Language Policy and Planning (European Level)

European discourses on multilingualism: language policy-planning at the supranational level

(WP4, 20062010) This study investigated language policies and language planning on the European level.

Researchers interviewed 20 key players from inside the European language policy-planning institutions as well as from monitoring bodies. In addition to qualitative interviews, they also analysed questionnaires with open-ended questions filled in by 7 language policy officials from Latvia, 4 from Lithuania and 4 from Estonia.

Focus group discussions were carried out with students in three cities (Prague, Vienna and Bern) in order to gather data on citizens perceptions of multilingualism.

In addition, text documents were included in the study as well (speeches, newspaper articles, media releases). The hypothesis of the research is that the study of discourses on multilingualism may reveal fundamental contradictions which present challenges to stakeholders and policy makers trying to develop or implement new language policies.


Summary Results

Language Policies on the European Level

The concept of multilingualism is susceptible to contradictions which present difficulties to decision-makers and policy-makers likewise. An example of such a contradiction: theoretically, all official languages in the EU are equal; however, the European Court of Justice ruled that languages do not have to be treated equally under all circumstances.
>>> read article

Multilingualism: a Challenge for Experts

"Multilingualism" is an asset for Europe, as a recent communication from the European Commission states. But what exactly is multilingualism? In their study "European Discourses on Multilingualism", LINEE researchers have found that multilingualism as a European concept presents a serious challenge to policy-makers as they strive towards an integrated, knowledge-based European society.
>>> read article


Since the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam, considerable lip service has been paid to both multilingualism and multiculturalism to promote the uniqueness of the European societal and cultural realm. Both features are promoted as valuable assets in a post-nationalist society that perceives (or is meant to perceive) itself as a cognitive society. Yet the question can be raised as to how far the current initiatives related to the promotion of multilingualism and multiculturalism have succeeded in giving shape to concrete advances. It seems therefore necessary to critically investigate the general European discourses on multilingualism and multiculturalism, and to compare them with existing practices.


Original objectives (months 1-18): This WP is meant to analyse to what extent the recommendations made (i) in several EU-financed projects (like Euromosaic, etc.) and (ii) by different EU-sponsored organizations (European Language Council, etc.) are translated into actual language policy strategies, as purported in official EU-documents and in "external communication" practices (the way the EU presents itself to the outside world). It will particularly explore the relationships between the multifarious social actors involved in the discourse(s) on multilingualism and multiculturalism and the way in which they collaborate and/or try to diffuse shared or competing perspectives

Extended objectives (months 19-30): The extended objectives of WP4, which start in month 19, are intended to broaden the original perspective and to adapt it to the research questions that emerged during months 1-18. The second phase of WP4 will focus on four dimensions, which successively form the four pillars of language policy-planning discourse at supranational level: (1) EU internal policy-making processes and the role of social actors (in particular power relations, rules of procedure, expected good practice); (2) external communication efforts (role of external communication officers and forms of communication) and perception by member and associated states (in particular Switzerland and Austria) and national media (major European newspapers); (3) the institutionalised and spontaneous intertextuality of language policy-planning discourses (in particular legal, economic and political discourses); (4) the social-psychological dimension of policy-making (i.e. ability of social actors to cohere with and adapt to speech situations and to participate in discourses).

Description of work

In months 13-18 there will be a synthesis of the two previous stages (with feedback on the starting assumptions), a reflection on work done and the definition of new strategic lines of research. WP4 has been working towards this milestone in different ways over the past 12 months and is currently in the process of drawing first conclusions and results together.

Conference participation, presentation of results and follow-up in the form of publications and reports, which will contribute to the research reports and Position Paper (D8, D12):

(1) Publication of first work-in-progress report on key methodologies and theories relevant to language policy-planning and a detailed outline of language planning processes at supranational level in the EU. This report is planned for publication as one of the Working Papers of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Bern in December 2007 (Arbeitspapier 43, 2007).

(2) Work on the publication following the presentation of WP4 at the Political Linguistics Conference in Warsaw (17-19 September 2007).

(3) Preparation and planning of the contribution to the language policy session (Bernard Spolsky) at the upcoming International Linguistics Conference (CIL XVIII) on 21-26 July 2008 in Korea.

(3) Presentation of first results from the empirical pilot study with policy-makers in Brussels and Strasbourg at the Royal Irish Academy Conference (RIA) in Limerick in November 7-9, 2007.

(4) Organisation of workshop on ongoing research activities at the February 7-9, 2008, conference of VALS/ASLA (in Lugano).

(5) All preliminary findings will be put together in an overview for the 18-month Working Paper, which is due in April 2008.

In months 19-24, research will be guided along objectives (1) to (4) identified in the second phase of the project:

Research objective (1) (EU internal policy-making processes and the role of social actors) will be completed and published in a comprehensive report. The notion of policy-making will be extended to include not only activities by the commission but also by the European parliament (and the rulings and decisions of the European Ombudsman and the European Court of Justice). The policy-making process will be exemplified by looking at the main lines of language planning activities since the launch of the Lisbon strategy in 2000. The focus will be placed on the ‚rhetoric’ of interaction between policy-making bodies.

Under objective (2), external communication efforts by the EU will be analysed and summarised. Emphasis will be placed on text types and style of these communications, in relation to stylistic guidelines published by the EU.

Under objective (3), WP4 will mark out the terrain of intertextuality in language policy-planning discourses, concentrating on the presence of legal and economic discourses in planning activities.

In relation to point (4), WP4 will extend the analysis of interviews with policy-makers by comparing coherence patterns of interviewees with those of informants not directly involved in policy-making.. In the first six months of the second phase, interviews with such informants will be conducted and prepared for analysis.

In months 25 to 30, the research activities carried out under objectives (2) and (3) will be completed and published in separate progress reports. In the report on objective (2), a detailed inventory of text types is expected to be presented, an analysis of how text types interconnect and at which stage of the policy-making process they become relevant. Moreover, emphasis will be placed on the strategic use of language in the context of situation. In objective (3), empirical case studies will be carried out to analyse the interface between different discourses active in policy planning. In particular, dominant discourses will be identified and contextualised, and possible ‚anti-discourses’ will be outlined. Under objective (4), the interviews with informants not directly involved in policy-making will be compared with interviews previously conducted with policy-makers and first conclusions will be drawn.

The research within this WP mainly draws upon language policy-planning theories as previously developed in WP4, as well as upon LMT (language management theory). These theories can be located in various schools of thought, including discourse analytic perspectives (in particular textlinguistics, stylistics, critical discourse analysis, systemic functional linguistics) and social-psychological theories (sociolinguistics, contact linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, discursive psychological theories).


This Work Package Description as pdf

Contacts WP 4

Name City Email
Felicia Kreiselmaier Bern felicia.kreiselmaier(at)
Mi-Cha Flubacher Bern mi-cha.flubacher(at)
Niku Dorostkar Wien niku.dorostkar(at)
Patrick Studer Bern patrick.studer(at)
Vit Dovalil Prag vit.dovalil(at)

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