Language is a highly significant marker of individual and collective identity. Most countries have populations that speak or write in different languages. This can vary by region and culture and is often a key factor in community or national affirmation and claims to self-government.
Provisions to recognize and accommodate linguistic differences have often been a particularly central issue for federations, many of which have highly diverse populations. Several federal countries have designated more than one language as official (or national) languages in the federal constitution and/or legislation. In turn, federated units often have the authority to accord similar status to one or more languages. These designations are not merely symbolic: they usually require governments to establish tailored policies, regulations and programs.
Even when the political dynamic is not charged, there are often pressures for changes to language policies and programs. Some are fundamental, while others are more administrative or technical. Whatever the case, language policies, programs and regulations are often in flux or even strained by tensions. In light of their salience to citizens and their relevance to a range of sectors, a holistic perspective on language policy and its place within governance arrangements is increasingly necessary.