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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre

A talk by Robert Phillipson, Emeritus Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Whether English ‘would continue to spread as a second language the world over, as a benevolent bonus or creeping cancer of modernity’ was raised by Joshua Fishman in 1976 (cited in Robert Phillipson's Linguistic imperialism, OUP, 1992, 11). ‘Universal’ human rights declarations aim at counteracting the injudicious effects of market forces, but language policy and language rights are weakly represented in them. There are measures to ensure linguistic justice in some EU functions and in policies in some member states. Whether the increasing dominance of English represents a threat to other languages or not needs empirical investigation in specific contexts. The learning and use of English is being promoted so energetically worldwide that it is essential to assess whether it serves as a panacea (strengthening multilingualism) or as a pandemic (marginalising other languages). The five Nordic countries (Scandinavia and Finland) have policies aiming to ensure a healthy balance between English and national languages, and recommend policies to achieve ‘parallel competence’ in higher education. This goal needs to be integrated into policies for ensuring linguistic justice for speakers of all languages.

Bunce, Pauline, Robert Phillipson, Vaughan Rapatahana, and Ruanni. F. Tupas (eds) 2016. Why English? Confronting the Hydra. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove and Robert Phillipson (eds) 2017. Language Rights. Four volumes. Abingdon: Routledge.

Phillipson, Robert 2018. English, the lingua nullius of global hegemony. In The politics of multilingualism. Europeanisation, globalisation and linguistic governance, ed. P. A. Kraus and F.Grin. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 275-303.

Phillipson, Robert 2019. Linguistic imperialism. Entry in The Concise Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, ed. C. A. Chapelle. Online.

Phillipson, Robert, December 2019. Languages in public policy, and constraints in academia. Language Problems and Language Planning, 43/3.

For more detail, see

Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Room 1S3, Donald McIntyre Building, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Hills Road, Cambridge

What we do

Cambridge Language Sciences is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Our virtual network connects researchers from five schools across the university as well as other world-leading research institutions. Our aim is to strengthen research collaborations and knowledge transfer across disciplines in order to address large-scale multi-disciplinary research challenges relating to language research.