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Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus (SPiL Plus)

On-line version ISSN 2224-3380
Print version ISSN 1726-541X


DU PLESSIS, Theodorus. Language policy review and the unplanning of Afrikaans at the University of the Free State. SPiL plus (Online) [online]. 2017, vol.53, pp.78-96. ISSN 2224-3380.

Language unplanning is a topic that seldom features in language planning literature. Studies in the field that investigate the regular 'undoing' of previous language planning actions largely concentrate on language corpus planning. The apparent attenuation of the position of Afrikaans as higher education language of South Africa leads to questions whether the undoing of language status and function planning could also be considered as unplanning language. As the given case could be linked to radical language policy reviews, this study investigates the relation between policy review - sometimes called the Achilles heel of universities - and language unplanning. The spotlight falls on the phasing out of Afrikaans as main language at the University of the Free State (UFS) since 2015. Essentially this study relies on an analysis of documented evidence of language policy review at the UFS, since the urgency of this was pointed out in 2008 by two nationally generated external reports. Based on the UFS's 2005 meta-policy requirements concerning policy review and its 2003 language policy requirements on language policy review, significant moments related to language policy review at this institution are discussed briefly. The study finds that policy continuity is a key concept in differentiating between two distinctive phases in language policy review at the UFS, a post-2008 period during which language policy continuity is pursued, although relatively radical changes are implemented notwithstanding, compared to the period from 2015, when language policy continuity was deliberately negated. It transpired that an internal transformation report released at the end of 2014 played a key role to effect this turn of the tide, paving the way for the orchestrated stigmatisation of parallel-medium teaching (and, by implication, also Afrikaans). Consequently, an intellectual climate could be cultivated that inspired undoing actions through which the unplanning of Afrikaans at the UFS could be institutionalised by means of a revised language policy.

Keywords : language planning; language policy; language policy review; language unplanning; language replanning.

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