Supranational language policy and planning: a case study of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Supranational organisations often plan language policies with the primary aim of striking a delicate balance between inclusivity and practicality. United Nations, for example, acknowledges six official languages- English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and French. Similarly, the European Union (EU) recognises 24 official languages, each of which is an official and a working language within an EU member-state. By contrast, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted English as its sole working language (ASEAN Charter, 2008). This language choice is widely perceived as pragmatic, aimed at the economic integration of the nations. The choice also reflects an ostensibly overt recognition of English as the global language and its apparent "neutrality" as a non-indigenous language. But, the fundamental issue here is ASEAN's adoption of such a controversial monolingual stance when other supranational organisations primarily operate in multilingual models.

The current study problematises ASEAN's language policy and planning (LPP) by arguing that the supra-national language policy was perhaps developed in a simplistic manner, which largely overlooked the socio-historical context and its ethnolinguistic diversity.  It will examine how English was adopted as the sole working language for ASEAN, followed by a critical review of the status quo. The study will also postulate an alternative ASEAN linguistic model, one in which English can coexist with other languages within the language ecology. This qualitative study is mainly guided by the historical-structural approach and ecology-of-languages paradigm in an ideological framework of critical theory in language planning. Data collection methods include interviews with 25 research participants, comprising academic experts, sociolinguists and policymakers, and analysis of supranational policy documents.

The key contribution of the study will be to utilise the largely underrepresented and undervalued agentive space of 'people with expertise' (Zhao, 2012) and key actors of 'change from the side' (Kosonen and Benson, 2013) to envisage alternative linguistic futures for Southeast Asia. Drawing on critical and ecological perspectives, the study will seek to achieve transformation in LPP, from "what is" to "what should be", with the ultimate aim of constructing a futuristic LPP model which sufficiently reflects the region's socio-historical, socio-political complexities and sociolinguistic diversity.

Supervisors

Dr Obaid Hamid (Principal), A/Prof Ian Hardy

Confirmation Panel

Dr Simone Smala (Chair), Dr Kerry Taylor-Leech (Griffith University)

Venue

Room: 
Room 506, Social Sciences Building (24)