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Current Issues in Language Planning

For a Special Issue on

The place of Language Surveys and Censuses in Language Planning and Policy

Abstract deadline
30 April 2024

Manuscript deadline
30 September 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

He Shanhua, Yangzhou University
[email protected]

Jiří Nekvapil, Charles University
[email protected]

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The place of Language Surveys and Censuses in Language Planning and Policy


As linguists, and sociolinguists in particular, we often need to know about a country or region how many people live there, and how many of them speak one language or another. We also often wonder which nationalities (ethnic groups) live in a particular country or region, how numerous they are, how many members of one nationality or another speak one language or another, and how these numbers change in the course of time. These pieces of information are of utmost importance for policy-makers too as they use them as arguments for substantial decisions on language policy and planning.

Numbers of this nature tend (in part) to be found in population censuses, which many states organize once every decade. The undisputed advantage of population censuses is that their results were not based on sophisticated selections (samples) from the whole population, as is the case in public opinion polls or routine quantitative sociological surveys, but were gained by interviewing basically all members of the population. So it only makes sense that linguists and policy-makers appreciate and use population censuses which in some form also ask about the language of the population. But to what extent can we rely on census data? Are there any factors and circumstances that make the "objectivity" of the census results problematic? How to explain that some countries  include a question on the language of the population in the census, some do not, and the approach of some countries is quite variable in this respect?

This special issue aims to address various technical, social and political features of the organization of language surveys and censuses that are used as useful management tools at macro levels. Taking examples from various regions and countries, the special issue aims at demonstrating that language surveys and censuses are embedded in the complex network of social relationships and interests, and used for the the pursuit of broader and larger policy goals.

The special issue is open to the use of all relevant theories and approaches established in the broad area of Language Policy and Planning. Each paper should make a specific link to LPP ideas and theory and, for that matter, contribute to their development. Issues addressed may include but not be limited to the following: language surveys and censuses as part of organized language management at national level; formulation and re-formulation of the language questions as a reflection of the socio-cultural management (including management of ethnic identity); how the language question is managed in the responses of the participants; the role of interests in language surveys and censuses both at the level of organized and simple language management, and the like.

Select references

Angosto-Ferrández, L. F. and Kradolfer, S. (eds.) (2012): Everlasting countdowns: race, ethnicity and national censuses in Latin American states. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


Duchêne, A. and Humbert, P. N. (2018): Surveying languages: The art of governing speakers with numbers. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 252, pp. 1–20.


Duchêne, A., Humbert, P. N. and Coray, R. (2018): How to ask questions on language? Ideological struggles in the making of a state survey. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 252, pp. 45–72.


Humbert, P. N. (2022): (Dé)chiffrer les locuteurs: La quantification des langues à l’épreuve des idéologies langagières. Neuchatel: Éditions Alphil-Presses universitaires suisses.


Kertzer, D. I. and Arel, D. (eds.) (2001): Census and identity: The politics of race ethnicity and language in national censuses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Zhou, M. (2015). Using census data and demography in policy analysis. In F. M. Hult and C. Johnson (eds.), Research methods in language policy and planning: A practical guide. Malden, Oxford, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 205-216.



Submission Instructions

Abstract submissions (max. 500 words, including references, indicating the research question(s)/hypotheses, theoretical framework, and methodology) are to be sent to: He Shanhua (email: [email protected] )

Full papers are expected to be around 8,000 words long, including references, tables, figures, and supplementary materials.

Abstract submission deadline:  April 30, 2024
Notification on submitted abstracts: May 15, 2024
Article submission deadline: September 30, 2024
Anticipated date for publication of the Special Issue:  2025 (May)

Selected authors will be invited to submit a full paper through the editorial system, which will undergo full peer review and determine acceptance of papers for publication.