Analysing Language Policy as a Public Policy

Room G, City Hall
Time Slot: 
Tuesday 27th March 13:30 - 15:00
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Elin Royles (Aberystwyth University)
  • Dr Huw Lewis (Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University)
Panel Discussant: 
  • Emeritus Professor Colin Williams (Cardiff University)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Osian Elias (Swansea University)
  • Dr Elin Royles (Aberystwyth University)
  • Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost (Cardiff University)
  • Dr Huw Lewis (Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University)

Language policy can be understood as a form of public policy that seeks to influence the nature of a society’s linguistic environment, and thus steer the patterns of language use amongst individuals (Kaplan and Baldauf, 1997; Grin, 2003). Given the need to communicate with citizens, it is a policy field with which every modern state must engage in some way or another. No state can detach itself completely from the linguistic sphere - decisions must be made regarding which language(s) should be used within a range of domains within public administration and also spanning public media, road signs, town names, etc. (Kymlicka, 1995: 111; Carens, 2000: 77-8). Furthermore, debates regarding the exact nature of the language policies that should be adopted by states are beginning to claim an increasingly prominent position on the political agenda, both domestically and internationally. Growing trends such as immigration, sub-state nationalism and cultural globalisation have underlined the extent that linguistic diversity characterises most modern societies. However, despite its political salience, research by political science scholars that systematically seeks to study language policy as a distinct area of public policy is significantly more limited than would be expected. As Grin (2003: 38) argues, it is an area that 'ought to be approached in the same way as health, education, transport or energy policy.'


This panel responds to this situation by bridging between language policy analysis and the sphere of contemporary social science research. It brings together different perspectives on the types of social science approaches that can be utilised to analyse language policy as a form of public policy. This includes drawing on the work of social scientists working in other fields that draw on insights from public policy analysis in order to inform research on language policy. Overall, the panel’s intention to draw together attempts at utilising different approaches and frameworks for analysing regional or minority languages is particularly important given that policy interventions aimed at recognising and supporting the prospects of such languages are now increasingly common across the world, and particularly so within Europe.