Language Economics and Prestige Planning for Minority Languages in Postcolonial Settings

Language Economics and Prestige Planning for Minority Languages in Postcolonial Settings
Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu, PhD
Howard University

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About the Presentation
This paper addresses the perennial issue of how to promote minoritized languages alongside former colonial languages as the mediums of instruction in schools in postcolonial settings, with a focus on Africa (OAU, 2000). Traditionally, studies investigating this issue have concentrated mostly on what Haarmann (1990) has termed the production of language planning (LP), but they have hardly paid any attention to the reception of LP. The former concerns official policy declaration about the status of languages in a polity, while the latter concerns the attitude, positive or negative, of the target community toward the policy. Haarmann remarks that the success of prestige planning for a given language depends on the positive value with which a language is associated by both the producers and receivers of LP. In Africa, there is evidence that the tradition of officially recognizing selected minoritized languages to bring them to equality with inherited colonial languages has not necessarily equalized opportunities for those languages and their speakers (Koffi, 2012). Instead, the approach has but provided a cover for what Pennycook (1994) called the planned reproduction of socioeconomic inequality.

The paper breaks with the traditional approach by focusing on the missing link between an education through the medium of a minoritized language on the one hand, and economic outcomes of that education on the other. I argue that any language policy designed to promote minoritized languages in education must simultaneously create a demand for these languages in the formal labor market if the intent is to succeed (Kamwangamalu, 2010, 2016). I explore how that demand can be created in light of developments in critical theory, especially Bourdieu’s (1991) notions of capital and linguistic market, and of comparable developments in language economics, a field of study whose focus is on the interplay between linguistic and economic variables (Grin, 2006; Grin, Sfreddo, and Vaillancourt, 2010). The above argument, linking as it does an education through the medium of a minoritized (African) language with economic returns, avoids the pitfalls of postcolonial language policies which pay lip-service to the empowerment of minoritized languages in Africa and in postcolonial settings elsewhere (Tollefson, 2013), while, by default, strengthening the stranglehold of the dominance of inherited European languages.

About the Presenter
Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu is a professor of linguistics in the Department of English at Howard University in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Howard University, Dr. Kamwangamalu taught linguistics at the National University of Singapore, the University of Swaziland, and the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, where he was Director of the Linguistics Program. He is co-editor of the journal Current Issues in Language Planning; author of Language Policy and Economics: The Language Question in Africa (Palgrave, 2016); of The Language Planning Situation in South Africa (Multilingual Matters, 2004); and of numerous refereed articles on topics in language policy and planning, multilingualism, codeswitching, language contact, New Englishes, and African linguistics. His articles have appeared in Georgetown Roundtable on Languages and Linguistics, Chicago Linguistic Society, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Multilingua, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Language Problems and Language Planning, World Englishes, to name but some, and in edited collections.