Postcolonial Language Policy and Planning and the Limits of the Notion of the Modern State

Sinfree Makoni, Cristine Severo, Ashraf Abdelhay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this review, we discuss the limits of the concept of the modern nation-state to explore language issues in postcolonial contexts, as in Africa. We argue in favor of a revision of the history of the field of language policy and planning (LPP) and sociolinguistics, paying attention to how the colonial issue has been erased and downplayed. We first explore the colonial history of LPP and how this field contributed to frame African multilingualisms as problems to be solved. Second, we briefly discuss how the contemporary understanding of citizenship in Africa is entangled with the colonial history of a particular version of the state in Africa; we focus on Sudan as an example. We problematize the construct of developing nation inscribed in the methodological nationalism that characterizes the early LPP framework, which reverberates in contemporary public policies. By doing so, we advocate for a perspective of language that is historically and locally embedded, following a politics that recognizes the importance of Southern epistemologies to language studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-496
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual Review of Linguistics
StatePublished - Jan 17 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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