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Understanding social change through post‐colonial theory: Reflections on linguistic imperialism and language spread in Poland

Martyna Śliwa (School of Accounting, Finance and Management, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the post‐colonial literature by addressing the phenomenon of language spread in relation to the spread of languages other than Polish within the Polish society since the end of the eighteenth century until the present.


The subject discussed here is approached from an historical perspective, through reference to literature and secondary data regarding the policies, practices and examples of language spread and linguistic imperialism in Poland throughout the history.


Through a comparative analysis across different periods in history, discussion of the Polish experience of language spread offers insights into its mechanisms and consequences for the society. It also shows how, since the collapse of socialism, Poland's socio‐economic transition has been accompanied by an increasing importance of the English language in the country, and how at present, the knowledge of English and access to it influences and is influenced by the existing social structures.

Research limitations/implications

An awareness of the processes of language spread and of responses to them can help us better understand the historical mechanisms of transition from one set of social relations to another, and contribute to the understanding of post‐socialist change.


By applying the notions of language spread and linguistic imperialism to a geographical context different from that of the former British Empire, and by including, in addition to English, the historical spread of two other languages, namely German and Russian, within the Polish society, this paper contributes to the body of post‐colonial literature.



Śliwa, M. (2008), "Understanding social change through post‐colonial theory: Reflections on linguistic imperialism and language spread in Poland", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 4 No. 2/3, pp. 228-241.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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