Jan Blommaert
Different Types of Identities
• Achieved or Inhabited
– people themselves articulate or claim
• Ascribed or Attributed
– given to someone by someone else
Nation and State
• Two different concepts
• Nation-state: One specific combination of
the two
• Object of investigation:
– Countries where an effective state system
manages to conduct nationalist policies
through language policy
• National language policies can be imposed
by super-state forces or,
• These policies can be an effect of national
governments seeking new international
alliances with certain partners
– Multilingualism in the EU
– Emphasis on English in the peripheries based
on an imnage of globalization
– The promotion of English in Mozambique and
Congo: desire of national governmets to align
themselves with the US, or the World Bank
Language, Policy and Identity
• The importance of language in the process
of nation-building.
• Main argument:
• The notion of language ideologies grew
out of Sapirian and Whorfian linguistic
anthropology, and it stands for socially and
culturally embedded metalinguistic
conceptualizations of language and its
forms of usage.
Main Argument
• Language users have conceptions of
language and language use
– Quality, value, status, norms, functions,
ownership, etc.
• They guide the communicative behavior of
language users.
• They use language on the basis of
conceptions they have and so reproduce
these conceptions.
Main Argument
• These are ideological constructs and sites of
power and authority.
• Language use is ideologically stratified
• The best language/language variety is
distinguished from less adequate varieties in
every instance of use.
– Written vs. Spoken
– Standard vs. Dialect
– Specific expert registers vs. General lay registers
• With the advent of print capitalism: a
highly elitist view of language
• Language needs to be purified
• Sociolinguistic regime
• Ownership, memebership and authority
– This is our language
– We are Americans and speak English
– This doesn’t belong here
– He doesn’t speak the language well
• Linguistic Communities
– Groups claiming attachment to the standard
Language : We speak English.
• Speech Communities
– Groups characterized by the actual use of
specific speech forms (professional jargons,
dialects, even standard varieties of
Monoglot Ideology
• A society is in effect monolingual
• Denial of practices toward factual
multilingualism and linguistic diversity
Effects of Monoglot Identity
• It ınforms practical language regimes.
• It produces and regulates identities.
– National identity is an ascriptive identity
attributed by the state. This may lead to an
inhabited identity.
• It has a tremendous impact on
• The postcolonial Tanzanian state declared
Swahili as the national language of the country.
• It became an official language together with the
colonial language, English.
• Swahili was introduced as the medium of
instruction in primary education together with the
inherited medium of instruction.
• It also became the language of political life and
the mass media.
• Swahili boosted with the massive
campaign of nation-building.
• The language: the language of Africansocialist
• Citizen: a socialist and an African, and a
monolingual, Swahili speaking individual
• National identity was defined in politicalideological and linguistic terms, not in
ethnic or other cultural terms
• The ideal situation: monoglot
• The target: Homogeneism with the
disappearance of English-the language of
imperialism, capitalism and oppression
and the local languages even nonstandard varieties of Swahili
• To achieve full languageness for Swahili
English was used in higher education to
produce a class of elite intellectuals.
• Swahili was spread to all corners of the
• However, post-primary education
remained (and still is) in English.
• Neither English nor local languages and impure
varietites of Swahili disappeared.
• The one-party system collapsed in the late
• What does this mean?
• There was a widening gap between the intended
ascriptive identity constructed by language
planners-the monolingual, Swahili speaking,
socialist Tanzanian- and the inhabited identities
of the people.
• People used Swahili for: interaction across
ethnolinguistic boundaries, administrative
contacts and primary education.
• Politics was only one domain.
• People continued to use local languages
for other domains.
• So to the extent that only one identity was
envisaged, the campaign was a failure.
In conclusion:
• Singular projections of language onto
national identity do not work any more.
• Language policy should be seen as a
niched (specialized) activity, and the same
goes for its desired outcome, national