Micro Language Planning as a Contested Space: Evidence from a South African University

Authors: Liqhwa Siziba (North-West University, South Africa)
Busani Maseko (North-West University, South Africa)
Speaker: Liqhwa Siziba
Topic: Language Ideologies
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Micro language planning is often framed as democratic, transformative, inclusive, and therefore, less contested as it reproduces community consensus and support. This is contrasted with macro or top-down language planning which is power inflected and weaponised to serve interests of the dominant class. Through a theorisation of institutional language policies as products of micro language planning, this article analyses the language policy of one university in South Africa and reveals that, contrary to this widely held view, bottom-up language planning is also a site of struggle and contestation. In particular, we focus on specific language policy provisions that reveal the university’s underlying disposition towards multilingualism and linguistic identities. The analysis reveals multi-layered contestations on multilingualism and identity inherent in the university’s languages policy. While the language policy purports to foster transformation by promoting multilingualism through the university’s ‘languages of choice,’ it is not exempt from the vagaries of essentialist identity politics and macro level language ideologies which legitimise English and Afrikaans. By identifying only four languages for promotion, the language policy envisages a kind of ‘exclusionary multilingualism’ that disregards the cosmopolitan character of the university and

Keywords: Micro language planning, identity, multilingualism, university language policy, South Africa, Indigenous African languages.