Standardizing Diversity

Standardizing Diversity: The Political Economy of Language Regimes

Amy H. Liu
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 264
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    Standardizing Diversity
    Book Description:

    Languages have deep political significance beyond communication: a common language can strengthen cultural bonds and social trust, or it may exacerbate cultural differences and power imbalances. Language regimes that emerge from political bargains can centralize power by favoring the language of one ethnolinguistic group, share power by recognizing multiple mother tongues, or neutralize power through the use of a lingua franca. Cultural egoism, communicative efficiency, or collective equality determines the choice. As Amy H. Liu demonstrates, the conditions surrounding the choice of a language regime also have a number of implications for a nation's economy.

    Standardizing Diversityexamines the relationship between the distribution of linguistic power and economic growth. Using a newly assembled dataset of all language-in-education policies in Asia from 1945 to 2005 and drawing on fieldwork data from Malaysia and Singapore, Liu shows language regimes that recognize a lingua franca exclusively-or at least above all others-tend to develop social trust, attract foreign investment, and stimulate economic growth. Particularly at high levels of heterogeneity, the recognition of a lingua franca fosters equality and facilitates efficiency. Her findings challenge the prevailing belief that linguistic diversity inhibits economic growth, suggesting instead that governments in even the most ethnically heterogeneous countries have institutional tools to standardize their diversity and to thrive economically.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9210-7
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. NOTE ABOUT INTERVIEWS (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Part I: Toward a Typology of Language Regimes
    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction (pp. 3-21)

      When the Dutch East India Company established Batavia (Jakarta) in 1619, present-day Indonesia was the site of numerous competitive and unstable kingdoms scattered across a broad archipelago. Over the following centuries, the Dutch presence gradually expanded throughout the region. The colonial authorities, however, did little to bring the islands together under one central administrative language, let alone the Dutch language. There was equally little planning about Dutch decolonization. When the Dutch surrendered in 1949 after a four-year nationalist insurrection, the new Indonesian government found itself with an empty treasury, presiding over a territory of more than 13,000 islands populated by...

    • CHAPTER 2 Typology of Language Regimes (pp. 22-50)

      The United States has no official language, at least not at the federal level. Yet Sections 203(c) and 4(f)(4) of the federal Voting Rights Act require states and political subdivisions (e.g., counties) with a “language minority group” more than 5 percent or 10,000 of the voting age citizens to “conduct elections in the language of [that minority group] in addition to English.” This is a legal rule. In Canada, the Francophone community is concentrated mostly in and around Quebec. Yet the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1, Section 23, guarantees citizens of Canada whose first language is either English...

  5. Part II: Language Regime Choice
    • CHAPTER 3 Language Regime Choice: Theory (pp. 53-81)

      What explains language regime choice? This chapter argues that when choosing language regimes, governments must balance between cultural egoism, communicative efficiency, and collective equality. Which of the three components weighs most heavily depends on the level ofpolitically relevantlinguistic heterogeneity, as I explain below. Discussion begins with Indonesia. Note that while Indonesia motivates the argument, the argument itself does not depend on the Indonesian case. The chapter then lays out the theoretical framework for language regime choice. For ease of interpretation, the discussion (i.e., core results and relevant figures) is largely nonformal; the technical write up has been kept...

    • CHAPTER 4 Language Regime Choice: Evidence (pp. 82-124)

      The previous chapter suggested possible relationships between politically relevant linguistic heterogeneity levels and language regime choice. Governments respond to threats from linguistic groups. When politically relevant linguistic heterogeneity levels are low, the optimal choice for the government is one that power-concentrates in the dominant group language. Such language regimes offer substantial egoism and efficiency benefits to just one group while leaving the excluded population with little recourse. But when politically relevant linguistic heterogeneity levels are either moderate or high, a prudent government will make linguistic concessions. These concessions can take one of the following forms: power-sharing, power-neutralizing, or a hybrid...

  6. Part III: Economic Effects of Language Regimes
    • CHAPTER 5 Economic Effects of Language Regimes: Theory (pp. 127-146)

      Language regimes delineate which languages can be used when and where, but what are the economic implications—if any—of these choices? This chapter suggests that language regimes matter for economic growth, but that the posited effects are indirect. Language regimes are instrumental because they can build communities—even those “imagined” (B. Anderson 1983). When language regimes are able to unify a population through collectively recognized group equality or coordinated efficiency, they strengthen state capacity and enable the government to promote other growth policies with greater success.

      Of the four language regime types, I argue that power-neutralizing language regimes have...

    • CHAPTER 6 Mechanism 1: Social Capital (pp. 147-175)

      The previous chapters highlighted the institutionalized properties of language regimes. First, language regimes distribute linguistic power (see Knight 1992). They delineate which languages can be used when and where, suggesting speakers of certain languages can lay claim to greater respect (Horowitz 1985: 220). This recognition in turn is shared across some imagined community (B. Anderson 1983). Second, language regimes encourage efficiency (see North 1990). These rules constrain and structure human behavior. Within a relevant polity, people expect the same languages to be spoken by everyone, every day, and everywhere.

      As institutions, language regimes matter for economic performance. The mechanism of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Mechanism 2: Foreign Capital (pp. 176-202)

      The previous chapter demonstrated a link between language regimes and social capital. Specifically, power-neutralizing language regimes have a positive effect on generalized trust, belief in the altruism of others, and expected altruism of survey respondents. Moreover, the effects from recognizing a lingua franca exclusively are consistent across all ethnolinguistic groups regardless whether their mother tongue is the language of the politically dominant, largest politically non-dominant, or others. This chapter continues in the same vein but shifts the focus to a different capital type. The argument is that language regimes can affect economic performance by attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). In...

    • CHAPTER 8 Conclusion: Standardizing Diversity (pp. 203-212)

      Language is a vehicle of communication, but it is also a potential tool for demarcating group boundaries. It may distinguish members of the in-group (e.g., French-speakers) from those in the out-group (e.g., non-French-speakers). This possibility is what makes language regimes inherently political. Language regimes can be classified into four types. The first type recognizes one mother tongue, that of the politically dominant. Moreover, with a few exceptions, the language of the politically dominant is also the language of the largest ethnolinguistic group. The exclusive promotion of standard Thai throughout Thailand is an example of a power-concentrating language regime. The second...

  7. NOTES (pp. 213-220)
  8. REFERENCES (pp. 221-244)
  9. INDEX (pp. 245-254)
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. 255-256)


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