Ideological Directions in Future-oriented Welsh Language Policy

Dave Sayers
University of Turku
dave.sayers _arvaa_ cantab.net

Following on from Ruth Wodak’s plenary on ideologies in EU organisations, this talk zooms in to focus on Wales, and to examine the ideologies within future-oriented Welsh language policy texts. The Welsh Government’s plan to ‘create a bilingual Wales’ is ambitious – aiming for a future linguistic landscape where Welsh use increases significantly. This is currently a country with no Welsh monolinguals, and with large areas where everyday use of Welsh has become negligible. How the devolved Welsh legislature promotes the future usage of Welsh touches on the fractious ground of heritage, identity, authenticity and cultural survival – all politically charged issues in the context of post-devolutionary nation-building.

This paper examines ideological orientations in four Welsh language policy documents, each proposing ways to shape the future use of Welsh in Wales. These texts are informed and contoured by overarching national and international legislation. Content analysis is used to weigh up their ideological orientations (a methodology similar to Björkman 2013). The orientations are categorised using De Schutter’s (2007) tripartite framework of language ideologies:

- instrumental’ (language is a means to achieve other non-linguistic human capabilities);
- ‘constitutive’ (language influences identity);
- ‘intrinsic’ (language is valuable irrespective of human interests).

The findings show that the intrinsic ideology predominates significantly and consistently across the texts. Future action is planned not in the interests of human capabilities or even identity, but of the Welsh language as an independent abstract entity. Furthermore, there are instances where potential discriminatory effects on non-speakers of Welsh are acknowledged, and explicitly justified within the pursuit of increased Welsh usage.

Overall, these ideological orientations make Welsh language policy quite unusual when compared to other areas of Welsh social policy (e.g. Sayers, Rock, Coffey & Barchas-Lichtenstein, in prep.).

 

References

Björkman, Beyza. 2013. English as a lingua franca and the international university: Language policy rhetoric and ground reality. Presentation to Changing English: Contacts & Variation, June 10-12, University of Helsinki.

De Schutter, Helder. 2007. Language policy and political philosophy: On the emerging linguistic justice debate. Language Problems and Language Planning 31(1): 1–23.

Sayers, Dave, Frances Rock, Michael Coffey & Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein (in prep.). Speeding up or reaching out? Efficiency and unmet need as policy priorities in Wales.

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