|dc.description.abstract||At fi rst blush, the two concepts, democratisation and standardisation, seem to be in confl ict if the
objectives underlying the processes they describe are compared, in particular if they are applied
to the fi eld of language planning and politics, and especially within the context of the colonial
history of Africa and further afi eld.
It is in the nature of standardisation not to tolerate much variety, even in the language to be
standardised (especially in the formal registers). The functional requirements of stylistic, sociolectal
or geolectal variants in a language community, on the other hand, refl ect a wide spectrum of
varieties in a given language. Underlying the need for standardisation is the requirement for communication in the form
of a unitary code (i.e. a language) which is understood and used by as many members of the
community as possible, necessarily and usually in formal contexts.
However, a standardised language, like all others, also has need of neutral and informal
registers for which the appropriate vocabulary should be available. Such vocabulary originates
in everyday speech, while “formal” terminology aimed at the higher functions of language is
often compiled by bodies such as language commissions.
The standardisation of language is often the result of a political process, which is a corollary
of conquest, colonialism, or (sometimes) democratic change. A standard language, once
established, normally possesses a self-perpetuating force – those who have acquired it, do not
easily relinquish the concomitant social and political power associated with it. This applies in
particular to non-mother-tongue speakers of the standard language, who benefi t from the social
status and increased access to knowledge associated with it. The result is, predictably,
discrimination on the basis of profi ciency in the standard, and societal imbalances.
Arguments in defence of the selection of a non-indigenous standard are the purportedly equal
distribution of disadvantage, as well as the possible unifying force of such a medium.
To understand the task facing those who wish to standardise an indigenous language, the
four phases traditionally identifi ed by Haugen could be recalled, i.e. selection (macro and micro),
codifi cation, acceptance and cultivation (elaboration of functions).
This is possibly another reason why already established colonial languages seemed to be an
attractive choice at the outset when considering the adoption of an indigenous language for the
purposes of standardisation. However, when the intellectual and economic benefi ts of linguistic
democracy are considered, the investment in the enhancement of access to knowledge for entire
language communities is well spent. The advantages for the development of human capital in the
short and long term for such communities have been proven in countless scientifi c studies.
A common disincentive is the purported “unsuitability” of indigenous languages for use in
technical and scientifi c contexts. However, similar techniques for the creation of terminology are
applied by all languages where elaboration of functions takes place, i.e. relexifi cation, use of
international cognates, conceptual translation (calquing), the use of informal vocabulary in
specialised applications, neologisms, etcetera.
Examples of attempts at standardisation or restandardisation of nonstandard varieties, such
as in Norway and Albania can be adduced. In Norway, Nynorsk was created to replace Bokmål,
but there was a clear differentiation by the speakers between spoken and written requirements, so
that the written language gravitated to Bokmål, and the spoken language to Nynorsk. In Albania,
where Standard Albanian was based on Tosc, attempts were made at incorporating elements of
North Albanian (Gegh) into the standard for reasons of “justice”. However, it foundered as a result
of resistance from intellectuals on the basis that “justice” in standardisation was “impossible”.
Some lessons from Norway, and also the Magreb (which is subsequently discussed), are that
varieties in both Norwegian and Arabic are closely linked to rules of contextuality and register;
and that, although there is a greater need for uniformity as regards the form of written standard,
the written form of informally used items needs to be standardised as well, albeit in a different way.
Finally, the use of the internet as agent for both standardisation and democratisation is briefl y
investigated. It is apparent that informal standardisation (through codifi cation) is taking place
through the production of increased volumes of texts by common users. The production of electronic
texts leads to the compilation of corpora, and standardisation of the lexicon takes place on the
basis of frequency counts and the use of concordances by NGO’s. Some examples of such
standardisation (offi cial and unoffi cial) in Africa are provided. The conclusions drawn from the overview are that: (a) Democratisation and standardisation
do not have to represent confl icting objectives for indigenous languages in Africa; (b) Users of
language determine the form that is standardised in the end; and (c) Speakers of African languages
have the ability to determine not only which language(s) they prefer to use for which purpose,
but also the form of such languages.||en_US