Filozofická Fakulta

The Language Management Process

The stability and certainty of the production and reception of discourse is based on the existence of norms or (less normative) expectations. Language Management Theory (LMT) assumes that the speaker often notes the discourse as such the moment it deviates from a norm or expectation*. The speaker may then evaluate the deviation (or other noted linguistic phenomenon) positively, negatively or in a neutral way. The speaker may further select or plan an adjustment, and finally, implement the adjustment. These four stages, i.e. noting > evaluation > adjustment selection/planning > implementation, constitute different stages of language management. Kimura (2011, 2013, 2014) has suggested adding another stage to the model, namely, a fifth stage, the feedback or more generally post-implementation stage, since participants in language management sometimes seek feedback on, or check the success of, the adjustment implementation.

However, as the management process is cyclical in nature, the post-implementation can be, following Occam's razor, interpreted by means of the existing four phases. Thus, the suggested feedback stage corresponds to the launching of a new cycle which can help to verify whether and to what extent the original deviation from the expectation/norm has been removed. 

It is significant that all these stages need not be carried out, i.e. the process may end after any of the stages: the speaker may, for example, merely note a certain phenomenon but refrain from evaluating it, or he/she may evaluate the phenomenon without planning the adjustment, or she/he may plan the adjustment but withdraw from its implementation. In Example 1, Part 3, we can see that the management process was terminated after the stage of implementation.

The five stages above may also be distinguished at the level of organized management. Ideally, noting is based on research or expert reports concerning language situations of various scopes, which actually means that the simple management of a particular phenomenon (for example, the pronunciation of foreign words in language X, or the communication between local and foreign employees in company Y) should be thoroughly researched. This initial stage of noting may be followed by evaluation of various aspects of these situations, planning and preparation of linguistic and political adjustments and their implementation. These and further stages of organized management are analyzed in detail by Lanstyák (2014).

It is certainly of particular importance for organized language management to identify language problems, that is, such deviations from the norm or expectation which individual speakers evaluate negatively in particular interactions and which is not possible to remove by routine interactional means such as repair sequences. However, it is to be noted that although Language Management Theory, in accordance with Language Planning Theory, was originally developed as the "linguistics of language problems", recently attention has also begun turning to those deviations from the norm or expectation which receive positive evaluation, these are called "gratifications" (Neustupný 2003). Even these noted and positively evaluated deviations may become a substantial impetus for the further phases of language management, for instance, concerning the choice or offer of a particular foreign language in public or private schools.

Figure: The language management process
  1. noting (of a deviation or other phenomenon)
  2. evaluation
  3. adjustment design
  4. implementation
  5. post-implementation/feedback


Pre-interaction management

The concept of pre-interaction management essentially appeared as early as in the first sketch of Language Management Theory, labelled "pre-correction" (Neustupný 1978: 249). In order to define this concept, it is important to have a sense of the timeline and the place of the norm/expectation deviation on it: does the management occur prior to the beginning of the utterance in which the deviation occurs? More precisely, does it occur in anticipation of the deviation from the norm/expectation or of a language problem? Neustupný (2004: 26) formulates it thus: "According to when management is executed, it is possible to speak of pre-management (executed before a deviation appears)..." By the same logic, Neustupný speaks of in-management and post-management (ibid.).

As LMT is not devoted merely to language in the narrowest sense, but to communication, or interaction, the concept of pre-interaction management and the analogous concept of post-interaction management have been introduced (Nekvapil & Sherman 2009). The advantage of these concepts is that one can better capture the dynamics of the management processes, their varying scope and effects on further management processes in further interactions and on various societal levels.

Thus, it is possible to define pre-interaction management as the language management process carried out in anticipation of potential problems in a future interaction. This can include looking up words or phrases in a dictionary, consulting language concerns with a language expert, or, even "avoidance strategies" such as preferring written communication to oral communication, bringing along an interpreter, or avoiding the interaction altogether.

Pre-interaction management can be targeted, i.e. oriented toward a specific future action, or generalized, i.e. oriented toward a multitude of similar interactions.

In an analogous manner, it is possible to define post-interaction management as the language management process which takes place after the given interaction. Obviously post-interaction management also takes place before future interactions, this cannot be otherwise, but while pre-interaction management is oriented to an upcoming specific interaction or generally, to a particular set of upcoming interactions, post-interaction management is oriented to what has happened in the previous interaction without the speaker's immediate considerations of future interactions.

The process in language management research was the central theme of the 4rd International Language Management Symposium held in Tokyo in September 2015. 


* Although this may represent a typical case of noting, in recent development of the theory, it is presumed that the beginning of the management process need not be triggered by a deviation from a norm or expectation. For more on this issue, see Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, vol. 22, no. 2, 2012.


Kimura, G. C. (2011).「わたしたちはどのように言語を管理するのか」山下仁/渡辺学/高田博行編『言語意識と社会 ドイツの視点・日本の視点』、三元社、2011年2月、61-89.

Kimura, G. C. (2013). Prohibiting Sorbian at the workplace: A case study on the cyclical process of language management. Paper presented at the sociolinguistic seminar at Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, May 2013. PDF

Kimura, G. C. (2014). Language management as a cyclical process: A case study on prohibiting Sorbian in the workplace. Slovo a slovesnost, 75 (4), 225–270 (a substantially revised version of Kimura 2013). PDF

Lanstyák, I. (2014). On the process of language problem management. Slovo a slovesnost, 75 (4), 325-351. PDF

Neustupný, J. V. (2003). Japanese students in Prague: Problems of communication and interaction. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 162, 125–143. PDF

Nekvapil, J. & Sherman, T. (2009). Pre-interaction management in multinational companies in Central Europe. Current Issues in Language Planning, 10, 181–198. PDF

Neustupný, J. V. (2004). A theory of contact situations and the study of academic interaction. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 14, 3–31. PDF

Neustupný, J. V. (1978). Post-structural Approaches to Language. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. PDF