Individual agency in language planning
Chinese script reform as a case study
The literature of language policy and planning (LPP) focuses predominantly on the process of policy formulation and planning programs for implementation, i.e., to use Cooper’s terms, on ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’. The question of the people (‘by whom’ and ‘to whom’) involved in the planning process — i.e. “Who are the actors?” and “What are their roles?” — remains largely unaddressed. Drawing upon experience in the modern history of Chinese script reform in the PRC, this paper extends Harrmann’s notion of the individual’s role in prestige language promotion by categorizing that role into three discrete groups (people with expertise, people with influence, people with power) and then examining their individual agency roles in relation to five stages on the LPP implementation continuum. The authors argue that, to meet the rapidly changing socio-political and technological environment in China today, greater participation of ‘experts’ and ‘influential actors’ — as opposed to those with power — is needed in order to institute effective LPP programs, given the increasing centrality of prestige planning frameworks to LPP implementation as suggested by Haarmann and Ager.
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