Language development

Language development, as defined by Ethnologue?, is "the result of the series of on-going planned actions that language communities take to ensure that they can effectively use their languages to achieve their social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual goals." This is a different sense than that typically used to describe early language acquisition by individuals.

"Ethnologue uses the term in the sense given to it by Charles Ferguson (1968) who defined language development at the societal level as primarily dealing with three areas of concern:

  • graphization—the development of a system of writing,
  • standardization—the development of a norm that overrides regional and social dialects, and
  • modernization—the development of the ability to translate and carry on discourse about a broad range of topics in ways characteristic of 'industrialized, secularized, structurally differentiated, "modernized" societies.'

"These development activities are now generally known as language planning? activities, subsumed specifically within what is called 'corpus planning' (Cooper 1989)."

Process of language development

"Presentation of a norm or standard where competing varieties of a language exist is a primary step in language development. This can be achieved by standardising spelling, writing grammars, dictionaries, textbooks, etc. Developing a script for non-literate languages forms a legitimate concern of language is another major concern of language development. This is best achieved by promoting new registral writing, creating technical terminology, and encouraging translation, etc. In a multilingual society, allocation of domains of use to each language and ensuring its increased or decreased use for specific domains forms part of the study of language development. Language planning agencies, endowed with sufficient technical expertise, and executive power, and certainly do a great deal to influence language development, and, through planning, help reduce conflict and tension." (CIIL)


  • Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Language Education and Culture, "Language Planning and Language Development" sites)
  • Ethnologue?, "Language Development"
  • Cited by Ethnologue:
    • Cooper, R.L. 1989. Language planning and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Ferguson, C.A. 1968. Language development. In J. A. Fishman, C. A. Ferguson, and J. Das Gupta (eds.), Language problems of developing nations, pp. 27–36. New York: Wiley and Sons.

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