In this contribution to “Sociolinguistic Frontiers,” Christopher Hutton discusses how states have historically taken an interest in, and funded, linguistics research. For a range of political purposes—including colonial rule and military strategy—knowing about and learning the language of “others” has been part of the projection and use of power. The specific purposes and forms of state support for research on language, argues Hutton, does vary depending on whether states have authoritarian or liberal democratic regimes.
Christopher Hutton is professor of English in the University of Hong Kong. His research concerns the history of linguistics, in particular the relationship between linguistics and race theory, and linguistics and fascism. In the past decade he has been working on the politics of language and interpretation in the context of the law.