The hidden face of public language policy: a case study from the UK

Emma Humphries, Wendy Ayres-Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In which domains and for which language types does language legislation occur and how easy is it to identify it? The United Kingdom (UK) affords a good test bed to answer these questions since it is often considered to be lacking in strong public language policy due to, amongst other things, a lack of a coherent language policy across the UK and its devolved administrations and a perceived societal disinterest in languages. Through analysis of a corpus of primary and secondary legislation from the UK and its constituent jurisdictions that contain stipulations about language(s), this article shows that UK language legislation spans multiple domains, including public health and safety, law and crime, transport and the media. Whilst some of the legislation, such as the Welsh Language Acts, explicitly deals with language(s), the vast majority of the UK's legislation which contains provisions concerning language(s) is hidden in legislation which primarily concerns another domain. Although hidden, at times these language stipulations mark important landmarks in the status of languages. All this has consequences for the UK language policy landscape, potentially diminishing the perceived importance of languages in and to government and affecting policymakers' ability to collaborate across government in a coherent way.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Early online date09 Dec 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 09 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • language legislation
  • United Kingdom
  • explicit vs hidden
  • language type
  • domain


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