Language Planning and the British Empire: Comparing Pakistan, Malaysia and Kenya
Richard Powell
College of Economics, Nihon University, Misaki-cho 1-3-2, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
101-8360 Japan
This paper seeks to provide historical context for discussions of language planning in
postcolonial societiesby focusing on policies which have influenced language in three
formerBritishcolonies. Ifwe measurebetweenthe convenientmarkersof John Cabot’s
Newfoundland expedition of 1497 and the 1997 return ofHong Kong to Chinese sovereignty,
the British Empire spanned 500 years,2 and at its greatest extent in the 1920s
covered a fifth of the world’s land surface. Together with the economic and military
emergence of the United States in the 20th century, British colonialism3 is widely
regarded as the main reason for the global role played by English today.4 It is also an
indispensable element of debates about imperialismin general and linguistic imperialism
in particular.

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