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Can diverse research concepts of metalinguistic activities be harmonized? Language management theory, its scope and potential for language policy research

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The paper provides an overview of a theoretical framework which aims at systematic analyses of metalinguistic activities of various actors involved in policymaking processes. Metalinguistic activities refer to the behavior of speakers toward language, which is designated as language management (NeustupnĂ˝ & Jernudd 1987; Nekvapil 2016). Language Management Theory (LMT) consists of the following elements: 1) actors involved in language-related behavior, their interests, social status, and (more or less complex) networks; 2) processual character of this behavior and its specific phases; 3) interconnection of socioeconomic, communicative and linguistic levels of language management activities. LMT provides the researchers with a broad scope of possibilities in which seemingly different and theoretically heterogeneous concepts are hidden. It is revealed that the research on attitudes, language standards, language law, status of a language in international organizations or states as well as some other issues may be carried out systematically on a unified and coherent theoretical basis (Fairbrother, Nekvapil & Sloboda 2018; Dovalil 2015a; Dovalil 2015b). To highlight the potential of language management, I use examples that showcase the processes of (re)shaping standard German (Dovalil forthcoming).

One of the methodological inconsistencies of the traditional research on standard varieties consists in overestimation of object language: drawing upon the linguistic corpora, the usage-based approach ignores most of metalinguistic activities. Such an approach also ignores the fact that norms and standard varieties represent social (= interactive) phenomena. This methodological inconsistency can be remedied if the behavior toward standard language, which is conducted by relevant agents, is analyzed systematically.

Reflecting on the corpus-based approach, I take a critical view of the usual question what is standard and complement it with the question who decides about what is standard how, in interactions with whom, in which social contexts, with which intentions, and with which consequences. Using examples from German, this approach tries to show that standard varieties are (re)shaped in interactions, which also applies to management of pluricentric standards. Thus, the dynamic nature of managing standard varieties can be foregrounded.

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