Language Policy

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 371–393 | Cite as

Contesting public monolingualism and diglossia: rethinking political theory and language policy for a multilingual world

  • Stephen MayEmail author
Original Paper


In many language policy and political theory discussions, there is an overt skepticism, and at times outright hostility, towards the ongoing maintenance of private and, especially, public multilingualism, particularly when these include/incorporate the languages of linguistic minorities. For linguistic minority individuals, ongoing multilingualism is seen as delimiting the possibilities of their integration into the national society and the successful acquisition of the dominant (national) language(s). For linguistic minority groups, the maintenance/support of minority languages is viewed as a willful form of communal ghettoization, while any accommodation of public multilingualism—via, for example, bilingual education—is concurrently constructed as both an obstacle to effective communication for these groups in the wider society and a threat to their social mobility. The latter preoccupations with effective communication and social mobility also underlie recent linguistic cosmopolitan arguments in political theory that link globalization, communication and social mobility inextricably with the need for acquiring English as the global lingua franca. In this article, I critique and contest both this ongoing opposition to multilingualism, and the related privileging of English as global lingua franca, drawing primarily on political theory accounts, by way of example. Following from this, I argue that ongoing support for individual and public multilingualism provides not only greater opportunities for linguistic justice but also, counter-intuitively, facilitates wider inclusion and social mobility for linguistic minorities in an increasingly globalized world.


Multilingualism Linguistic minorities Social mobility Communication Inclusion Political theory English Global lingua franca Cosmopolitanism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Te Puna Wananga, Faculty of EducationThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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