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Summary of questionnaire

September 2003

A summary of the answers to the questionnaire


The following organisations have answered the questionnaire: Danish Language Council (in
English), Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (one in English regarding Finnish,
one in Swedish regarding Swedish), Délégation génerale à la langue française et aux langues
de France (in French), Institut für Deutsche Sprache (in German), Oxford English Dictionary
(in English), Centre for the Greek Language (in English), Dutch Language Union (in
English), Norwegian Language Council (in English) and Swedish Language Council (in
The answers differ a bit in size, and some are more detailed than the others. We have tried to
make the summary very short in order that similarities and differences may appear as clearly
as possible. We regret if someone feels that they have been misrepresented, and you can of
course correct things afterwards. We add all the answers as a complement, so you can read it
all for yourselves. (We have translated the Swedish answer from Finland.)


Question 1


Are there any functional domains in which the language(s) you represent have got a
considerably stronger or considerably weaker position during the last decades? If so, in
relation to which language have these changes taken place?



Answers to question 1

Stronger position

National language/Main language/Official language/Majority language


In the answer from Great Britain the increasing use of English all over Europe in central
domains is of course noted.
The membership of the European Union and the status of the national language an official
language there is noted as a positive factor by Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
Germany notes that German is not on the level with English or French, but that a further
strengthening is to be expected as a consequence of the future member states from the middle
and eastern Europe.
The Netherlands and Finland (for Finnish N.B.) report of increasing use of the national
language instead of English in computer applications and the Internet.
Germany and the Netherlands note the use of the national language as a second language by
immigrants as a positive factor.
France reports that the law of information in French to consumers have been successful.


Minority language(s)


Sweden and Germany report of a stronger position for some of its minority languages due to
the ratification of the European Agreement of Regional and Minority Languages.
Some strengthening regarding Welsh and Celtic/Gaelic is reported from Great Britain.


Weaker position


All countries (except Great Britain of course) report that English is taking over, or mostly
already have taken over, central domains, such as the university education, especially in
natural and social sciences, business life, entertainment, youth culture.

In Norway there seems to be an attitude among the leading politicians that the fact that
English is taking over in lots of domains is a necessity that follows from globalisation.
From Finland it is reported that many university institutions’ web sites are in English solely,
and Greece that English is the language of the Internet.

Finland and Denmark reports that there is a lack of terminology or even that is dying out I
some fields.

Also in secondary education English is used as reported by Sweden and the Netherlands.
France reports that the government seems to have difficulties in convincing international
companies of the official linguistic policy.

Finland says that the use of English does not threaten Finnish but rather the knowledge and
use of other languages, such as Swedish (which is the second official language of Finland),
Russian, German, and French.

Germany, that has experienced that German during the last century has lost its position of
being one of the most important scientific languages, has noted as a consequence that the
interest abroad of German as a foreign language has diminished. Howeve, since the reunion of
Eastern and Western Germany, the interest is increasing, not only in the nearest area but also
In Middle East.

The language spoken by the minority, Swedish, in bilingual Finland is reported to slowly but
steadily being supplanted by the majority language Finnish or by English. Also in Norway
there is the same tendency regarding the minority variant Nynorsk, however it seems to be
rather safe due to strong tradition to preserve Nynorsk as a formally equal language.

From Great Britain it is reported that the globalization of English has led to that many
speakers of British English feel that their language is in the process of being taken over by
American English.


Question 2

Have any steps of language planning been taken in order to influence the position of one or
several languages in important domains? If so, what is the outcome?


Answers to question 2


The constitution of France settles that French is the language of the republic. There was a
language law passed in august 1994. It deals with the existence of French, not its quality or
contents. In France there is a multiannual plan in favour of French within the Union adopted
on January 11, 2002. The public action in favour all regional languages in France has been

Denmark, Norway and Sweden report of initiatives on governmental level to a language
policy. In Denmark and Sweden it is not yet come to any parliamentary decisions.

In Finland the Parliament recently passed a new language act dealing with both Finnish and
Swedish. This new law has in no way weakened the position of the minority language
Swedish. There will soon be a new act of Saami.

In Norway there is a strict legislation since the 19th century to state the equality of the two
variants bokmål and nynorsk. This has been of great importance to preserve the minority
variant nynorsk.

Germany says that such plans would in fact be difficult on a governmental level in Germany,
since language is regarded as a part of the culture and hence it is subject to the jurisdiction of
each of the member states of the German federal republic. However, there is an increasing
interest among the general public in language matters.

The situation seems to be similar in Great Britain. The responsibility for language-related
issues does not reside with any particular department of state.

In the Netherlands it seems that all language planning is canalised by the Taalunie. Among
other things, this organisation has put forward a proposal that the position of Dutch at the
universities should be protected at the bachelor’s level. This has not led to any measures yet.
It also participates in the field of Dutch as a second language for immigrants with a special
action line called “social language policy”.

From Greece there are no significant steps of language planning to be reported.


Question 3


What would, in your opinion, be the most effective way to influence relations between
languages in important domains? Consider e.g. education, legislation, language and
terminology standardization, linguistic research, media etc.


Answers to question 3


The necessity of parallel use of national language and English is noted by Denmark,
Germany and Sweden. This means, Finland says, also systematic teaching of academic or
professional English.
Sweden and Norway mention legislation, and Norway adds – combined with work to
influence attitudes. Finland notes that no strict legislation is necessary at the moment.
Terminology work is emphasised by France and Finland, not only in the national language, as
pointed out but Finland, but also in English.
Development of language technology tools is mentioned by Swedish Finland, France, the
Netherlands and Sweden.
Finland says that in education one should emphasize the role and deeper understanding of
language, and Germany says that loyalty to one´s own language and interest in other
languages must be awakened early at school. Greece recommends alternative language
Finland proposes that a policy of university language education should be drafted. Support
for translation and publication of high level university literature in the national language is
The Netherlands and Sweden mention the teaching of more than one foreign language (i.e
other than English) as an important factor.
Sufficient resources for translation and good translators is necessary according to Swedish
France mentions the importance of supporting Unesco’s plans for promoting multilingualism
and the access to the Internet for everyone.
The Netherlands proposes that the use of language should be allowed as a criterion for
protecting the integrity of languages.
Sweden points out that is vital that language planner can prove that education in the national
language is more efficient.
Norway mentions that individual examples are important, e.g. a popular football player using
Nynorsk at his personal web site is of great value.
Great Britain mentions greater exposure to environment not dominated by English as a


Question 4

Can you propose any initiative in the arena of European language policy collaboration that
should be of importance to the question of functional domains?


Answers to question 4


A strategy of parallel use of English and another language, or other languages, would seem to
be relevant in all European countries.
A follow-up and comparison of language skills (mother tongue + foreign languages) achieved
in different educational systems (traditional language education, bilingual professional
education, early language immersion, education on foreign language etc.) should be initiated.
European languages should combine their efforts in the campaign for the “special letters” of
the different languages, such as å, ä, ö etc.
A policy of defense of the plurilingualism and promotion of the national language.

a) More exact empirical findings over linguistic conditions in the different countries of the
European Union
b) Linguistic, sociological and psychological research about the conditions between the
characteristics of the individual languages and the cognitive and pragmatic functions in
important domains (e.g.: to what extent does a certain language coin/shape scientific or
economic recognizing and acting).
Great Britain:
Nothing at present.
a) To collect and publish data and discuss the implications of anglo discursive practices
dominating various social domains of language use
b) To investigate the not-so-obvious reasons for the weak position of many European languages in
academic discourse and scientific publishing.
The Netherlands:
Setting up a scientifically based detailed database of empirical data that shows evolutions in
the status, position and use of languages, in which functional domains are being distinguished.
a) Secure the professionalism in terminology in national languages.
b) Get rid of the very formal and complicated language that you see both in EU institutions
and in the national civil services.
a) Collect and publish data about language choice in different domains and the
outcome of these choices.
b) Domain specific language resources and language technology tools such as terminology
bases, multilingual dictionaries available at the Internet, translation programmes etc.

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