In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Language Policy and Planning

  • Introduction
  • Frameworks and Definitions
  • Textbooks
  • Handbooks, Reference Works, and Methodological Guides
  • Journals
  • Foundational Works

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Linguistics Language Policy and Planning
Suzanne Romaine
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0273


Language policy and planning (hereafter LPLP) is a relatively new multi- and interdisciplinary field, but by no means a new phenomenon. The term ‘language planning’ (preceded by the term ‘language engineering’) emerged in the late 1950s and then developed as part of and in tandem with sociolinguistics and the sociology of language in the 1960s and 1970s. LPLP was initially preoccupied with language problems of developing nations emerging from the breakup of European colonial empires after World War II (see Foundational Works). Multilingualism in newly independent states posed problems to which planners believed they had solutions in the form of deliberate interventions into language, typically imposed top-down by governments and government-authorized agencies and institutions. Although regulation of languages—their status, functions, and linguistic form on a national level—still forms a central part of LPLP (see Areal Studies), its scope has increasingly widened. Scholars recognized that similar problems and issues applied not just to developing nations and were not confined to the nation state, or other macro-level polity, but were also relevant at the supranational as well as meso- and micro-level of individuals, families, multinational corporations, and other organizations. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a more critical turn. LPLP underwent a series of paradigmatic shifts as the association of language planning with westernized notions of modernization, progress, and democratization was regarded as simplistic and overoptimistic. After having developed one or more ‘official’ languages, some emerging nations realized that their plan not only did not solve political and social problems but instead created new ones. The idea that language could be planned and imposed top-down became increasingly unworkable and ethically questionable. Even in totalitarian regimes LPLP has been less than fully effective or successful. Researchers began to scrutinize some of the hidden or covert agendas and unintended consequences of LPLP, particularly the ways in which top-down LPLP serves the interest of elite groups and marginalizes others. With the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, a resurgence of interest in LPLP has occurred amidst a new world order characterized by reemergence of small nations and minority and regional languages, along with development of supranational political frameworks, like the European Union, and the increasing influence of corporations and limitations in the autonomy of nation states. In the 21st century LPLP has been increasingly concerned with internationalization and globalization, especially the role of English as a world language, language endangerment, and migration. A perennial challenge is how to make connections between macro- and micro- levels.

Frameworks and Definitions

In a broad sense LPLP (sometimes also abbreviated as LPP) is all about choices made in domains of language use from the macro- or polity level, or meso-or community level, to the micro-or individual level. Long before LPLP emerged as a distinct field of inquiry, people were managing (or mismanaging) a variety of language problems and practices at all levels of society. LPLP is very much an interdisciplinary field with connections to linguistics (especially sociolinguistics, sociology of language and applied linguistics); anthropology; law, political science; philosophy; education; social psychology; and economics, among others. Originally, scholars applied the term ‘language planning’ to deliberate efforts undertaken by states to change the structure (corpus) or function (status) of languages. Corpus and status planning originally defined in Kloss 1968 go hand in hand but the distinction between them is clearer in theory than in practice. Planners must decide what functions a language or variety(ies) of a language will be used for as this decision will affect the kinds of corpus planning needed. Corpus planning encompasses creating new forms, modifying old ones, or selecting from alternative forms in a spoken or written code. Status planning aims to manage the societal status and the functional range of a language or variety (e.g., declaring a language as official). The typology of national multilingualism in Stewart 1968 takes account of language types and their functions. Cooper 1989 (cited under Textbooks) recognizes acquisition planning as a third type of language planning to increase the number of users of a language or variety. The boundaries between language policy and language planning are also difficult to define, with the terms at times used interchangeably or in tandem. Tollefson and Pérez-Milans 2018 examines how some see planning as following from language policy, while others see policy as the output of the planning process. Language policy is used sometimes as a synonym for language planning but more often it refers to the goals of language planning. For Johnson 2013 (cited under Textbooks) and Hornberger 2006, language policy and planning have now coalesced into one field often using the abbreviation LPP, while Wright 2016 (cited under Multilingualism, Minority Languages, and Political Theory) suggests that both terms are needed in order to capture their distinctive roles. Modern scholarship recognizes that LPLP can be overt (explicit, planned) or covert (implicit, unplanned) and does not need to be undertaken by authoritative bodies, but can emerge from the grassroots level.

  • Hornberger, Nancy H. 2006. Frameworks and models in language policy and planning. In An introduction to language policy: Theory and method. Edited by Thomas Ricento, 24–41. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    Valuable overview of frameworks and models in LPLP, covering early history and development of the field and relationships between policy and planning, as well as offering an integrative framework.

  • Kloss, Heinz 1968. Notes concerning a language–nation typology. In Language problems of developing nations. Edited by Joshua A. Fishman, Charles A Ferguson, and Jyotirinda Das Gupta, 69–85. New York: Wiley.

    A foundational article introducing the distinction between status and corpus planning.

  • Stewart, William A. 1968. A sociolinguistic typology for describing national multilingualism. In Readings in the Sociology of Language. Edited by Joshua A. Fishman, 531–545. The Hague: Mouton.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110805376.531

    An early attempt to formulate a comparative framework for describing national multilingualism by taking account of language types and their functions in a formula.

  • Tollefson, James W., and Miguel Pérez-Milans. 2018. Research and practice in language policy and planning. In The Oxford handbook of language policy and planning. Edited by James W. Tollefson and Miguel Pérez-Milans, 1–32. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Good overview of the historical development of the field of LPLP and relationships between policy and planning. Maps out some of the different threads of recent research.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.