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The rise of intelligent language governance

WANG HUI and ZHOU ZHIWAN | 2021-07-22 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

A citizen explores AI-empowered language services in Xi’an. Photo: CFP

Language support is becoming an indispensable part of national governance in different areas such as socioeconomics, politics, culture, and ecological civilization. Therefore, language plays a dual-role in national governance, as it is both the object and the means of governance.

Language governance highlights the collaborative nature of governance and top-and-bottom interactions among multiple-stakeholders in public language affairs. The fundamental model of language governance in China is one led by the government, with participation from society and individuals. National language governance manifests itself in macro, meso, and micro levels with government, society, and the individual as executive stakeholders, respectively. 
Data governance
Modern technologies like big data and AI are developing at an accelerating speed, which brings new opportunities and development pathways for national language governance. The application of big data and strategic resources for national language governance are vital means to enhance governance capabilities. AI is of significant value for enhancing the scientific and intelligent governance of national language and constructing a healthy and harmonious human-machine language environment. With the empowerment of new technologies, improvements in national language governance require innovative guiding concepts, transformed models, and new development pathways. 
It is time to forge new concepts in national language governance. As new technologies are not only a means of governance, but also driving forces for transformations in governance, the application of big data and AI in national language governance answers realistic requirements of increasingly complex social language usage issues, improves language governance, and makes convenient and efficient language governance a reality. Furthermore, the organic combination of new technologies and national language governance also drives the governance transformation forward. Data is not only a productive factor, but also a governance factor; data has integrated itself into governance.
New technologies will promote the focus shift of language governance from  governance methods to governance resources, particular data, and intelligent governance. Data governance capabilities have become an integral part of national language governance capabilities.    
The transformation of the national language governance model is mainly manifested in the following aspects. First, language governance transforms from a rigid programmed style to a well-targeted initiative. The access to, shared network, and application potential of big data allows language governance to go beyond routinely programmed governance efforts. It provides an accurate analysis of social language issues, which is beneficial for targeted policy-making and governance. Second, national language governance is transforming from a passively responsive to a proactively predicative paradigm. National language governance is oriented toward questions and needs. However, measures are usually taken only when problems or requirements occur, which lacks foresight. Big data, characterized by enormous data capacity, diversity, high-speed, and authenticity, can support prediction and development trend analysis of language usage issues in society, provide evidence for problem prediction and scientific decision-making, so as to bring governance forward. Third, the transformation currently manifests itself by moving from informatization to intelligent governance. Informatization, a basic requirement of national language governance, is conducive to enhancing governance efficacy and reducing costs. 
However, informatization doesn’t satiate the higher demands of national language governance modernization. Big data and AI, as an updated version of informatization, is beneficial for intelligent analysis and addressing increasingly complex language problems, while implementing convenient and intelligent visualization in governance. 
Intelligent diversified platforms    
New pathways of language governance are being explored. Through the establishment of dynamic media language monitoring systems, social language usage tracking systems, and platforms for raising language usage issues and requirements, big data on language usage can be mined and collected, so as to provide more authentic, comprehensive, and timely information and public opinion references for national language governance. 
Second, the government is making targeted plans. On the basis of analysis and pre-judgments of language usage data, risk levels of language issues are scientifically graded to provide targeted solutions for specific language usage issues. 
The third initiative is to employ efficient responsive measures concerning intelligent governance, such as big data, to tackle social language usage issues. Through the classification and screening of social language usage situations by the application of big data, language issues suitable for intelligent responses could be selected accurately. The response speed and governance efficacy will improve via the application of technical means, including intelligent warnings, intelligent responses, real-time translation, voice synthesis and so on. With an analysis of learning behavior patterns of language users and learners, at home and abroad, with the use of big data, the diversified Chinese communication systems and platforms will improve, and national language governance capabilities will be efficiently enhanced. 
Wang Hui is from the Research Center for Overseas Chinese at Zhejiang Normal University, and Zhou Zhiwan is from the International Cultural Exchange School at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.
Edited by ZHAO YUAN