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Reviewed by:
  • Language planning and national identity in Croatia by Keith Langston and Anita Peti-Stantić
  • Elisabeth Elliott
Keith Langston and Anita Peti-Stantić. Language planning and national identity in Croatia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. xvi + 344. [Palgrave studies in minority languages and communities.]

In the second half of Langston and Peti-Stantić´s book, the authors write that “In the period since Croatia declared independence [1990], there has been an explosion of linguistic advice of all types” (201). The presentation of the materials in their book certainly evidences this blowout. And this descriptive noun fittingly describes the book itself: an explosion, while also a treasure trove, of meticulously detailed, germane information on Croatian literary language planning. The authors assiduously combed through what I imagine was an absolute abyss of materials from published books, treatises, manuscripts, and scholarly and journalistic articles to the minutes of different linguistic and language organizations’ meetings and numerous varied media pieces, including the Internet, from roughly the mid-19th century up until the very publication of this book, or more appropriately, of this encyclopedic tome.

Many past works on sociolinguistics in former Yugoslavia have dealt with the question of how many literary languages there are (e.g., Friedman 1986, Ford 2002, Alexander 2002–03, Greenberg 2008, and even works like Magner 1995, Alexander 2006 and 2010, and Meniku and Campos 2011). This book impartially and correctly accepts that Croatian is a literary language, especially separate from Serbian, but does not make this the focus of the argumentation. There are but a few instances where the authors present clear evidence of an already then existent Croatian literary language separate from Serbian (for example, in discussing Croatian in the context of the South Slavic dialect continuum; describing the earlier history of the standardization of literary Croatian). The authors recognize that language planning, specific political and cultural events, beliefs, and publications determine separate literary language status, even among very close linguistic varieties of the same dialect continuum. Overall, the authors provide in-depth evidence and summaries of the active codification events and processes of [End Page 323] Croatian, including key points from the 18th and 19th centuries, with the bulk of evidence since 1990. They bring the English-speaking audience a wealth of writings and authors’ works on the sociolinguistics of Croatian, which, until now, existed only in Croatian.

Part of the Palgrave studies in minority languages and communities series, the book comprises 11 chapters divided into two parts. Chapters 1–4 make up Part I, “The Croatian language question in context.” Chapter 1, “The Croatian language question and Croatian identity,” along with giving the aim of the book (“examine the changing status and norms of the Croatian language in the context of theories of language planning and language and identity” [15]) and very brief overviews of the remaining chapters, actually starts at a most familiar point for almost any reader: the recent turbulent history of Croatia. Against this background, the authors then weave identity and the question of the status of an independent language together, showing how these are indubitably connected to the Croatian political events of the 20th century.

Chapter 2, “Language and identity: Theoretical and conceptual framework,” is a most thorough and absolutely delightful rollick through theories on the connection between language and identity, ranging from common language to linguistic writings. Langston and Peti-Stantić include astute reflections on those muddled and pesky everyday-language uses of the terms “language,” “dialect,” “standard,” “literary,” “varieties,” and others. They then cover the perhaps more expected linguistic writings on language and identity, such as Kloss’s linguistic distance, Haugen’s language planning, Fishman’s language and nationalism, as well as the often-forgotten writings on language standardization and culture by the Prague School, particularly elastic stability (see Garvin 1973, Mathesius 1932/1976, among others). The authors even aptly work in writings from political science (Anderson’s Imagined communities) and very importantly, though unexpectedly, they tie in the relevant theory of I-language and E-language by Noam Chomsky (1986), arguing, à la philosopher Barry C. Smith (1998), that though language may only exist in the mind (I-language), it obviously also exists in a speech community (E...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0391
Print ISSN
1068-2090
Pages
pp. 323-329
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-14
Open Access
No
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