Activity theory as a theory for language planning

Year: 2012

Author: Kemp, Shaun

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Language policy and planning (LPP) has had a long history associated with the field of education. Unfortunately the academic study of this area has tended to concentrate specifically in the field of policy on language and how it is implemented. This in turn has remained largely within the confines of academic discussion in which it has been principally critical, or Government language policy and thus mostly technocratic and top down (Lo Bianco 2010). What is needed is a kind of LPP practice and theory which is both critical and effective, evaluative but also pragmatic. In more recent times there have been calls to concentrate on micro levels of language planning which can affect change in a pluralist society. In conjunction with this, Cross (2009) has stated the need of theories for LPP to incorporate both macro and micro analyses of policy and practice. Such moves might lead to greater engagement between academics and education systems and positively help the formulation of LPP which is effective at local levels while avoiding technocratic focus. Using Activity theory this presentation aims to investigate the use of Activity Theory as a theory for language planning. The Activity theory framework being used to investigate the language planning problem borrows heavily from two sources: Jonassen and Rohrer-Murphy (1999) describe a process for using activity theory as a framework for describing the components of an activity system; and Engestrom's Expansive Learning as cycles of learning action as expressed in Engestrom and Sannino (2010). The framework uses the argumentative grammar of formative interventions in that it is concerned with three foci: (a) activity system as a unit of analysis, (b) contradictions as a source of change, (c) agency as a layer of causality, and (d) transformation of practice as a form of expansive concept formation (Engeström 2011).

Cross, R. (2009). "A sociocultural framework for language policy and planning." Language Problems & Language Planning 33(1): 22-42.

Engeström, Y. (2011). "From design experiments to formative interventions." Theory & Psychology 21(5): 598-628.

Engeström, Y. and A. Sannino (2010). "Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges." Educational Research Review 5(1): 1-24.

Jonassen, D. H. and L. Roher-Murphy (1999). "Activity Theory as a Framework for Designing Constructivist Learning Enviornments." Educational Technology: Research & Development 47(1): 61-79.

Lo Bianco, J. (2010) "Language Policy and Planning". In H. Hornberger & S. McKay (Eds), Sociolinguistics and Language Education. Bristol; UK, Multilingual Matters.