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Language Policy as an Instrument for Nation Building and Minority Representation: Supporting Cases from South Asia

Authors: Kevin You


Nation-building has been a key consideration in ethno-linguistically diverse post-colonial ‘artificial states’, where ethnic tensions, religious differences and the risk of persecution of minorities are common. Language policy can help with nation-building, but it can also hinder the process. An important challenge is in recognising which language policy to adopt. This article proposes that the designation of a widely used lingua franca as a national language (in an official capacity or otherwise) - in a culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse post-colonial state - assists its nation-building efforts in the long run. To demonstrate, this paper looks at the cases of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India: three young nations which together emerged out of the Second World War with comparable colonial experiences, but subsequently adopted different language policies to different effects. Insights presented underscore the significance of inclusive language policy in sustainable nation-building in states with comparable post-colonial experiences.

Keywords: Language policy, South Asia, nation building, Artificial states.

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