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Coalitions and Language Politics: Policy Shifts in Southeast Asia

  • Amy H. Liu (a1) and Jacob I. Ricks (a2)


Why is it that some governments recognize only one language while others espouse multilingualism? Related, why are some governments able to shift language policies, and if there is a shift, what explains the direction? In this article, the authors argue that these choices are theproduct of coalitional constraints facing the government during critical junctures in history. During times of political change in the state-building process, the effective threat of an alternate linguistic group determines the emergent language policy. If the threat is low, the government moves toward monolingual policies. As the threat increases, however, the government is forced to co-opt the alternate linguistic group by shifting the policy toward a greater degree of multilingualism. The authors test this argument by examining the language policies for government services and the education system in three Southeast Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand).



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* This article originally circulated under the title, “Language Regimes and State-Building in Southeast Asia.” For their helpful comments and often much needed advice, we thank Andrew Bennett, David S. Brown, Michael Buehler, David Collier, Rick Doner, Stephan Haggard, Joel Moore, James Ockey, Charles Ragin, Jason Seawright, and Dan Slater. We also thank the participants at the Southeast Asian Student Initiative at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and the Pizza and Politics working group at Emory University. We are particularly grateful to the three anonymous World Politics reviewers for their comments and guidance. The usual caveat applies.

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Coalitions and Language Politics: Policy Shifts in Southeast Asia

  • Amy H. Liu (a1) and Jacob I. Ricks (a2)


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