Family Language Policy

Project: Research council

Project Details


This proposed study aims to explore what types of Family Language Policy (FLP) exist in the UK at the national level, how FLP is shaped, established, and implemented at the community level, and what practices are managed and how they are negotiated at the family level. We define FLP as both explicit and implicit language planning in relation to language choice and literacy practices within home domains and among family members. The project employs a MULTI-LEVEL, MULTI-COMMUNITY, and MULTI-TYPE family design and involves non-transnational and transnational families across three ethnolinguistic communities - Chinese, Polish and Somali. The 'multi'-approaches to studying FLP will make our research cutting edge, timely, innovative and interdisciplinary. Building on studies from language socialisation, literacy studies, language policy and migration, the multi-interdisciplinary approach will enable us to extend and challenge the existing conceptual tools to study language maintenance, multilingualism and social cohesion. As the first systematic study of FLP in the UK, it will provide us with both depth and breadth to understand the decision-making processes of FLP.
FLP addresses children's multilingual development in three interrelated aspects: language ideology, language practices and language management.
Through a comparative lens, this project will reveal the similarities and differences of FLP in relation to sociocultural changes, linguistic development and migration history in three diasporic communities. To understand how FLP is embedded in the broader sociopolitical context, we aim to:
1)Examine how mobility and on-going changes in sociocultural contexts impact on family language policies;
2)Understand how FLP is shaped, established and enacted in day-to-day interactional and digital practices;
3)Identify similarities and differences in FLP across three transnational communities;
4)Generate new knowledge by locating FLP as a field of inquiry;
5)Inform policy makers at different levels - national, educational, community and family - about the role of FLP.
The study employs a multi-level design and an interdisciplinary approach to understand the actual language practices and the decision-making processes of intergenerational language transmission.
At the national level, a survey will be distributed to all types of families with multilingual experiences. The data will yield much needed information on changes of perspective about multilingualism in the current UK. At the community level, community profiles will be constructed through focus group interviews and an event survey. A family language audit survey will also be conducted to map the 'who, what, why and how' of FLP. At the family level, ethnographic fieldwork will be carried out in 6-8 families in each community to collect audio recordings of 'live' events, interviews, and digital communications. The data will capture ideological positions, FLP dimensions and critical moments of parental decisions.
We choose Chinese, Polish and Somali communities because they represent three distinguished linguistic and sociopolitical groups - Asian, European and African, with different migration histories and cultural-religious practices. Involving different types of families is necessary because migration in these ethnolinguistic communities often involves members of extended family who are key agents in cultural and linguistic socialization. The profiles of the families and communities will make visible the relationships between private domains and the public sphere and reveal the conflicts that families negotiate between the realities of social pressure, education demands, and the desire for cultural-linguistic continuity.
We use 'looking back' and 'looking forward' methods to identify the critical elements of FLP. These decisive insights will inform policy makers at different levels of the role of FLP in multilingual development, social cohesion and children's wellbeing.
Effective start/end date6/09/175/02/20


  • Economic and Social Research Council

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


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