Language Planning in State Nations and Nation States

  • Sue Wright


The history of the politics of nation state building reveals how the conscious promotion of language convergence was part of the development of the nation state. The national language takes on a number of important roles in the nation building process. First, it has a utilitarian role. It becomes the medium of communication which permits the nation to function efficiently in its political and economic life, particularly as democracy develops. The citizens of the nation state are trained in their national education systems to be both able and willing to assent to this; they possess the language because they are taught through the language, and it is hoped that self-interest will persuade them to accept dialect convergence, or even language shift, since it is the means of social promotion and necessary for employment in the mainstream. Second, a unified language is held to promote cohesion, allowing the nation to develop a shared culture. There is a symbolic dimension to this: to know and to use the national language is part of the definition of belonging to the nation; to speak the language is a badge of inclusion; to refuse to know the language is to refuse the community and is seen as schismatic and unpatriotic. Third, if it can be demonstrated that the language of the group is both different from that of neighbours and with some measure of inner cohesion, this can be used as one of the arguments in any bid to be treated as a separate nation. Thus the political leaders of the nationalist era of both actual and aspirant nation states believed that it was essential to encourage a single community of communication.


Language Policy National Identity National Language Standard Language Language Planning 
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© Sue Wright 2004

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  • Sue Wright

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