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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


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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 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.
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Current Issues in Language Planning
ISSN: 1466-4208 (Print) 1747-7506 (Online) Journal homepage:
Language policy at times of instability and
struggle: the impact of fluctuating will and
competing agendas on a Slovene language
Kristof Savski
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
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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
Kristof Savski
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 20142018,
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
analysis; historical
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 20142018
(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
VOL. 18, NO. 3, 283302
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 readdifferently 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-
dieu, 1993).
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 problema 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 stopstart 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 Goffmans
(1981, pp. 144145) 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
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 policyunfolded. 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. 710),
the data-set collected for the purposes of this study consisted of several different
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.
Professor Marko
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 (201314)
Professor Vojko
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.
claims is modified and the existence of different perspectives or voices in the discourse
being analysed.
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 (20102011)
The first stage of planning and drafting RLP-14 took place during 20102011, 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
19961997. 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 20032004, 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).
Figure 1. Overview of key language policy actors and events between 2001 and 2014.
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 Dulars 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 20072011 (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 (20042008), 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 signicant. The team
he collected included seven linguists from academic institutions and one public ofcial
(see Table 2). What was notable about this team, and what later became highly signicant,
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
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, Stabejs 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 Stabejs
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 20102011, 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 Jankovićs Party,anad hoc political formation created only months
before the election by Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković. However, Jankovićs inability to
form a coalition meant that, after a further period of instability, conservative leader
Janez Janša (previously PM in 20042008) 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 Stabejs 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
Slovene mainstream media were also published, again containing critiques of D-1 by
established linguists.
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. Lets 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 heroichistorical 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 Kreks 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
Professor Marko
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
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
priori renounced.
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 rst 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 quantiers 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 hottopics 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
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
May 2012)
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 afliated 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, Janšas 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.
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 specic mention of the Academy were removed. Marko Snojs account of these
changes signals a different understanding of the Ministrys 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 dont 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] Its 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 conict 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 specication 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
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 20082013.
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
Ranka Ivelja:
[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 its possible
to transfer taxpayer funds to private pockets in that way as well, they insist. (Dnevnik,14
October 2013)
Iveljas arguments closely follow those presented previously by Snoj: actors afliated 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. Iveljas 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 nally 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 portal, which summarised the debate on 2
November, to use the term academic warwhen 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:
Dear Sirs,
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-
founder of Trojina, and previously uninvolved in the drafting of RLP-14. In addition to
these, Ministry ofcials 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 Snojs 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)
Snojs 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 Academys 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 Academys
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
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 Grilcs 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 Cerars 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 Grilcs 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.
As much as RLP-14s 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 Slovenewas 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 EUs 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.
Disclosure statement
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.
Kristof Savski
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... Through systematic observation of how policy is done, such research has underlined much of the complexity that exists around policy texts, and much of the complexity that policy texts themselves are subject to. Most notably, such work has highlighted the complex negotiations that occur during the drafting of such texts (Källkvist & Hult, 2018;Savski, 2017; as well as the continuous, context-specific re-negotiation of meaning that occurs throughout their 'life' (Johnson, & Johnson, 2015;Widiawati & Savski, 2023). ...
... More significantly, however, work on LP has increasingly sought to balance out the traditional focus on top-down, structural power by examining the agencies of individuals in the policy process, including policymakers (e.g. Savski, 2017), teachers (Johnson & Johnson, 2015), learners (Brown, 2015), and others. ...
... This suggests that a key concern for policy research is to try and embrace the natural messiness of policy as a nexus of practices -to try and account for the normality of abnormality. My own work on LP in Slovenia, for instance, examined the complex trajectory of a LP strategy as it went through a four-year process of drafting, critique, redrafting, negotiation and, eventually, a rather limited level of implementation (Savski, 2016;2017;. A key consideration in this research was the unstable political context around the policy process took place: as it was drafted between 2011 and 2014, the LP strategy was the nominal responsibility of four different ministers working under four different coalition governments, with each change in power leading to shifts in how the text was written and read. ...
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This article considers the role that the examination of text plays in empirical language policy research. It begins by examining the state-of-the-art in language policy , observing that a core focus on action represents a shared characteristic of the various strands of discursive and ethnographic research over the last two decades. That is, the emergence of these approaches has accompanied an implicit or explicit shift away from the once dominant conceptualization of language policy as status quo and toward a focus on the dynamic processes through which power is exercised over language use. Reflecting on the widespread use of ethnographic methods to catalogue such processes, I argue that there is a need to reconsider how policy texts are conceptualized and studied from a discursive perspective. While much of the available toolkit treats policy texts as static products, giving little consideration to how they are embedded in the dynamics of policy, I propose an expanded focus on language policy as (re)entextualization, in which text is continuously formed and reformed through time-space. This better accounts for the reality of policy, which involves cycles of writing and rewriting, as well as interpreting and re-interpreting, by different actors with different agendas, in different spaces at different times. Such a reconceptualization also offers more backing for the study of how language policy texts are agentively transformed and fragmented, and better supports the investigation of how language is instrumentalized in exercises of power in society.
... Krzyzanowski & Wodak, 2011), how they are created (e.g. Kallkvist & Hult, 2016;Savski, 2017), how their meaning is constructed when they are read and how such readings translate into concrete action (Johnson, 2013a, b;Johnson & Johnson, 2015). ...
... A key nexus of interests for such discursive analyses is thus centred on the notion that policies have meanings and that such meanings are dynamic and (re)negotiated by actors in local contexts rather than being static and universal (Yanow, 2000). Discursive approaches to policy creation therefore foreground the ways in which policy texts are themselves composed of different voices, a consequence of their complex genesis, which often involves struggle between contrasting agendas and ideologies (Kallkvist & Hult, 2016;Savski, 2016aSavski, , 2017. At the same time, such approaches examine how the construction of meaning affects how policies are enacted, with the traditional, top-down universalist concept of implementation displaced by the idea that policies are interpreted and appropriated by actors in complex, context-specific ways (Johnson & Johnson, 2015). ...
... This paper, for instance, focuses on the relationships between national and transnational language policies, but its aim is not to establish a fixed power relationship between the two. Indeed, as shown below, simple polarization between global and local scales is often problematic, as it may neglect the potential for policy to mediate multiple agendas at one time (Savski, 2017). ...
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Since its publication by the Council of Europe in 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has become truly global language policy instrument. While originally intended for the European context, it has been widely used by governments across all continents, in countries like Japan, Colombia and Taiwan. Furthermore, CEFR has also become a key way for institutions involved in the development and marketing of English tests and textbooks to rank their products in order of difficulty, to express scores and to provide a means of comparing scores between different tests. The spread of CEFR across the globe has, however, inevitably led to the framework being reinterpreted in various ways. As a policy text, CEFR has been transferred (recontextualized) between numerous different contexts, in each context becoming part of different discourses and being used to achieve different policy aims. For instance, while it was initially embedded in the Council of Europe’s agenda for the promotion of plurilingualism/pluriculturalism, which had mainly a cultural focus, it was soon after appropriated by the European Union for its own multilingualism policy, which tends to focus more on the economic benefits of language learning. Uses of CEFR beyond European borders have, on the other hand, mainly focused on English language teaching and learning, a stark contrast from the European context but an agenda which puts the framework in contact with both local and global discourses surrounding English. This complex series of recontextualizations calls for a detailed examination of how CEFR is interpreted in contemporary policies. This study investigated the way CEFR was appropriated in the language policies of two ASEAN members, Thailand and Malaysia. These countries, while different in in terms of their sociolinguistic history and ecology, decided to begin using CEFR at approximately the same time, around 2013-14.
... This document went through several stages of development during a turbulent political period, which also saw significant debate regarding the status of different minorities in Slovenia, in many cases explicitly or implicitly in relation to the Ex-Yu communities. This section reports on the findings of a broader study concerning the development and implementation of this policy, featuring analyses of key documents, media discourse and interviews with key actors (see also Savski, 2016aSavski, , 2016bSavski, , 2017Savski, , 2018b. Extracts presented below are drawn from the data used in this research. ...
... The first stages in the development of this policy, its planning and drafting, while coordinated by parts of the Slovene government, were largely delegated to various expert committees, consisting mainly of linguists. As described elsewhere (Savski, 2017), this period was marked both by political instability and by struggles between different interest groups to dominate the agenda in language policy. Different groups of linguists aligned themselves with different political parties, and as governments changed, so did the access of different actors to the drafting process, which ultimately meant that several different draft versions of the policy were produced. ...
... Different groups of linguists aligned themselves with different political parties, and as governments changed, so did the access of different actors to the drafting process, which ultimately meant that several different draft versions of the policy were produced. While the central focus of these struggles was often the issue of which areas would secure research funding through the policy (Savski, 2017), the surrounding debates also involved significant clashes between different language ideologies and therefore also between different visions of minority language policy. An example of such struggles can be seen in the following two versions of a part of the section entitled 'Languages of minorities and immigrants in Slovenia' 4 : ...
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Between 1945 and 1991, while Slovenia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it experienced a considerable amount of immigration, with large numbers of skilled labourers arriving from the less developed parts of the federation. As a result of this internal migration, recent census data shows that there are presently around 135,000 individuals living in Slovenia who migrated there as adults (Medvešek, 2007). In addition, there are also nearly 130,000 individuals living in Slovenia who can be considered second-generation migrants, having been born in Slovenia or having arrived as children and grown up there (Medvešek, 2007). Among these are representatives of all the other five constitutive nations of Yugoslavia – Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians – as well as of other ethnic groups in the Yugoslav space, in particular Kosovar Albanians. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse in detail the historical and present-day status of this diverse set of communities (henceforth: Ex-Yu communities) in Slovenia.
... By assuming institutional authority in this way, policies become texts rather than continuing to be merely a set of fragments, but while this means that heteroglossia, polyphony and dialogicality, together with the contextual diversity outlined above, are discarded, this homogenization may be reversed at a later time, when it may re-emerge in the form of contrasting interpretations. In particular, such heteroglossia and polyphony may allow policy actors to negotiate various political obstacles by enabling the development of short-term alliances where different elements of policies are seen to fulfil seemingly unrelated or even contradictory interests (Savski, 2017). Additionally, such complexity may allow policy implementation to be tailored to the needs of specific contexts or to the preferences of individuals empowered by their institutional standing to exert control over interpretation (Johnson, 2013) by narrowing the available interpretive space (Hornberger, 2005). ...
... The research discussed in this section took place between 2012 and 2015 and was undertaken as part of the author's MA and PhD study (Savski, 2016a; see also Savski, 2016bSavski, , 2016cSavski, , 2017Savski, , 2018a. It concerned the Resolution for a National Language Policy Programme 2014-18 (hereafter RLP-14), a language strategy adopted by the Slovene government in order to set a common agenda for state institutions in the many areas that comprise language policy, including language education, minority language policy, language use in public administration, priorities in research funding, etc. ...
... After it was amended in committee, RLP-14 was adopted by the NA on 3 July 2013, thus becoming officially binding, though it should be remarked that the formal status of resolutions in the Slovene legal and political system is generally much lower than is the case with legislation. This means that the implementation of such documents is largely contingent on the existence of 'will' in key political and bureaucratic positions (Levinson et al., 2009;Savski, 2017), which in Slovenia is often an issue in the (from a political standpoint) relatively peripheral field of language policy, as shown by the lack of effect of previous policies in this area (Gorjanc, 2009;Stabej, 2006). However, in the initial period after the adoption of RLP-14, several moves made by the leadership of the Ministry of Culture suggested that the 'will' to implement its provisions existed. ...
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This chapter presents the theoretical underpinnings of historical ethnography in the analysis of policy discourse and examines key methodological considerations in studies which take this approach. I begin by situating such research theoretically according to three dimensions, the discursive, ethnographic and historiographic, pointing out existing synergies between relatively distinct theoretical and methodological traditions. To examine how policy analyses can benefit from integrating these approaches, I then present a case study in which this methodology was applied, focussing on the development and implementation of a language policy in Slovenia. I show how the use of historiographic methods of gathering sources and a discursive approach to analysing them allowed me to develop a detailed description of a highly complex policy text despite having no direct access to back-stage political deliberations.
... This is of particular importance because the literal or 'internal' meanings of a text may deviate significantly from the meanings constructed in discourse, when a text is used to mediate social actions. For instance, Johnson (2013) demonstrates that the ways in which a policy text is intended to be used by its writers can strongly deviate from the agendas that the same policy later comes to mediate (see also Savski, 2017). ...
... In this period, while the ruling conservative elite was removed from instruments of political and economic power, its members retained cultural and social influence in fields like Slavic studies and historiography (Savski, 2018b; see also Krašovec & Žagar, 2011). The discourse of fields like Slavic studies has thus continued to articulate the historical nationalist and anti-capitalist ideology, and while those voicing this ideology have continued to play a central role in Slovene language policy (Savski, 2017(Savski, , 2018a(Savski, , 2018b, it has also set up continued debates over issues where the pro-monolingual stance is in greatest conflict with powerful globalizing processes. What such debates highlight is that field-affiliation plays a key role in guiding identity construction, with shared backgrounds often being appealed to in an effort to develop a homophonic common discourse. ...
... (Marko Stabej, Public consultation, 28 June 2016) In the years previous to this debate, Stabej had been active in the area of language policy and had been one of the most prominent opponents of the conservative mainstream in Slavic studies. Among other activities, he had led the writing of a liberal language policy which was harshly criticized and ultimately heavily revised by mainstream Slavists to conform to the more traditional, conservative ideology of the field (for a detailed analysis, see Savski, 2017). While an oppositional relationship had already been established between Stabej and the majority of those present, the reaction that the above criticism of Slavic studies provoked was still notable: I am seated towards the side of the parliamentary chamber, with several members of the audience surrounding me. ...
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Contemporary public discourses are, despite the growing array of technologies and spaces for participation, becoming increasingly characterized by polarization – the formation of two distinct and relatively homogeneous ‘sides’. However, while such polarization may be commonplace, it is not an inherent property of discourse but rather a result of strategic polarizing actions taken by specific actors in order to establish control over the debate. In order to describe the process of polarization in a public discourse about language policy in Slovenia, this paper presents a theoretical framework based on Bakhtin’s concepts of heteroglossia (diversity of voices), polyphony (diversity of ideology) and dialogicality (relatedness of voices and ideologies) and on the central concepts of critical discourse studies (CDS). The case study is based on a qualitative analysis of a sample of 48 newspaper articles reporting on the language policy debate, collected from two major Slovene newspapers during 2016. Additionally, the case study also relies on field notes and transcripts obtained from a public hearing held in the Slovene parliament. The analysis of these two data sources uncovers a debate which was heavily polarized due to both ideological difference as well as continuous reinforcement of the Manichean dichotomy. In particular, the paper shows that this polarization was strengthened by explicit practices of identity construction and suppression of dissent which allowed the construction of a homogeneous Self and Other in discourse.
... Broadly, the viewpoint from which language policy is conceptualized in this paper can be characterized as discursive in that it draws on conceptual frameworks and analytical methods associated with (critical) discourse studies (see Wodak & Meyer, 2015), and is centred on the analysis of the socio-cultural practices involved in the creation, interpretation and appropriation of policies related to language (Barakos & Unger, 2016). Key to such a view is acknowledging the inherent dynamicity and complexity of all these processes and of the discourse surrounding them, in which constant struggle between different individual voices and different collective ideologies is present (Savski, 2017(Savski, , 2018(Savski, , 2020. This entails a conceptualization of language policy which, while continuing to see policy as involving the exercise of institutional power within a given polity, such as the state, also encompasses much of the public sphere, in particular fields such as mass media, academia, the linguistic landscape in public spaces, and other loci where language policy issues are engaged with (see also Koller & Davidson, 2008). ...
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One of the products of globalization in sociolinguistics is the emergence of transnational regimes in language policy, in which power is exercised across boundaries of traditional nation states. This paper engages with audit culture, a transnational policy mechanism which involves the continuous evaluation of nation states’ performance through the use of purportedly neutral, typically quantitative instruments. As achieving broader visibility in public discourse is a key part of how such evaluations enforce language policy regimes, the paper presents an analysis of how an audit instrument, the Education First English Proficiency Index, was recontextualized in media discourse in Thailand over a 6-year period. The findings highlight an apparent discontinuity, as much of the neoliberal rhetoric in the audit instrument was not taken up in Thai media. Rather, the recontextualization was selective, with elements of the audit texts being integrated into an already established language policy regime in Thailand, built on nationalism and developmentalism. These findings point to the need to consider how language policy mechanisms like audit culture can facilitate synergies between hegemonic ideologies, particularly when they are recontextualized across different scales.
... This paper has also pointed to a theoretical and methodological challenge for further research on the LP-LL nexus. In particular, the two case studies highlight the fact that while much current discursive and ethnographic theorization of LP phenomena is relevant to the investigation of LL, this conceptualization also closely reflects the institutional nature of the contexts in which it has been primarily deployed, such as educational bodies (Johnson, 2013;Källkvist & Hult, 2016), political bodies and governmental agencies (Savski, 2017;Wodak et al., 2012), and businesses (Barakos, 2016). While such institutional contexts, characterized by the presence of a clear hierarchy and decision-making structure, may allow for direct observation of phenomena like interpretation and appropriation of LP (Johnson & Johnson, 2015), the examination of such processes in less structured settings, especially public spaces like those most often investigated by LL research, is less clear-cut. ...
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Analysis of signage has traditionally represented a point of entry into examinations of language policy, with the visibility of different languages seen to be potentially indicative of repression of multilingualism, of struggles between different language regimes or of grassroots resistance to top-down agendas. This paper argues for a more discursive approach to the nexus between linguistic landscape and language policy in investigations of multilingual spaces. I present two case studies of the interaction between language policy and linguistic landscape in the southern Thai city of Hat Yai, the first examining part of the central commercial district and the second the cafeteria of the main university located in the city. The findings highlight numerous points of interaction between language policy and public signage, though they also underline the complex and sometimes tenuous nature of this relationship.
... While such demystification is a form of discursive struggle akin to the conflicts that occur when different ideologies come into contact (e.g. nationalist and neoliberal agendas in language policy, see Savski, 2017), it is also distinct from such debates in that it is the site of potential liberation from hegemony. Namely, by sharing narratives and identifying common experiences, members of discursive communities are able to form alliances and build counter-ideologies through which broader resistance to unjust social relations may be mobilized. ...
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The investigation and unmasking of racial inequality have been one of the cornerstones of the critical turn in TESOL, so much so that a significant body of literature on the topic now exists. Yet, there is often a lack of reflection on the fact that discourse surrounding contentious social issues like race is inherently dialogical in that it consists of constant interaction between different voices (heteroglossia) and ideologies (polyphony). This paper presents the findings of a study focussing on the dialogicality of discourse surrounding the recruitment of non‐local teachers of English in Thailand. This research, framed by the existence of significant inequalities between teachers of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds in the Thai educational system, examined the role race played in interactions in a Facebook group for non‐local teachers of English seeking employment in Thailand. The analysis focussed on identifying points of struggle, salient topics around which particularly intensive concentrations of dialogicality could be found. Two are presented in this paper, the struggle for discursive space to debate racial inequality and the struggle over the assignment of victimhood and perpetratorhood. I conclude by arguing for more attention to be paid to how global inequalities in TESOL are debated and challenged locally.
... The need to theorise on such connections has led to the adoption of the concept of scale (Hult 2010) to take into account the connections between different sites of policy creation and implementation. This has facilitated the emergence of a view of language policy as a dynamic, fluid process, constituted in particular by practices of text creation and interpretation, with the latter being of particular interest in terms of the negotiation and power struggle that often accompany the act of interpreting policy meaning (Johnson 2013;Savski 2017). Much current attention is therefore focussed on examining how policy meaning is affected by recontextualisation across the borders of different scales, both within the framework of the nation-state (e.g. from policymakers to schools, see Farrell and Kun 2008) and at the transnational level (e.g. ...
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One of the features of the growing prominence of English across the globe is the proliferation of English-medium instruction (EMI) programmes at all levels of education, driven by a neoliberal agenda which places a disproportionate value on English over other languages. While this spread has primarily affected more developed, urban contexts, EMI has also started to spread beyond the borders of large cities and into peripheral, rural areas, including those where minority languages are used. There is at present, however, a sparsity of research on how the introduction of EMI impacts the often delicate language ecology in such contexts. This paper presents the results of a study of how EMI policy was implemented at a primary school in the Deep South of Thailand, a region where the majority of the population speak Malay as their L1. The findings of this research, drawn on the basis of interviews, focus groups and classroom observations, highlighted the existence of a hierarchical linguistic ecology in which English and Thai, the international and national language, were privileged over the local language, owing both to their dominant position in official language policy and the attitudes of local policy arbiters.
In the context of policy-driven language testing for citizenship, a growing body of research examines the political justifications and ethical implications of language requirements and test use. However, virtually no studies have looked at the role that language testers play in the evolution of language requirements. Critical gaps remain in our understanding of language testers’ first-hand experiences interacting with policymakers and how they perceive the use of tests in public policy. We examined these questions using an exploratory design and semi-structured interviews with 28 test executives representing 25 exam boards in 20 European countries. The interviews were transcribed and double coded in NVivo (weighted kappa = .83) using a priori and inductive coding. We used a horizontal analysis to evaluate responses by participant and a vertical analysis to identify between-case themes. Findings indicate that language testers may benefit from policy literacy to form part of policy webs wherein they can influence instrumental decisions concerning language in migration policy.
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It is the aim of this chapter to summarize the theoretical lessons to be drawn from the wealth of literature produced by more than thirty years of implementation research. The chapter is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses three different analytical approaches in traditional implementation theory in more detail: top-down models, bottom-up critiques, and hybrid theories that try to combine elements of the two other strands of literature. We explicate the theoretical underpinnings and discuss the pros and cons of the respective approaches. Section 3 then provides an overview of more recent theoretical approaches to implementation, all of which depart from central underpinnings of traditional implementation studies. In particular, we address insights gained from the study of implementation processes in the context of the European Union and we discuss the interpretative approach to implementation, which follows an alternative ontological path. Section 4 focuses on the main insights gained from more than thirty years of implementation research for a proper understanding of implementation processes. Moreover, it discusses the contributions of implementation analysis to the wider field of policy analysis and political science. Finally, Section 5 identifies a number of persistent weaknesses of implementation analysis and concludes by suggesting possible directions of future research to overcome these weaknesses in the years to come.
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In this chapter, I claim that the central aim of a discursive approach to language policy in the contemporary state should be to examine what spaces are available to actors engaging with a policy, and what the affordances of those spaces are with regard to their potential to shape policy and practices. I also argue that an analysis of policy needs to take time into account as a factor which governs how actors engage with policy, and what influence they are able to exert in different spaces. The chapter combines contemporary state theory with interpretive policy analysis and critical discourse analysis to propose a comprehensive theoretical framework for analysing language policy. Drawing on my research on Slovene language policy, I also provide examples of how this framework can be applied in the analysis of a particular policy document. I focus on how changes in the broad political context impacted the genesis of a Slovene language strategy, showing that the text was subject to various agenda shifts as the landscape around it transformed. I also show how studying the discourses that surround such policies means studying engagement with a particular topic across different social spaces, and thus taking into account different practices. I conclude by examining how this elaborated view of policy can be translated into a critical stance which is sensitive to the agencies that are inherent parts of every policy and to the forces that constrain them.
This volume is a series of explorations of language policy from a discursive perspective. Its chief aim is to systematically explore the interconnectedness of language policy and discourse through what we are terming ‘discursive approaches to language policy’ (DALP). We show that language policy is a multilayered phenomenon that is constituted and enacted in and through discourse (which is defined more closely in Sect. 1.2). Language policy is a fast-growing, vibrant, and interdisciplinary field of inquiry that offers a variety of theoretical frameworks, methodologies, analytic approaches, and empirical findings: the framing sections at the beginning of each part of this volume and the commentary at the end frame the discussion of developments in language policy and especially the role of DALP therein.
An interdisciplinary study providing first-hand evidence of the everyday lives of politicians; what politicians actually do on ‘the backstage’ in political organizations. The book offers answers to the widely discussed phenomena of disenchantment with politics and depoliticization.