Language Policy

A few words about

Language Policy

Language policy and planning (LPP) is a field of research that studies the deliberate interventions to modify the structure and the social functions of languages. LPP is usually undertaken by public organisations to adress collective language issues. Esperanto itself, however, can be seen as an extreme example of language planning, precisely because it is a planned language. At the same time Esperanto can be viewed as an element of a broader language policy aimed at promoting international communication and linguistic justice. The emergence of the LPP research field in the 1960s opened up new perspectives for specialist analysis and research, partly influenced by the experience of Esperanto, but aimed at a wider range of topics and languages. CED has played a key role in this development. In the first instance, through the journal ‘The World Language Problem (later ‘Language Problems & Language Planning’), which is the oldest academic journal in the field. Secondly, CED has undertaken various other initiatives, including the Nitobe symposia, and the conferences at the United Nations in New York City to address topical issues in contemporary LPP. This field remains a strategically important and intellectually active part of CED’s area of work.


A peer-reviewed international and multilingual journal devoted to the study of multilingualism and language policy.
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Three issues annually.
Published by John Benjamins.
General Information and author guidelines.

Editor-in-Chief: François Grin, Université de Genève



The symposia take their name from the Japanese scholar and diplomat Inazô Nitobe, who served as Under-Secretary-General of the League of Nations from 1920 to 1926.

Inazô Nitobe

In 1921, Nitobe wrote a report for the League on his visit to the 13th World Esperanto Congress in Prague, expressing sympathy for the movement’s ideals, and recommending that the League take an active interest in its progress.

The congresses in which [Nitobe] take place can be understood as linguistically non-discriminatory multinational arrangements that illustrate the main themes perpetually linked to linguistic democracy and linguistic rights. (IpI 1999 (3), No. 30, p. 5) ~ translated from the Esperanto original.

The aim of Nitobe Symposia

The main aim of our Nitobe Symposia is to bring together stakeholders from non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, including academics, civil servants and politicians. The events allow discussion from various perspectives and promote dialogue between the stakeholders who may rarely meet in the normal course of their work, despite having similar interests.  

In 2021, the Nitobe symposium took place online the 26-27th of July 2021, and its topic was Language, Conflict, and Security”. The Nitobe symposium was co-organised by Ulster University (Belfast, UK); and the Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems (CED) with the financial support of the Esperantic Studies Foundation (ESF).  The working languages of the event will be English and Esperanto. 

The 2021 Symposium explored four principal topics of current importance to the theme:

  • Language policy in Northern Ireland and implications for power-sharing in contested societies;
  • Language in the context of security and conflict resolution in Europe;
  • Language in humanitarian crises and pro-active peace-building in the global context;
  • Promoting Linguistic Justice.

The proceedings have been published in 2022 in a special issue of Language Problems and Language Planning (guest editors Roberta Medda-Windischer and Andrea Carlà).

Previous Nitobe Symposia

•  2018 ~ Lisbon, Portugal. ‘Esperanto and Interlinguistics and Their Relationship to the Disciplines’;
•  2013 ~ Rejkjavik, Island. ‘Languages and Internationalization in Higher Education: Ideologies, Practices, Alternatives’;
• 2007 ~ Tokyo, Japan. ‘European Languages and Asian Nations: History, Politics, Possibilities’;
• 2005 ~ Vilnius, Lithuania. ‘Language Policy Implications of the Expansion of the European Union’;
• 2004 Beijing, China. ‘Towards a New International Language Order’;
• 1999 Berlin, Germany. ‘Globalisation and Language Diversity’;
• 1996 ~ Prague, Czech Republic. ‘Language for Peace and Democracy: Communication and Linguistic Rights in International Organizations’.

Index of linguistic justice

Indices are commonly used in national and international comparisons. Governments or government organizations use them to collect and organize quantifiable information on important social and economic variables, and to monitor their development over time. Some well-known examples are the Human Development Index, created by Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen and published by the United Nations (UN), and the Gini Index of Income Inequality created by Corrado Gini and currently used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the World Bank. Various international indices are produced by private bodies such as foundations, universities or non-governmental organizations, e.g. the Global Competitiveness Index, the Democratic Index and the World Press Freedom Index. No such index exists in the area of language policy. This is surprising, given the ubiquity of languages in almost any field of human activity. Language policy, however, is unavoidable, as public authorities at any level cannot carry out core government functions – e.g. publication and enforcement of laws, police services, justice, public administration, health care and education – simply in any language that individuals may request. Because society in every country in the world is multilingual, a situation of absolute linguistic equality is almost a dream. However, the level of inequality between languages and therefore between their speakers can be more or less great, and that level precisely depends on language policy. Language policy can in fact cause large distributional effects among various groups of people (defined according to their language skills), and therefore it can affect the well-being of individuals living in a country or region. An index of linguistic justice should make it possible to define such distributional effects across time and space, and to monitor their development”.

Towards an Index of Linguistic Justice‘ 
Michele Gazzola, Bengt‐Arne Wickström, Mark Fettes
Working paper no. 20‐1 
Updated 7th May 2021

Studies in World Language Problems

An occasional publication on political, sociological and economic aspects of language and language use, particularly concerned with relations between and around language communities, specifically in international contexts.

The series welcomes monographs and edited volumes on language policy, language management and language use in international and multinational organizations and enterprises, as well as theoretical studies on communication, language interaction and language conflict.

The latest issue, edited by Goro Christoph Kimura and Lisa Fairbrother, Sophia University Sophia, Tokyo. Published by John Benjamins.

Two more volumes are in preparation.

More information, titles and contents of previous issues.

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