LANGUAGE POLICY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF SOCIAL CONTROL
There are some 2,000 languages each with its own literature. Yet, in India alone there are 1,600 dialects. Whatever differences there may be between a language and a dialect is a matter of definitions about which there is wide controversy. One question of especial interest to sociologists and communication scholars is how these systems of communication are affected by people who use them, on the one hand, and by people who control them, on the other hand. Indeed, most researchers believe that there is an élite who, in practically all cultures and societies, has a particularly strong impact on the selection, shaping, standardization, use, and socio-economic power of the language or languages of a polity. The ruling class--whether a minority or a majority--view their chosen language as an ethnocentric possession, i.e. as an inherently superior cultural and ethnic instrument of power.
This short paper does not address the origins of this view; rather, it is concerned with one of its implications. It hypothesizes that language policy is ethnocentric and designed as an instrument of social and political control. Through the manipulative exercise of this mechanism of influence, the power structure impacts linguistic form, use, and socio-political acceptance. Language thus constitutes a filter for discriminatory inclusion in its cadre. Language is standardized for the particular benefit of a privileged social class, which thereby retains the reins of power.
Manipulation: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Yet, exercise of power is not necessarily detrimental to those subjected to it, however autocratic it may be. Democracy would seem to blossom only where maturity can handle it. For example, when Kemal Ataturk came to power in Turkey, his country was essentially in a feudal stage of social and economic development. Ataturk was a visionary: his mission was to help his...