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Policy with regard to unique regional languages

'Policy concerning the Unique Regional Language' is a comparative research project on policy and policy building concerning unique regional languages in the Netherlands and Germany: Frisian, North-Frisian and Sorbian. Based on different theoretical approaches a research model has been developed to get answers to questions about similarities and differences in policy making, the content of policy concerning the unique regional languages and how similarities and differences can be explained. The project has resulted in a thesis, published by the Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert. The study concludes by saying that all language-policy situations described correspond:

  • in the fact that policy is developed for the concerning unique regional languages. And in all cases the realisation of a policy reached a certain intensity after the Second World War;
  • in the existence of a language movement that acts as initiator of policy-making. The origin of these movements can be traced back to the nineteenth century;
  • in the relevance of the international dimension for policy-making;
  • in the relevance of the composition of the advocacy coalitions. In all cases it is of fundamental importance that actors without the power to vote acquire the co-operation of decision-makers;
  • in the increased relevance of the regional government. In all cases, the regional government takes a place in the 'inner circle' of the policy-making process;
  • in the notion that no policy can be created without interaction;
  • in fact that, in not a single case, has the central government adopted the core values of the advocacy coalition for the promotion of the status of the related unique regional language. Nowhere is policy made on the basis of the intrinsic merits of a unique regional language policy. Involved in all cases, on the contrary, is regulation of secondary aspects in the system of beliefs;
  • in the fact that analytical tractability of the policy subject is wholly or largely lacking;
  • in the relevance of external factors to the policy sub-system. Without the effects of stable and dynamic system characteristics, the temporary receptivity of the government to the wishes of the related language group fails to materialise.

The analysed language policy situations differ from each other, to the extent that they involve:

  • the scope of policy. Particularly Sorbian displays a relatively substantial system of regulations and infrastructure, which is explained by the policy conducted by East Germany, the practice of avoiding uncertainty and the prevention of social discrimination;
  • the degree to which international regulations are relevant. In the German cases, a noteworthy role is played by the presence of German minorities outside Germany, where policy regarding the minorities within German borders is concerned;
  • the organisational design of policy. All the German language groups now have institutionalised direct acces to the 'centre of power'. The Frisians in the Netherlands do not have such a provision;
  • the scope of policy-making. Dutch policy-making is more substantial and more pluriform than its German equivalents. This finding is not to be separated from the scope of the related language groups and the level of provisions achieved;
  • the realisation of policy-oriented learning by the German government appears to be greater than it is for the Dutch central government. This observation is not separable from the notion of minority policy which, other than in the Netherlands, plays a role in the German case;
  • the cultural context, whereby the continuing effect of the East German past is expressed in a unicentric approach to policy-making in regard to Sorbian, as opposed to a more pluricentric approach in the other language policy situations.

Contact: Opens window for sending emailphemminga(a)fa.knaw.nl


  • Regional languages and political opportunities : the case of the Frisian language / Piet Hemminga
    In: Multilingual cities and language policies = Villes plurilingues et politiques linguistiques : proceedings from the Sixth International Conference on Law and Language = actes de la sixième Conférence Internationale sur le Droit et la Langue : 10-12 September-Septembre 1998 Vaasa-Vasa, Finland-Finlande / ed. by Kjell Herberts & Joseph G. Turi. - Vaasa, 1999. - p. 297-312.
  • Language policy in Germany and the Netherlands : a comparison of the policy with regard to the three Frisian languages / Piet Hemminga
    In: Ethnos-Nation : eine europäische Zeitschrift. - Vol. 7, 1 (1999) ; p. 81-94
  • De realisatie van regionale publieke televisie in Friesland / P. Hemminga
    In: Tijdschrift voor Communicatiewetenschap. -Vol. 25, 1 (1997) ; p. 33-49.
  • De realisatie van de Friese regionale televisie : Friese wensen en Hollandse barrières / P. Hemminga
    In: Negen eeuwen Friesland-Holland / Ph.H. Breuker en A. Janse (red.). Leeuwarden/Zutphen, 1997. - p. 267-278.
  • Friesisch : Bestandsaufnahme und sprachpolitische Strategien / P. Hemminga. - Aurich, 1998. - 23 p. - (Sprache und Region ; Heft 6)
  • In lytse ferliking fan it belied oangeande fjouwer taalgroepen : Sorben, Noard-Friezen, Sealter-Friezen en Westerlauwerske Friezen / Piet Hemminga
    In: It Beaken. - Vol. 60, 1 (1998) ; p. 15-56.
  • 'Het beleid inzake unieke regionale talen' / Piet Hemminga
    Thesis Amsterdam University, Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, Fryske Akademy, (2000), 521 p.