Unity in Discourse, Diversity in Practice: The One Person One Language Policy in Bilingual Families

  • Åsa PalviainenEmail author
  • Sally Boyd
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 7)


When parents with different first languages have a child, and want the child to become bilingual in both languages, many parents adopt the one person – one language (OPOL) strategy. This chapter uses nexus analysis (Scollon R, Scollon SW, Nexus analysis. Discourse and the emerging internet. Routledge, London, 2004) to carry out a discourse analysis of ways in which this strategy is motivated by parents and ways it is enacted in conversations between parents and children, in three Swedish-Finnish bilingual families with 3–4 year old children in Finland. We also look at how the children participate in the negotiation of family language policy. Parents were interviewed about their own language backgrounds and education and their explicit strategies of communication in the family. They were also asked to record family interactions. Interviews and interaction were transcribed for further analysis. The results of the nexus analysis show similar parental discourses indicating that the family language policy was a result of both explicit planning and non-planned practices. They described the OPOL strategy as a “natural” one to use to raise their children bilingually, although all of them were themselves raised in only one language; they were concerned by the dominance of the majority language (Finnish) in the surroundings and found it important to increase the amount of the minority language (Swedish) used around the child; and they all referred to personal experiences, lay theories as well as research to motivate their policies. The discussions of FLP showed that this policy was in constant flux and subject to minor re-negotiations. The analysis of the interaction showed that details of the FLP were furthermore mutually constructed and negotiated upon; the children had an important role in this process. The study shows that the one person – one language strategy can imply different practices, in different families and different contexts.


Language Policy Interaction Order Minority Language Childhood Bilingualism Language Planning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LanguagesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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