Africa at Noon on January 27, 2016

Multilingualism, Language Planning, Security, Terrorism, and Police Communication

Sinfree Makoni
Associate Professor, Applied Linguistics and African Studies
Pennsylvania State University

Download Poster (pdf)

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


The number and nature of conflicts across the globe has increased, making language a central issue within the state security apparatus. The police are often at the forefront of law enforcement, which makes language planning, especially with regard to multilingualism, an integral component of police communication. The sociolinguistics and discourse analysis of the ‘war on terror’ makes an important contribution to terror studies because such studies add social and linguistic dimensions relevant to language policy and planning over and above terrorism research, which, to date, has been dominated by psychology and anthropology. The aim of this presentation is to explore ways in which language planning can be utilized to address security issues in a multilingual context such as South Africa. The objective is to analyse multilingualism in security and its implications on language policy and planning. The presentation builds on the limited body of literature on the sociolinguistics of ‘war and terror’ by situating security at the nexus of sociolinguistics and multilingualism in local South African communities. The presentation maintains that it is easy to argue, on the one hand, that multilingualism enhances security, but on the other hand, the significance and value of communication in security may be exaggerated.

This event is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison Language Institute.