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Current Issues in Language Planning
ISSN: 1466-4208 (Print) 1747-7506 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rclp20
Language policy at times of instability and
struggle: the impact of fluctuating will and
competing agendas on a Slovene language
To cite this article: Kristof Savski (2017) Language policy at times of instability and struggle: the
impact of fluctuating will and competing agendas on a Slovene language strategy, Current Issues in
Language Planning, 18:3, 283-302, DOI: 10.1080/14664208.2016.1265280
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2016.1265280
Published online: 05 Dec 2016.
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Language policy at times of instability and struggle: the
impact of fluctuating will and competing agendas on a
Slovene language strategy
Department of Languages and Linguistics, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand
This article analyses how the drafting and implementation of the
Resolution for a National Language Policy Programme 2014–2018,
a Slovene language strategy, were influenced by political
instability and inter-institutional struggles. By conducting a
historical ethnography to trace how different authors contributed
to the policy text, and examining these contributions against
political shifts and the dynamics of the media discourse
surrounding the policy, and by collecting accounts from key
actors through interviews, the paper presents a detailed
reconstruction of the process of drafting the strategy. The analysis
uncovers an on-going struggle between different groups of
Slovene linguists to secure their own interests, and finds that
political shifts enabled different groups to shift wordings within
the document in their own favour. It also analyses how, once
officially adopted by the Slovene parliament, the strategy began
to be implemented as serious discussions began about funding
the creation of a new monolingual dictionary of Slovene.
Received 26 July 2016
Accepted 22 November 2016
Policy documents; political
instability; critical discourse
In themselves, language policies are not homogeneous texts, but are the polyphonic pro-
ducts of the various antagonisms, ideological debates and power-shifts that take place
during their drafting (see e.g. Johnson, 2009; Källkvist & Hult, 2016; Wodak, 2000). Simi-
larly, their implementation is not a linear process, but a complex and often paradoxical
negotiation between the provisions of the policy and the agencies of the local actors
tasked with enacting it (see e.g. Hornberger, 2005; Johnson & Johnson, 2015; Levinson,
Sutton, & Winstead, 2009).
The Resolution for a National Language Policy Programme for the years 2014–2018
(below: RLP-14), a Slovene language strategy, is an example of this complexity.
Adopted by the Slovene parliament in the summer of 2013, the document had been
drafted for two years, and had been worked on by several different groups of linguists,
empowered to do so by the Slovene government. It was drafted under two separate gov-
ernments, finalised under a third and implemented under a fourth, and has been marked
by the different political agendas of all these. Finally, it was the site of a major power
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Kristof Savski email@example.com
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING, 2017
VOL. 18, NO. 3, 283–302
struggle within the field of Slovene linguistics, where two influential groups both saw an
opportunity in RLP-14 to secure their own positions.
This article begins by outlining the key theoretical cornerstones that underpin an analy-
sis of struggle and instability in language policy. Then, it outlines the design of the histori-
cal ethnographic study (see e.g. Vaughan, 2004) that was conducted to trace the trajectory
of RLP-14. It seeks to answer the following questions: How did the text of RLP-14 develop
during drafting, and how did any changes correlate with shifts in the political landscape
and the different authors contributing to the text? How was RLP-14 interpreted after its
adoption, and how did on-going power struggles in Slovene linguistics influence the differ-
ent readings of the text?
Language policy, struggle and instability
Writing a language policy is an activity which involves the meeting of different actors,
hailing from different backgrounds and pursuing often different if not completely opposite
agendas. These differences can in part be attributed to ideology, as policy not only pre-
scribes action but also legitimates it by constructing a particular image of social reality
(Levinson et al., 2009), but are often also related to the different understandings of
social issues that are linked to the practices of particular social fields. Studies which
have examined policymaking in detail (see e.g. Hult & Källkvist, 2016; Källkvist & Hult,
2016; Wodak, 2000) highlight the fact that struggle between actors and views often dom-
inates drafting, and that the reconciliation of different voices in the final version of the
policy is not always possible (see also below).
Recent approaches to (language) policy have highlighted that the same dynamics of
struggle also applies to how policies are implemented. Yanow (2000) highlights that
policies are “read”differently by different audiences, depending on membership in
communities (see also Stone, 2012; Wagenaar, 2014). This enables the local actors
charged with putting a policy into action to craft interpretive spaces when appropriat-
ing the different courses of action that policies codify (see Hornberger, 2005; Johnson
& Johnson, 2015), a tension which is often resolved by empowered individuals who are
positioned to prescribe a preferred interpretation of policy, or “arbiters”(Johnson,
Engagement with policy –either in its creation or implementation –is therefore seen as
a site of negotiation, and therefore, as a discursive action. In a broad sense, each policy can
be seen as embedded into a broader discourse surrounding it, which is polyphonic and
which transcends several fields (Reisigl & Wodak, 2015). These are seen as sites of
forces in that they contain a particular distribution of capital (or power), but they are
also sites of struggle to change this status quo and redistribute the capital (Bourdieu,
1993, p. 30). Fields are centred on a particular activity and have, through their develop-
ment, acquired a particular amount of autonomy within society, reflected in the existence
of field-specific markers of achievement –means of acquiring capital (Maton, 2005). Such
development is often fraught with struggle and instability. As Bourdieu himself acknowl-
edged, while fields themselves represent relatively stable autonomous spaces, this stability
in practice represents a status quo, which as such is a consequence of historical struggle,
and is therefore also subject to transformative struggles in the present and future (Bour-
284 K. SAVSKI
The notion of field is highly relevant to research about policy, particularly for
approaches which incorporate the notion of discourse in their understanding of policy
(e.g. Barakos & Unger, 2016). Policies are multidimensional, and as a textual genre they
are defined not only by the ideologies of those who produce them, but also by the different
field-specific experiences that form the habitus of its writers and readers. A language
policy, for instance, may be viewed differently by politicians, public officials, linguists, tea-
chers and differently still by the general public. Such varied understandings often lead to
struggles over different interpretations, and have the potential to derail the seemingly
linear policy process.
In positivist approaches, policy is most often explained as a cyclical process which
begins with a planning stage and ends with implementation, before being restarted
again (Jann & Wegrich, 2007; Pülzl & Treib, 2007). While this model is not without
merit, it notably fails to take into account the agencies of local actors in policy implemen-
tation (Jann & Wegrich, 2007; Johnson & Johnson, 2015), nor does it take into account
ideological conflicts where the very nature or existence of the “problem”a policy is
intended to resolve is itself contested (Turnbull, 2008).
Most important to the present discussion, however, is the failure of the cycle-based
models to take into account the stop–start effects of political instability. As discussed by
Levinson et al. (2009), a prerequisite for policy action to take place is the existence of a
“will to policy”, either through bare necessity –see Birkland (1997,2006) for a review
of how aviation security policy in the US has changed in response to major terrorist
events –or as a result of the increased popularity of particular solutions, such as
phonics in literacy classes (see Papen, 2015). With political instability –shifts in govern-
ment, elections and personnel changes in key positions –all these factors are accentuated.
As existing actors leave and new actors take their place in the policy process, old agendas
are replaced by new ones, and the policy cycle becomes broken up (see e.g. Johnson, 2013;
Lo Bianco, 2008).
In cases where struggles and instability affect policy this has a direct effect on the texts
associated with mediating policy across contexts. The focus of this article is on a Slovene
language strategy, a genre common across different contexts (see e.g. Unger, 2013), which
is broadly intended to set a common state-wide agenda. While such texts come to be
associated with the authority of the state and its legal order –which, in Goffman’s
(1981, pp. 144–145) terms, become the principals of the text –traces of the actors who
compiled the words that constitute the policy continue to be identifiable. The following
section presents the historical ethnographic approach I followed in order to describe
how different actors contributed to the policy text, and how these contributions reflected
changing political agendas and competing interests.
Method and data
The key analytical stance of this article is that a “policy document”, seen as a text
which mediates policy action in the state, whatever broad form it may take, is ulti-
mately a fluid entity, and that its analysis should be sensitive to this fact. In the first
place, its fluidity can be seen through a diachronic analysis of its development from
a sentence in a political programme, through its various draft forms and ultimately
into its final officially adopted form. This final text is therefore a collage of different
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 285
pieces of language, contributed to by different authors at different times and in differ-
ent places (see e.g. Wodak, 2000). As an inherently polyphonic and dialogical entity, a
policy therefore requires a sui generis approach to data collection which is able to
capture such dynamics (cf. Savski, in press).
On the other hand, I assume in this paper that policy, as a complex array of interwoven
social practices, is mediated not only by a single “policy text”, but through a range
of different texts and practices. Together, I see these as single elements within a broader
discourse about policy, a collection of semiotic practices which is constituted by and con-
stitutive of policy meaning (Savski, 2016a; see also Reisigl & Wodak, 2015). A discourse
analysis of policy therefore entails analysing a disparate collection of texts belonging to
different genres and fields, such as policy communication (Krzyżanowski, 2013), political
speeches and media reports (Koller & Davidson, 2008), and others (see below).
My approach to data collection in this research therefore aimed to construct as broad a
data-set as possible: as many possible sources as possible were explored and, where suit-
able, integrated into the study. A major reason for this was my aim to overcome the fact
that I had little access to some venues where the “discourse about policy”unfolded. The
causes for this were purely practical and typical for all fieldwork. For example, some
events I might have attended were inaccessible due to teaching commitments or lack of
funding, or simply because they had not been publicised. In one case (a public consultation
about a new dictionary, see below), my request to access a recording of the event was
denied by the organiser. Therefore, a first-hand account of the actions taken by different
actors in relation to a policy (see for instance Källkvist & Hult, 2016) was not possible.
However, many of the key sites where policymaking actions took place were ultimately
made partially accessible to me through the narratives provided by textual descriptions,
or by my interviewees (see below).
As these narratives are however one-sided accounts of events, they are not taken at face
value wherever possible. Where two or more distinctly different narratives existed, they
were contrasted and integrated into the study in this form. This study is therefore a
form of historical ethnography as defined by Vaughan (2004, p. 321): “an attempt to
elicit structure and culture from the documents created prior to an event in order to
understand how people in another time and place made sense of things”. This approach
has elsewhere been referred to as trace ethnography, due to the attention it pays to docu-
mentary traces of social practices (Geiger & Ribes, 2011).
Historical ethnography can be seen as a hybrid of two sets of methodological principles.
It draws on ethnography in that it sees the researcher as an actor in the field who is actively
involved in the search for and, in some cases, production of data (e.g. research interviews).
It also shares its primary goal with ethnography, which is to construct a comprehensive
account of the social practices that shape a given analytical setting. As it approaches
this goal from a temporal distance, however, it relies on different types of historical
sources, including ones which are direct products of particular social practices (primary
sources such as policy documents) as well as others which merely report on those practices
(secondary sources such as media texts).
To enable triangulation between different sources and thus the reconstruction of a
coherent and detailed narrative (Wodak, de Cillia, Reisigl, & Liebhart, 2009, pp. 7–10),
the data-set collected for the purposes of this study consisted of several different
286 K. SAVSKI
sources, all of which were collected in Slovene and translated into English by myself where
(1) Various types of documents were collected, including four different versions of the
policy text, and additionally the different proposals, responses and comments sub-
mitted to state institutions by members of the public, related studies and reports,
decrees and invitations, as well as parliamentary reports and amendments.
(2) Different media reports that were directly linked to the policy, either during its draft-
ing or implementation, were collected from major Slovene media outlets.
(3) Video recordings and transcripts of parliamentary sessions were analysed.
(4) Email correspondence relating to the policy was collected from a public mailing list
for Slovene linguists and literary theorists.
(5) Detailed open-ended interviews were conducted with seven actors who had played
key roles in writing and implementing RLP-14 (see Table 1). The primary purpose
of these interviews was to collect the reflections of those who had been involved in
the policy process. Because the interviews were conducted after the events actors
were discussing, they should not be seen as objective first-hand accounts, but as sub-
jective narratives which were marked both by the ways in which actors had rational-
ised their own roles (“post-hoc coherence”, see e.g. Wodak, 2011, p. 116) as well as,
potentially, their wish to project a certain image of themselves in my research.
The differences between these various types of text necessitated a pluralist approach to
data analysis. In the first stage, I conducted an inductive content analysis of the data in
several rounds to identify key emergent themes (see Hsieh & Shannon, 2005; Krippendorf,
1980). This then allowed me to identify key texts and text fragments for more detailed lin-
guistic analysis. At this second level, I followed the methodology proposed by the dis-
course-historical approach to critical discourse analysis (see e.g. Reisigl & Wodak, 2015;
Wodak et al., 2009) by focussing on five key ways of deploying linguistic means,
namely naming of different actors and actions, the attribution of qualities and agency,
the arguments put forward by different actors, the means with which the force of
Table 1. List of interviewees.
Head of the team which wrote D-1
Department of Slovene Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Professor Marko Snoj Member of the team which redrafted D-1 into D-2; Director of an institution involved in the
implementation of RLP-14
Director, Institute for Slovene Language, Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences
Majda Potrata Involved in debating, amending and adopting RLP-14 in parliament
Chair of the Committee for Culture, Slovene National Assembly
Dr László Göncz Involved in debating, amending and adopting RLP-14 in parliament
Chair of the Committee for National Communities
Dr Simona BergočResponsible for administrating the drafting of RLP-14 and its initial implementation
Head of the Department of Slovene Language, Ministry of Culture
Dr UrošGrilc Responsible for administrating the drafting of RLP-14 and its initial implementation
Minister of Culture (2013–14)
Coordinator of a consortium involved in the implementation of RLP-14
Department of Translation Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
In accordance with the ethics guidelines of the institution where this research was conducted (Lancaster University, United
Kingdom), interviewees were provided detailed project information sheets. All were informed of their right to anonymity
and all decided to waive this right and be identified in the research project and related publications.
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 287
claims is modified and the existence of different perspectives or voices in the discourse
In this broad analysis, the policy text was treated as a point of reference against which
other sources of data were compared. I paid special attention to how the policy document
developed through the drafting process, focussing on the additions and deletions, as well
as re-orderings and replacements, made at different times (cf. Wodak, 2000). I analysed
how these changes reflected who was empowered to make them at different moments
in the drafting of the policy, and how such empowerment reflected changes in the
Slovene political landscape. Finally, I analysed how the implementation of the document
was marked by how fragmented it had become through these different changes, and how
the different interests that had competed over the contents of the document now contin-
ued to struggle over its interpretation.
Planning language policy at times of instability and struggle
This section deconstructs the complex development of the Slovene Resolution for a
National Language Policy Programme (below: RLP-14) by focussing on three key
periods (key events are summarised in Figure 1). The first is the initial planning and draft-
ing stage, when an initial draft of RLP-14 was conceived under a centre-left government as
part of a new agenda in language policy. The second section examines how RLP-14 was
temporarily re-envisioned under a conservative government as a continuation of previous
nationalist language policy, and how it came to be at the centre of an inter-institutional
conflict. The third section summarises how this conflict was temporarily resolved when
the document was finalised in parliament.
RLP-14 as an intended move away from previous practice (2010–2011)
The first stage of planning and drafting RLP-14 took place during 2010–2011, under a
centre-left government led by Prime Minister Borut Pahor (Social Democrat), admini-
strated by the Ministry of Culture under Majda Širca (Zares, a liberal democrat party).
This was a first in Slovene language policy, which has traditionally been a conservative
project in Slovene politics. The prime exemplar of this is The Public Use of Slovene Act
(PUS) of 2004, passed under a liberal democrat government, but authored mainly by con-
servative linguist and politician Janez Dular during his time as Minister of Culture in
1996–1997. PUS was based on a conservative-nationalist language ideology, and was
aimed at maintaining a monolingual public sphere, with punitive measures such as finan-
cial penalties intended to enforce this (see e.g. Gorjanc, 2009).
However, the implementation of these measures in PUS has been largely unsuccessful
because of the compromises which were made to make it broadly politically acceptable.
Originally, the Act had included provisions for a Department of Slovene Language
(DSL), an independent body within the Government of Slovenia which was to be directly
responsible for implementing these measures. However, these provisions were removed
from the bill as it was being negotiated during 2003–2004, and as a result the enforcement
of the Act was instead delegated to various different bodies, such as the Inspectorate for
Culture and Media. Due to this, its implementation has been largely sporadic (Meden
& Zadnikar, 2009).
288 K. SAVSKI
Figure 1. Overview of key language policy actors and events between 2001 and 2014.
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 289
Paradoxically, while no provisions for such a body exist in PUS, the DSL has existed
since 2000. It was established by the short-lived conservative Bajuk government, with
Dular –author of the first version of PUS –as its Head. Since its establishment, the
DSL has seen its official status progressively worsen, in the first instance when it
became a sub-section of the Ministry of Culture in 2002 under the centre-left government
of Janez Drnovšek. Another came in 2011, after Dular’s retirement, and led to the resig-
nation of his successor Velemir Gjurin. The effect of these reorganisations has been to pro-
gressively reduce the number of officials employed at the DSL, with the most recent one
meaning that only three people were employed there as of 2014. As explained by its
current head, Simona Bergoč, the DSL has also had issues with both staffing as well as
the lack of legal backing for its work:
[Interview with Bergoč] [O]ne colleague is a Slovene linguist, but two are not [ …] High
workforce mobility is characteristic of this department, officials come and go, and often
these are officials who are transferred from other, higher positions for political reasons.
[Interview with Bergoč] We are not a sanctioning body, we are not an inspectorate, we merely
alert others to violations or respond to anyone who comes to us with a question from our
area, we interpret regulations, but if there are violations, we hand them over to the inspec-
torate, which many think is not very efficient.
However, one of the achievements of the DSL had been to draft the Resolution for a
National Language Policy Programme 2007–2011 (RLP-07). Under the provisions of
PUS, the Slovene state is bound to maintaining an active language policy, and the intention
of RLP-07 was to set a strategy that all the institutions of the state could refer to. This
document, which was authored mainly by Janez Dular while the conservative Janša gov-
ernment was in power (2004–2008), essentially followed the same ideology that PUS had,
and was focussed on maintaining the status of Slovene as the exclusive language of the
public sphere in Slovenia (see Gorjanc, 2009; Savski, 2016b; Stabej, 2006).
With the provisions RLP-07 set to run out at the end of 2011, preparations for a new
programme began during 2010, with two preparatory studies being commissioned by the
DSL. However, when Gjurin resigned in early 2011, preparations for the new document
were interrupted, and it was not until the summer of that year that a drafting team was
appointed to write the new programme. Linguist Marko Stabej was approached to
gather and lead this drafting team by Stojan Peljko, Secretary to the Minister of Culture:
[Interview with Stabej] Well, I was essentially given a free hand [with regards to the team]. I
also told [secretary Peljko] that, given that time was limited, we were not going to follow
some sort of proportional principle in terms of regions, institutions, and so on [ …]So
the team was appointed to cover the different areas of language policy that I thought, and
still think, that, that language policy is more than just protecting Slovene, much more, and
that policy documents have to be drafted with that in mind.
In this extract, Stabej, speaking two years after these events, describes his priorities when
choosing the members of the team, which was later to become highly signiﬁcant. The team
he collected included seven linguists from academic institutions and one public ofﬁcial
(see Table 2). What was notable about this team, and what later became highly signiﬁcant,
was that only two of its members came from the traditional centres of Slovene linguistics,
the Institute for Slovene Language at the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Depart-
ments of Slovene Studies at the Universities of Ljubljana and Maribor. Instead, several
290 K. SAVSKI
team members came from institutions which have more recently emerged as centres for
linguistic research, such as the Jožef Stefan Institute (a public institute for science and
technology), and other Faculties and Departments at principal Slovene universities.
Soon after the team was appointed, Simona Bergoč, Stabej’s former PhD student, was
appointed to the position of Head of DSL.
Just as the appointments of key actors responsible for the drafting process drew mainly
outside the then-mainstream institutions in Slovene linguistics, the document that Stabej’s
team produced (D-1) reflected this in terms of its contents. As analysed in detail in Savski
(2016b), D-1 proposed a dramatic break from previous language policy practice, and from
the conservative-nationalist language ideology behind it. Most notably, D-1 proposed a
positive attitude towards multilingualism –with regard to minority languages as well as
foreign languages in education –which was much more closely aligned with recent EU
language policy (see e.g. Krzyżanowski & Wodak, 2011) than Slovene language policy
had previously been. The text also explicitly distanced itself from the prescriptivist attitude
of previous language policy (for a detailed analysis, see Savski, 2016b).
Political change and institutional struggles (2012)
It was at this point that political instability began to play a major role in the planning of
RLP-14. As the Pahor government attempted to alleviate the effects of the Eurozone crisis
in 2010–2011, the four-party coalition that formed it slowly began to dissolve. When a
snap election was eventually held in November 2011, major changes occurred in the
Slovene political sphere. Established parties across the spectrum suffered, with two out
of the four centre-left coalition partners being wiped out completely. The election was
won by “Zoran Janković’s Party”,anad hoc political formation created only months
before the election by Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković. However, Janković’s inability to
form a coalition meant that, after a further period of instability, conservative leader
Janez Janša (previously PM in 2004–2008) was elected to the head of a centre-right
coalition in January 2012.
These changes occurred just as D-1 was being finalised, and further delayed its progress
as the newly incumbent government familiarised itself with its contents. When D-1 was
made public in April 2012, it soon became clear that a major part of the Slovene linguistic
sphere disagreed with the proposals made by Stabej’s team. More than 60 individual texts
commenting on the document were received by the DSL, many of them highly critical to
the choices made in various parts of the document. At the same time, several articles in the
Table 2. Drafting team members.
Professor Marko Stabej (team
Department of Slovene Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Dr Helena Dobrovoljc Institute of Slovene Language, Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences
Darja ErbičDepartment of European Affairs, Government of Slovenia
Dr TomažErjavec Jožef Štefan Institute, University of Ljubljana
Dr Ina Ferbežar Centre for Slovene as a Second or Foreign Language, Department of Slovene Studies,
Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
Professor Monika Kalin Golob Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Dr Simon Krek Jožef Štefan Institute, University of Ljubljana and Trojina, Institute for Applied Slovene
Professor Martina Ožbot Department of Romance Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 291
Slovene mainstream media were also published, again containing critiques of D-1 by
The following extract is taken from one of the documents received by the Ministry of
Culture during this time:
The text, despite its declarative respect for “historical resources and tradition”, excludes from
developmental visions of Slovene as a first language the traditional, but for many still current
understanding of national cultural phenomena as co-creators of national being, and therefore
those, which we are bound to care for primarily in our own state, as no one else will do it on
our behalf. The awareness that language is the reason that “the Slovene story even happened”
has in recent past been the moving force behind efforts for establishing a more or less suitable
legal status for Slovene in key areas of social life. Let’s remember the efforts to use Slovene in
the army, or to prevent common core education in Yugoslavia. (Comments by the Slavic
Studies Society of Slovenia, April 2012)
One of the most significant features of D-1 when compared to previous language pol-
icies was its positive valuation of cultural diversity and multilingualism (Savski, 2016b). As
exemplified by the comments above, submitted jointly by the Slavic Studies Society, the
traditional social vehicle of Slovene linguists, the predominant reading of this shift in
direction by established linguists was negative, focussing on the potential repercussions
for Slovene. As seen here, one of the key discursive strategies for these critiques was to
invoke “heroic”historical narratives, in this case related to efforts to protect the status
of Slovene in Yugoslavia against perceived unitarian language education policies.
Subsequent to this criticism, new Minister Žiga Turk appointed a second team to
redraft the document. This new team was completely different from the one which had
drafted D-1, and its members came almost entirely from mainstream institutions (see
Table 3). Most notably, two members, Kozma Ahačičand Marko Snoj, came from the
Institute of Slovene Language at the Academy of Arts and Sciences (ISL), which was to
play a major role in later events (see below). Janez Dular, previous Head of the DSL
and main author of the documents that the writers of D-1 had attempted to distance them-
selves from, was also appointed to the team. Subsequently, two additional members were
added to the team, Simon Krek and Miro Romih, having persuaded the Minister that
experts from the field of language technologies were needed.
While Krek’s inclusion injected some continuity between the two teams, the changes
that the second group made to D-1 were wide ranging, and constitute a second version
of the document (D-2). This new text followed the discursive structure of PUS and
RLP-07 closely, by stressing the role of standard Slovene as a symbol of national unity
Table 3. Re-drafting team members.
Original members (August 2012)
Dr Kozma AhačičInstitute of Slovene Language, Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences
Dr Janez Dular Retired Head of the Department of Slovene Language, Ministry of Culture, Government of
Department of Slovene Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Maribor
Marta Kocjan-Barle Retired proofreader and editor at DZS (State publishing company of Slovenia)
Professor Marko Snoj Institute of Slovene Language, Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences
Additional members (December 2012)
Dr Simon Krek Jožef Štefan Institute, University of Ljubljana and Trojina, Institute for Applied Slovene Studies
Dr Miro Romih Amebis Software
292 K. SAVSKI
and by resorting to the construction of threats to the language and nation (Savski, 2016b).
In this discourse strategy, a threat may take the form of an external force (such as the EU,
see below, or globalisation, migration, etc.), but often it is constructed as coming from
within the national community itself, most often as Sajovic (2003) argues, from speakers
who are seen as sources of potential damage to the language. The traditional solution to
this was legislative linguistic prescription, based on a highly idealised view of language,
and often including elements of xenophobic linguistic purism (Kalin Golob, 2009). As
indicated below, the redrafting team shifted D-2 to follow these trends very closely
(additions are underlined and deletions crossed out by the author):
The right of individuals to use their own language and to form linguistic communities is a
fundamental part of guaranteeing basic human rights. Alongside this, Slovene language
policy works from the assumption that the Slovene language and language community do
not require protection based on explicit legal prohibition of the use of other languages, as
some language policy programmes and public opinions in the past were understood must
take appropriate measures to ensure that Slovene remains the main voluntary choice for
native speakers in the largest possible array of private and public uses, while where experience
has shown that some speakers of Slovene are prepared to unjustifiably neglect their mother
tongue, the possibility of legally binding prescription of use in certain situations is not to be a
Several features indicate the presupposed essential bond between nation and language in this
extract, including the attribution of speakers to a home (the home state, culture and
language), or the use of the emotionally loaded term mother tongue (which consistently
replaced terms such as ﬁrst language in D-2). This extract illustrates an ongoing dialogue
with D-1, where the possibility of legislation requiring the use of Slovene was dismissed
in favour of motivating speakers for its use (p. 3), while in D-2 the possibility is explicitly
allowed –though the intertextual reference to D-1 is again made in vague terms, through
the use of the impersonal structure is not to be renounced. To justify this claim, an internal
threat is constructed through the use of calculated vagueness, realised here through the use
of indeterminate quantiﬁers such as some and the general omission of actors, for example, in
experience shows, where experience is not attributed to any actor in particular.
However, what emerged from the revisions made in D-2 also indicates that the text had
become the object of a major power struggle in Slovene linguistics. At the heart of the
struggle was not ideology in its superficial sense, as a set of hard-coded rhetorical positions
about “hot”topics like multilingualism and diversity, but the interests of different stake-
holders –institutions and individuals –and the arena in which it was played out were the
parts of D-1 and D-2 which set out priorities for state funding in the area of linguistic
research. D-1 had proposed a de facto liberalisation by proposing a body be established
with the following aims.
The adoption of a foundational strategy of development of contemporary language resources
(5-10 years) at the national level, which would guarantee actors in this area equal partici-
pation in an internationally comparable development [ …]
These proposals reflected the composition of the team who had written it, who were
mainly employed outside the traditional institutions who benefit from continuous
research funding. These provisions were removed from D-2, which much more closely
mirrored the interests of the Slovene linguistic mainstream, particularly of the Institute
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 293
for Slovene Language at the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences (ISL). Most notably,
this was reflected in the changes made to a section regarding Standardisation:
All this indicates that there is an urgent need for a language counselling body, which would
function through an organised freely accessible online portal with as much linguistic infor-
mation about Slovene as possible, with which it would be possible to reach a broad audience
of lay and expert language users. The foundational resource of standardisation, the Slovene
Orthography, is, following tradition and good practice, adopted by the Slovene Academy of
Arts and Sciences.
Elsewhere, changes made in D-2 also closely favoured the ISL. For instance, a large part of
the section on Language Description was replaced by text which Marko Snoj, director of
the ISL, had proposed in his own comments on D-1. Rather than corpus linguistics and
language technologies (which several authors of D-1 specialise in), the new text fore-
grounded the need for research in historical linguistics and dialectology (which closely
mirrors the specialisation of the ISL).
While the ISL therefore came to represent the establishment in Slovene linguistics, the
challengers to this dominance were mainly associated with Trojina, a private research
institute founded by Marko Stabej and Simon Krek, two members of the team that had
produced D-1, as well as Vojko Gorjanc (who would take a prominent role in later
events, see below). In part, this association was sparked by Marko Snoj himself, who
made the following comments in a letter published in the daily newspaper Delo:
Even whoever is not familiar with conditions in Slovene linguistics will recognise a tendency
to privatise the development of foundational language manuals, perhaps even the Orthogra-
phy, supported by a seemingly democratic decision-making process, following which as
many public funds devoted to their production as possible would be transferred to a
private institution which has not produced any linguistic description so far, while those
who have continuously developed our foundational language manuals will be left to languish
by the wayside. Do we really want a privatisation story, where Slovene is the target? (Delo,21
These remarks make strategic use of interdiscursivity: by linking the proposals made in D-
1 to the discourse about privatisation in Slovenia, Snoj links any calls to liberalise academic
linguistics to the exploitation of public funds characteristic of post-socialist Slovenia. This
positions his public institution, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, as the victim, and
Trojina as the victimiser, with the dichotomy extending to the two distinct groups of
actors which had afﬁliated themselves with the two antagonistic institutions, and which
had become associated with two distinct language ideologies.
Further shifts, redrafting and a compromise (2013)
D-2 was presented to the public in January 2013. Concurrently, more political changes
occurred and shifted the trajectory of the text. In December 2012, both PM Janez Janša
as well as opposition leader Zoran Jankovićwere implicated in corruption scandals, spark-
ing protests across the country. Eventually, Janša’s coalition dissolved and he received a
vote of no confidence in parliament. As Jankovićcould still not assemble a coalition
with himself as PM, his party –now renamed Positive Slovenia –nominated Alenka Bra-
tušek to lead the new government. Bratušek assembled a centre-left coalition and took
power in February.
294 K. SAVSKI
These changes also meant that a new Minister of Culture arrived. Immediately upon his
arrival, UrošGrilc identified language policy as an area of concern due to the hold-ups that
had occurred with the drafting of RLP-14, and set a clear agenda for his ministry:
[Interview with Grilc] We really showed some will and gave a vision for how we could go
beyond this antagonism [ …] I have to go back to the [document] and the decision that
was made, or the direction that was given by the [document] and that I still advocate, that
the key is to ensure the participation of all key stakeholders active in this area [ …]
Upon his arrival, a third round of revisions was made, in which those parts of D-2 which
made speciﬁc mention of the Academy were removed. Marko Snoj’s account of these
changes signals a different understanding of the Ministry’s role under Grilc, of partisan-
ship rather than impartiality:
[Interview with Snoj] When [D-1] was amended according to the public consultation, [D-2]
went into public consultation again, and only Trojina [ …] made comments, and then the
Ministry on their own initiative integrated their comments, without asking [the redrafting
team] anything. I don’t know whether you [the researcher] know this spicy detail. [ …]
So much for the impartial nature of the Ministry is what I want to say.
This third version of the policy (D-3) is different from the previous one in only this point,
with no other changes having been made to the revised text produced by the re-drafting
team. D-3 was approved by the Government of Slovenia and submitted to parliament in
May 2013, where a further round of negotiations took place. The chair of the Committee
for Culture, Social Democrat Majda Potrata, also remarked on how she became aware of
the different interests surrounding this text at this point:
[Interview with Potrata] It’s true that there were individuals who began to speak out, who
asked me for a meeting, who were members of drafting teams and were unhappy with the
work of the drafting teams, or were particularly worried about something. And here it
became clear with these meetings with individuals that the [document] was going to be
the site of a clash of different interests.
This clash occurred at the main session of the Committee on 28 June 2013, when the
members of the committee voted on the text and the various amendments proposed.
Two amendments were proposed, one by the coalition and one by the opposition, both
with the aim of resolving the inter-institutional conﬂict above. After a protracted debate
and a brief interruption of the session, during which solutions were discussed in and
out of public view, a compromise amendment was drafted and later added to the text.
The following additions were made to the section on Standardisation:
The foundational resource of standardisation, the Slovene Orthography, is, following tra-
dition, good practice, in accordance with its legal obligations and in cooperation with all
institutions in the area of language planning, adopted by the Slovene Academy of Arts
and Sciences. In line with its legal obligations, it [the Academy] also cooperates in the devel-
opment of all other base language manuals of Slovene with normative content.
This paragraph was added in the same exact place where the redrafting team had pre-
viously inserted its own speciﬁcation for the role of the Academy (see above). However,
while the text granted the Academy an expanded role as compared to what had been orig-
inally included in D-2, it also bound it to cooperate with other institutions. While the text
was a synthesis of the interests of different linguistic institutions, it was formulated as a
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 295
compromise between the visions of the two key non-linguists at the committee meeting,
Potrata (pro-Academy) and Grilc (pro-liberalisation).
Even in its finalised form, RLP-14 was therefore a hybrid text, a sequence of fragments
composed by different authors and representing different interests. The sections on strat-
egy in linguistic research, which saw continued revision throughout the drafting, are
examples of this heteroglossic hybridity, and also of a Bakhtinian dialogicality which
had become a prominent feature of the text as a result of the antagonisms between the
different writers of the policy (see Bakhtin, 1981; Lemke, 2005).
However, the genesis of policy documents also involves several temporary “calcifica-
tions”, when the text becomes associated with an institutional principal rather than the
concrete actors who had authored it. In this case, this first happened at the level of the
Ministry of Culture, then at the level of the Government and finally, when the programme
was adopted in the form of a resolution by the Slovene parliament, it became associated
with the state itself, as part of its legal order. This poses the following question: does
the hybridity of the policy text impact on how it is read even after its association with
an institutional principal? I address this in the following section.
Policy implementation and struggle
When RLP-14 was officially adopted by parliament in July 2013, a temporary compromise
was therefore imposed on Slovene linguistics. However, this was soon to end, as a major
debate began about the need for a new dictionary of Slovene. The debate was sparked by
the publication of a proposal by three authors, Simon Krek, Iztok Kosem and Polona
Gantar, to replace the Dictionary of Standard Slovene, based on data collected during the
1960s, with an online corpus-based dictionary (see Krek, Kosem, & Gantar, 2013). As dis-
cussed above, Krek had been a member of the team which drafted D-1, and both he and
Kosem were employed by Trojina. Gantar, on the other hand, was a researcher at the Insti-
tute for Slovene Language (ISL) at the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences, but had
worked with Krek, Kosem and other researchers affiliated with Trojina on a major research
project in 2008–2013.
The proposal was in part made on the basis of this joint project.
Initially, the media coverage of Krek et al. (2013) focussed on presenting the details of
the proposal: the weekly magazine Pogledi published an interview with Krek about the
proposal and the daily newspaper Delo also included a feature article about the need
for a new dictionary which confronted the views of several linguists as well as Simona
Bergoč, Head of the Department at Slovene Language at the Ministry of Culture.
However, the debate soon turned to the same issue as had occurred during the drafting
of RLP-14, of institutional responsibility. This was sparked by Marko Snoj, director of the
ISL, who described a group of 15 academics who had supported the proposal as “part of
the interest circle of Trojina”(Delo, 21 September 2013). These remarks were soon recon-
textualised in more explicit form in another daily newspaper, Dnevnik,bycommentator
[Those speaking in favour of the] Academy quietly add that several supporters of Trojina did
their PhDs with Marko Stabej, among them Krek and Simona Bergoč, Head of the Depart-
ment for Slovene Language at the Ministry of Culture, and that this is an influential lobby
with academic and financial interests. [ …] Trojina is a non-profit institute, but it’s possible
296 K. SAVSKI
to transfer taxpayer funds to private pockets in that way as well, they insist. (Dnevnik,14
Ivelja’s arguments closely follow those presented previously by Snoj: actors afﬁliated with
Trojina are attempting to abuse language policy to obtain public funds for their private
interests, making an implicit link to other discourses about the abuse of public funds
and corruption in Slovenia. Snoj had previously presented this argument when D-1 was
published (see above) and has reiterated them on other occasions. Ivelja’s article was fol-
lowed by several more pieces in Dnevnik in the next few weeks: a further article written by
Ivelja, which summarised the position of the Ministry of Culture (15 October), a response
by Bergočdebunking the claims in the article from 14 October (16 October), another
comment article by Ivelja about the situation (16 October) and ﬁnally a response by
Krek and Kosem debunking the claims made in the initial article of 14 October (2 Novem-
ber). This dynamic interchange led the Rtvslo.si portal, which summarised the debate on 2
November, to use the term “academic war”when describing the situation.
It was therefore against a highly polarised background that the implementation of RLP-
14 began. As discussed above, UrošGrilc, the Minister of Culture, had taken an active
stance with regard to the drafting of RLP-14, and had been instrumental in negotiating
a compromise version of the text with regard to the role of different institutions. The
stance of the Ministry of Culture under Grilc continued to be focussed on achieving
cooperation between the two sides:
[Interview with Grilc] In essence, this resolution said that the predisposition for any public
[financial] support to [the dictionary] project is to bring together all the key stakeholders in
cooperation, irrespective of what the ministries then agree [in terms of who provides
To facilitate this, the Ministry organised a one-day public consultation about the new dic-
tionary on 12 February 2014. The invitation to this event contained several clues to the
continued stance of Grilc and his ministry:
You are invited to participate in the Public Consultation about the New Dictionary of Con-
temporary Slovene, which will take place on 12 February 2014 at the Ministry of Culture.
The new dictionary of Slovene is also foregrounded in the initial sections of [RLP-14]. [ …]
In [RLP-14] we committed ourselves to joining our forces (Ministry of Culture, Ministry of
Education, Agency for Research, Academy of Arts and Sciences, universities and research
institutions) to create a new dictionary. The consultation is designed to be a concrete step
in a common direction [ …](Invitation to a public consultation about the new dictionary
of Slovene, Ministry of Culture, 12 December 2013)
The most notable feature of this invitation was the use of the inclusive we, through which
RLP-14 was strategically positioned as a common commitment rather than a Ministry-
enforced compromise. The consultation itself was organised as a mini conference, with
a number of different speakers giving presentations, including a number of actors who
had previously had visible roles: Marko Stabej, Simon Krek, Marko Snoj, Janez Dular
and Iztok Kosem. An invited plenary lecture was also given by Vojko Gorjanc, co-
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 297
founder of Trojina, and previously uninvolved in the drafting of RLP-14. In addition to
these, Ministry ofﬁcials also presented the prospects for funding to be awarded to the
project from EU cohesion funds. At the end of the consultation, all linguists involved
signed a joint statement of intent to resolve their differences and agree on the details
for a dictionary project that would involve both sides.
However, this was to be only a temporary fix, as indicated by the events that followed.
Immediately after the consultation, Snoj sent out an official invitation to cooperate in the
creation of a new dictionary to a number of different actors, including Krek and Gorjanc.
The invitation proposed that Snoj’s ISL take the leading role in the project, and that the
Academic Council of the ISL be given a tie-breaker role, using RLP-14 as a means of legit-
imating the latter proposal:
[…] Where we do not manage to find a common solution (we are sure there will not be
many and that they will not be important), we will leave the final decision to the Academic
Council of the Institute [of Slovene Language], where the Head of the Institute [Marko Snoj]
will abstain from voting. In this way, the Academy, whose participation in the preparation of
the new dictionary is anticipated in RLP-14, will also have an important say about the con-
tents, and the Institute will also take all external responsibility for the quality execution of the
project. (Invitation to Cooperate, Marko Snoj, 24 February 2014)
Snoj’s invitation directly drew on the text which was amended into RLP-14 in parliament
(see above), but interpreted it essentially as specifying a clearly dominant role for the
Academy and his institute. However, a response to this invitation, signed by 16 linguists
including Krek, Kosem, Gorjanc and Stabej, rejected this interpretation:
Firstly, the Academic Council of the Institute is part of the Academy’s Research Centre, not
the Academy itself, and by doing this Dr Snoj is giving one of the consortium partners the
guarantee of a veto on any decisions consensually adopted within the consortium. Secondly,
[RLP-14] mentions the Academy as a participant in the preparation of all language manuals
in the context of normative questions, which is sensible, as the Academy is supposed to offi-
cially adopt the orthography. Following the text of [RLP-14], the Academy can comment on
any solutions in the future proposal, and only those which are linked to the norm, only as the
Academy and not as the Academic Council of one of the institutes which form the Academy’s
Research Centre. (Statement regarding the Invitation to Cooperate, 16 authors, 25 February
The difference between the two interpretations of RLP-14 is effectively a question of
textual semantics, or more precisely, of what the mention of Academy in the text refers
to. For Snoj, the word Academy is an overarching term which includes not only the
Academy of Arts and Sciences, but also the Research Centre which was founded by the
Academy in 1981, and which links a number of different institutes which had previously
simply been attached to the Academy. However, for the 16 signatories of the response to
the invitation, the Academy and the Research Centre are two separate bodies, and all men-
tions of Academy in RLP-14 only refer to the former.
Throughout this period, while the two sides argued about how RLP-14 should be inter-
preted, the position of the Ministry under Grilc remained unchanged. The Ministry con-
tinued to foreground the mentions of cooperation, as can be seen in the invitation above,
rather than the mentions of any particular institution in the text. This stresses one more
crucial factor when considering the different interpretations of RLP-14: while several
interpretations of a policy text may exist, not all are equal, or rather, not all actors have
298 K. SAVSKI
the same privilege in interpreting policy. In this case, while I identified three interpret-
ations of the policy document in my analysis of the dictionary debate, it should be
observed that, ultimately, only Grilc’s interpretation could be seen as legitimate –not
because his reading was semantically more or less correct, but because it was backed by
the authority of the state (cf. Johnson, 2013). In other words, while both groups of linguists
may have had their interpretations of RLP-14, these were ultimately of little importance as
they had no backing from the institutions of the state.
The ultimate effect of these conflicts around the interpretation of RLP-14 was a stand-
still in its implementation in this area. This was further aided by the fact that, in July 2014,
another snap election was held, and another major change in the Slovene political arena
occurred. Miro Cerar’s Party (later to be renamed Party of the Modern Centre), created
just months before the election by law professor Miro Cerar, won 34.6% of the popular
vote. Positive Slovenia, which had surged to victory in similar fashion in 2011, received
less than 3% and was left without any parliamentary representation, though a breakaway
group headed by PM Alenka Bratušek secured a minimal number of seats.
The appointment of a new government in September meant that Grilc’s period as Min-
ister of Culture came to an end, which also signalled an end to the engaged role of the Min-
istry with regard to the dictionary project. The two competing groups of linguists have
now also formulated separate proposals (for the ISL, see Gliha Komac et al., 2015, and
for the competing proposal made by the Consortium for Language Resources, see
Gorjanc, Gantar, Kosem, & Krek, 2015). As of the time of writing, neither proposal has
received any funding, though the ISL has proceeded to begin working with the full-time
staff already employed there, and has set a 20-year timeline for its own project the final
print and electronic versions of the new dictionary are thus to be available in 2035
(though the electronic version is set to be made available online as it is developed).
As outlined above, RLP-14 began its life as a unique project in Slovene language policy: for
the first time since independence, a language policy document was written under a centre-
left government. The appointments of the team responsible for writing it and of the public
official responsible for the area of language policy reflected a wish to set a new agenda, one
different from previous conservative-nationalist and prescriptive policies. The first version
of the document (D-1) reflected these aims and was fundamentally different from previous
language policies (see also Savski, 2016b), but not those of the mainstream of Slovene lin-
guistics, who criticised D-1 when it was published.
The 2011 parliamentary election, and the appointment of the conservative Janša gov-
ernment, meant that the transformative agenda of D-1 was no longer desired. The fact
that a second team was appointed, one which much more closely reflected the mainstream
of Slovene linguistics, signalled the existence of a “will”(cf. Levinson et al., 2009) not to
change, but to maintain the status quo. This was particularly true of the strategy RLP-
14 was to establish with regard to linguistic research, especially in terms of what the
relationships were to be between different actors and institutions in terms of research
funding. While D-1 had proposed liberalisation, the redrafted version (D-2) supported
the continuation of the status quo, which favours traditional institutions, particularly
the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
CURRENT ISSUES IN LANGUAGE PLANNING 299
As much as RLP-14’s drafting was impacted by the different political agendas that it
came into contact with during the different changes in government that occurred
between 2010 and 2014, it was also affected by the on-going power struggles in Slovene
linguistics. This struggle is deeply ideological –both in terms of how it reflects two differ-
ent visions of Slovene society and the role linguists should play in it. It is also generational,
as the progressive and liberal agenda is predominantly being put forward by a younger
group. However, the practical dimension of this struggle, which concerns the allocation
of financial resources to different institutions researching language, was clearly an impor-
tant theme of the drafting and implementation of RLP-14.
This paper has indicated the potential that historical ethnography has in analysing
language policies. In particular, it has highlighted that a policy like RLP-14 is best seen
not as a simple “text”, but instead as a sequence of textual fragments, written by different
authors at different times, but eventually associated with the same principal –the Slovene
state. While the process of creating a policy document means that a single text is eventually
created, and that the voices of its different authors are artificially merged (Wodak, 2000),
this case of RLP-14 also indicates that struggles surrounding a policy text can begin to
loosen the binds that hold these different parts together. In this case, the struggles involved
in coming to a compromise, and the different proposals made for RLP-14 in that time,
were clearly only dormant rather than completely resolved, and have played a key role
in the attempts to implement this policy.
The dynamics described in this paper also require a final ethical reflection about the
responsibilities that come with engagement in public discourse and policy. The way in
which stakeholders in RLP-14 invoked ideological wedge issues (such as how cultural
diversity might endanger Slovene) in order to provide justification for their own interests
in the policy signals a lack of awareness of such responsibility. Similarly, the way in which
language policy was turned by its writers into a vehicle for their own interests also shows a
lack of reflection as to what gives policy its legitimacy, namely, the assumption that it is
constructed in the name of the common good (see e.g. Jessop, 1990, p. 341).
1. Communication in Slovene’was a project focussing on the development of language
resources (corpora, lexical databases, etc.), and was funded by the Slovene Ministry of Edu-
cation and Sports as well as through the EU’s European Social Fund (total value: €3.2
million). Aside from Trojina and the ISL, the consortium also included the University of
Ljubljana, the Jozef Stefan Institute of Technology, and Amebis, a software company.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributor
Kristof Savski is a lecturer at Prince of Songkla University (Hat Yai, Thailand). His main research
interests include historical and critical sociolinguistics and language policy, with a particular focus
on the social impact of linguists in Slovenia since the nineteenth century, as well as on contempor-
ary language policies in Thailand.
300 K. SAVSKI
Kristof Savski http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5561-6695
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