Language is Politics : Exploring an Ecological Approach to Language book cover
1st Edition

Language is Politics
Exploring an Ecological Approach to Language

ISBN 9780367365424
Published December 5, 2019 by Routledge
160 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Language is Politics discusses power relations between languages in the world, with a particular focus on English. Even though English is the most widely spoken and the most powerful language worldwide, it is not the lingua franca it is often supposed to be. The basic tenet of this book is that languages do not exist in the natural world; they are artefacts made by humans.

The book debunks some common myths about language and it suggests that we should be more modest in our assumptions, for instance concerning the linguistic uniqueness of our own species. The author argues in favour of an ecological or balanced approach to language. This approach sees humans and other animals as part of the larger ecosystems that life depends on. As in nature, diversity is crucial to the survival of languages. The current linguistic ecosystem is out of balance, and this book shows that education can help to restore the balance and cope with the challenges of a multilingual and multicultural world.

With an ecological approach to language and a focus on narratives and personal language histories, this will be key reading for researchers and academics, as well as students of English language and linguistics.

Table of Contents


Part One Language is Politics

  1. The Language Myth
  2. The Origin of Language
  3. Imagined Communities
  4. Language as a Construction
  5. The Pecking Order of Languages
  6. The Power of English
  7. Language and War
  8. Life and Death of Languages
  9. Towards an Ecological Approach to Language

Part Two Personal Language Histories

  1. Aim and Scope
  2. Asia
  3. Africa
  4. Oceania
  5. Latin America
  6. Europe




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Frank van Splunder teaches academic writing in a multilingual context at Linguapolis, the language centre of the University of Antwerp. He holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Lancaster University.

He is a sociolinguist with a particular interest in relations between languages and how they are used to construct identities of people and nations. The focus of his research is English as the language of globalization and its use in higher education in non-English speaking countries.


Frank van Splunder’s Language is Politics is a wonderful exploration of how language contributes to what it is to be human. Van Splunder’s command of scholarship is impressive, as is his ability to make links from language to human behaviour at all levels, seeing language as the ultimate liberating tool.

Paul Kerswill, University of York, UK