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Teoria i metodologia

World Language Policy in the Era of
Globalization: Diversity and Intercommunication from the Perspective of 'Complexity' by Albert Bastardas i Boada


In certain lights, it may appear that this abandonment is strongly influenced by socioeconomic factors, particularly with regard to expectations of usefulness as a language of work and, overall, to the positive nature of the language entering the general process of 'modernization'. These contrast with negative factors associated with the traditional language, regarded as a variety linked to the past - a pre-modern period that needs to be transcended. However, there are also important examples of communities from underdeveloped economies that have been modernized entirely, without losing their language; quite the opposite, their language has been promoted, encoded and extended as one that is appropriate and functionally present in all the communications of an advanced, contemporary society. Therefore, economic aspects alone can sometimes explain the desire and concern of individuals for knowing the most useful languages in these cases, but it is more difficult for them to explain the abandonment of the group language. At any rate, this phenomenon must occur in a more general context of minoritization (specially at the political level), leading the community to lose its own structures which could guide the process of modernisation from its own points of view and favour its interests instead of those of the politically-dominant group. (The other important variable to explain abandonment is demolinguistic mixing, whereby significant migratory movements, particularly from the politically-dominant group/s, cause the alloctonous variety to gain ground, even in everyday interpersonal communication, while the native language loses speakers and functions).

4. New principles for a new historical era

Political action and representations and discourses on language diversity, political integration and intercommunication are therefore primordial. One of the first aspects we need to study with world authorities is how to overcome, through discourse, the dichotomies that restrict us, and as we said earlier, promote the search for new principles and ways of looking at situations of language contact. As regards the traditional criteria for the organisation of plurilingualism, for example, I believe that we may need to look beyond the principles of 'territoriality' and 'personality' for the more complex situations that so require. Despite their obvious advantages, both principles tend to presuppose that individuals are monolingual and cannot, in principle, resolve the problem of intercommunication. How then can principles such as these resolve the construction of a European sociocultural space in practice? How are we to understand each other, setting aside simple, formal institutions with multiple translation systems, if we all want to remain functionally monolingual? How would the application of a principle of 'personality' be possible for so many languages in such a wide space? We may well have to look elsewhere for the answer.

I suggest, therefore, that the search focuses on the study of the application of the principle called 'subsidiarity' (already present in European nomenclature) in the field of linguistic communication. We could adapt this political and administrative principle into a language policy principle that, generally-speaking, establishes the criteria that 'whatever a 'local' language can do, a 'global' language should not’. That is to say, we would allow – and promote – the effective, mass knowledge of other languages, giving functional pre-eminence where possible to the language of each historically-constructed linguistic group. So-called 'foreign' languages would be used for external contact (which would occur increasingly more often) but local, everyday functions would be clearly allocated to the own languages of each linguistic group.

This reserve of functions for the 'local' languages of each group must be clear and transparent to prevent the existing polyglottization from leading to the abandonment of the code with less communicative scope. Thus, in addition to the principles of polyglottization and subsidiarity, we need to incorporate the principle of ‘specific’ or ‘exclusive’ functions for 'local' languages, which could be overpowered by the bigger languages. Clearly, there would be a strong, important nucleus of reserved functions to be performed habitually in the group language and not in any other. The exclusive functions of the group code must not be limited to informal, oral communication; rather, they would have to incorporate the maximum possible formal, written functions to ensure that the representations and evaluations of individuals did not favour the other extragroup languages. This would involve the creation, in the words of the Quebecois linguist, Angéline Martel, of a type of 'positive diglossia'. I am led to believe that this type of success is possible, not only by cases such as Ferguson’s aforementioned diglossias or by other African multilingual situations, but also by situations such as that of Luxembourg. The languages of this small European State are organised around a certain type of functional distribution enabling the continued polyglottization of individuals and the clear maintenance of the group language. (15)

Correlatively to polyglottization, subsidiarity and exclusive functions, all levels of political authorities should supervise the prevention of a trend that could well take place - abusive use by bigger languages. If this ecological equilibrium that we need to construct is to be successful, the big languages must not want to occupy more space and functions than is their right, by taking advantage of the mass polyglottization of individuals. They cannot abusively invade local areas and leave the use of group languages with no possibilities, or at a severe disadvantage, in functions that are very important for evaluating languages, such as those usually dominated by these great codes. Some type of general regulation must be established; this should be based on the principle of subsidiarity and respect for the dignity and stability of all linguistic groups produced throughout history. Without international organisations with authority over these aspects, it could be very difficult to maintain a fair and adequate equilibrium. The responsibility of current, planet-wide organisations – and those in urgent need of creation - is extremely important and decisive.

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