Language Management Approach (LMA) in Language Management:

Unlocking the Constitutional and Legislative Promise for Previously Marginalised Languages in the Global South

Dr. Munene Mwaniki

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Senior Lecturer/Researcher – Department of Linguistics & Language Practice


Research Fellow – Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice

University of the Free State


Republic of South Africa

The Language Management paradigm in Sociology and politics of language traces its origins to Fishmanian Sociolinguistics and Language Management Theory (LMT) which originated alongside the Classical Theory of Language Planning, but which have gradually grown so far apart as to represent an independent alternative. Fishmanian Sociolinguistics and LMT bequeathed Sociology and politics of language two traditions of Language Management, namely the Israeli/ American and the European/ Asia-Pacific traditions in Language Management, respectively. Like the Language Policy and Planning (LPP) paradigm that these traditions have sought to challenge and sometimes replace, these traditions have not adequately and critically engaged with the intractable language-related challenges in the complexly multilingual global South and how these challenges impact on a wide range of societal endeavours, be these political, economic, social, cultural, organisational, technological or educational, thus replicating epistemological weaknesses of Northern epistemologies and their prescriptive diktats that have largely been the Achilles heel of Language Policy and Planning (LPP), especially as applied to multilingual settings in the global South. In response to these weaknesses, generally, and Eurocentric arrogance specifically, a third tradition in Language Management has emerged, namely the African tradition with the Language Management Approach (LMA) as its nexus. As a paradigm in the classical sense, the LMA defines what should be studied, what questions should be asked, how they should be asked, and what rules should be followed in interpreting the answer(s) obtained. In this sense, the LMA is the broadest unit of consensus within Language Management scholars in the multilingual global South and serves to differentiate this scientific community from Language Management scholars in the other two Language Management traditions who are largely domiciled in the global North. As a paradigm, the LMA has exemplars – pieces of work that stand as a model for those who work within the paradigm; an image of the subject matter; theories; and methods and instruments. The LMA, therefore, defines Language Management as a complex of theoretical precepts and the methods that they presuppose that are organised as a body of knowledge that preoccupies itself with particular sets of questions relating to deepening of theoretical adequacy of language policy and planning epistemology as applied to data and scenarios from multilingual settings – especially in the global South – with an ultimate goal of harnessing language as a resource for the enlargement of peoples’ choices. With regard to the latter and grounded on its complex of theoretical precepts, it is a way of doing language policy and planning activities in multilingual settings, especially in the global South, through a critical, optimal and creative development and deployment of linguistic-, managerial-, and development-oriented approaches and strategies. An important development-oriented approach and strategy in the arsenal of Language Management as specified by the LMA are Constitutions (as supreme legislation) as well as any subsidiary legislation adopted to provide detailed rules and regulations for technical or procedural details necessary for the implementation of Constitutional language provisions or language laws. Against the foregoing tour d’horizon, the Keynote Address argues that the LMA represents the most comprehensive paradigm in Sociology and politics of language to date that has a toolkit of unlocking the constitutional and legislation promise for previously marginalised languages in the multilingual global South. This toolkit consists, amongst others, strategies such as participatory legislative processes, advocacy, litigation, development communication, community-based participatory research (CBPR), dialogical intervention strategies, indigenisation and community-based project development and management (CBPD&M). The Address will show how these ‘tools’ hold promise for previously marginalised languages in the multilingual global South as is often stated in Constitutions and/ or legislation but rarely realised in practice.



Munene Mwaniki is Kenyan and South African educated. He holds a Bachelor Education (Arts) (Honours) in English and Literature in English and an M.Phil. (Linguistics) from Moi University, Kenya. He also holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of the Free State (UFS), South Africa. He is a Senior Lecturer/ Researcher at the Department of Linguistics and Language Practice and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the UFS. His research focuses on language management epistemology and language management in education in multilingual settings of the global South.  

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