constitutional commitment to developing eleven official languages. This constitutional commitment has not however been translated into a concrete legislative and administrative agenda. Recent critiques of language policy have attributed this 'policy gap' to problems associated with policy implementation. In this article I argue that policy difficulties can equally be attributed to theoretical problems associated with the concept of 'language status', which have their origins in a broader international discourse on language planning. This article is therefore presents a sociological critique of 'language planning', based on a conceptual analysis of key terms that underpin the current debate on language policy: principally 'language', 'language planning' and 'status.'

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ISSN 2223-9936 (online); ISSN 1027-3417 (print)

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