Understood broadly as interventions into language practices, language policy and planning (LPP) has had a long and checkered history. As an academic discipline, however, LPP is relatively recent in origin, having gained momentum from the drives toward nationalism and nation building (Wright 2004: 8). The focus of this overview is primarily on developments within LPP as an academic
discipline. The modern history of this discipline can be described in terms of three main stages (Ricento 2000): (i) an initial stage of optimism in the 1960s and 1970s that the language problems of newly independent states could be solved via the implementation of rational and systematic procedures; (ii) a period of disillusionment in the wake of LPP failures (1980s and 1990s) that opened the way for a more critical and reﬂexive appreciation of the role that language and linguists play in society; and (iii) in the present period, a growing sense that LPP needs to be reconstituted as a multidisciplinary and politicized approach, since the issues it grapples with are complex and represent interests that can pervade multiple levels of social life, ranging from the individual to the state and across state boundaries as well. A motif of this chapter is that it is worth viewing this history of LPP as a dynamic interplay
between academic concerns, on the one hand, and political/bureaucratic interests, on the other. The beneﬁt of such a perspective is that it provides us with a better awareness of the kinds of constraints faced by applied linguistics as it attempts to engage with ‘real world’ language-related problems. So, though it is the next section that speciﬁcally delves into the history of LPP, there is good
reason, even as we move on to the later sections, to also keep in mind the challenges that arise when attempting to marry more intellectual understandings of language with the practical demands faced by both policy-makers and the people whose lived experiences are aﬀected by socio-political decisions about language.