Indonesia has an extreme diversity of linguistic wealth, with 707 languages by one count, or 731 languages and more than 1,100 dialects in another estimate, spoken by more than 600 ethnicities spread across 17,504 islands in the archipelago. Smaller, locally used indigenous languages jostle for survival alongside Indonesian, which is the national language, regional lingua francas, major indigenous languages, heritage languages, sign languages and world languages such as English, Arabic and Mandarin, not to mention emerging linguistic varieties and practices of language mixing. How does the government manage these languages in different domains such as education, the media, the workplace and the public while balancing concerns over language endangerment and the need for participation in the global community?

Subhan Zein asserts that superdiversity is the key to understanding and assessing these intricate issues and their complicated, contested and innovative responses in the complex, dynamic and polycentric sociolinguistic situation in Indonesia that he conceptualises as superglossia. This offers an opportunity for us to delve more deeply into such a context through the language and superdiversity perspective that is in ascendancy.

Zein examines emerging themes that have been dominating language policy discourse including status, prestige, corpus, acquisition, cultivation, language shift and endangerment, revitalisation, linguistic genocide and imperialism, multilingual education, personnel policy, translanguaging, family language policy and global English. These topical areas are critically discussed in an integrated manner against Indonesia’s elaborate socio-cultural, political and religious backdrop as well as the implementation of regional autonomy. In doing so, Zein identifies strategies for language policy to help inform scholarship and policymaking while providing a frame of reference for the adoption of the superdiversity perspective on polity-specific language policy in other parts of the world.


“In the ninety years since the first Indonesian Youth Congress, conducted in Dutch, called for selection and development of a national language to overcome the superdiversity of languages, Bahasa Indonesia has come to fill that role. This pioneering study of language management is a book that must be read by all interested in language policy and in the effects on other language varieties of successful language planning.”

— Bernard Spolsky,Professor, Bar Ilan University, Israel

“Subhan Zein’s approach to language policy and language revitalisation is erudite and original. Add to that his comprehensive knowledge of and proactive recommendations for cultivating and sustaining the rich, complex, dynamic language diversity of Indonesia. The result: an intellectual tour de force that will be a reference and resource for Indonesia and for language policy and planning scholarship for years to come.”

— Nancy H. Hornberger, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Language policy in superdiverse Indonesia not only mirrors Indonesia’s history but also echoes cultural integration in academic study. Zein’s book offers a holistic perspective that is reflected in the interaction between language history and language ecology… Chapter 5 is enlightening for future research because the author has proved to us that revitalization policy is not a single process that can stand for a long time. Instead, it needs assistance from multiple aspects, such as language speakers and entrenched inequality… Overall, this book, at macro and micro levels, creatively contributes to linguistic research and policy-making under multicultural contexts, and it can also shed new light on the educational development of an emerging Indonesia…” Read More

— Kezheng Chen, Zhejiang University, China

Review appearing in 2020 in Language in Society, Volume 49, pp. 787-803. doi:10.1017/S0047404520000391

“Subhan Zein’s book Language Policy in Superdiverse Indonesia provides a substantial review of the dynamics of language, policy and language shift in Indonesia. There is no shortage of scholars praising Indonesia’s language planning. However, few books have investigated its underpinnings, and arguably none have done it as thoroughly as Zein has here… Zein’s book makes a significant and even transformational contribution to our understanding of the historical and contemporary Indonesian planning context…  Some scholars might bristle at the introduction of the new term ‘superglossia’, having weathered diglossia, polyglossia and others. However, by the end of the book, I was convinced superglossia has substance—reflecting the complex series of ‘hubs and peripheries’, as Zein describes it, that make up the Indonesian linguistic context. Language Policy in Superdiverse Indonesia is a significant contribution to our understanding of the subject and a powerful act of consilience—a synthesis of knowledge about language in Indonesia…” Read More

— Dr Howard Manns, Monash University, Australia

Review appearing in 2021 in Melbourne Asia Review, Edition 7 pp. 1-4. Retrieved from

“Subhan Zein’s Language Policy in Superdiverse Indonesia makes a valuable addition to the existing knowledge about LPP by drawing on the highly diverse linguistic ecology of Indonesia to examine the diversification of language practices within that ecology, and by employing a superdiverse perspective to investigate not only transitional language (e.g. national languages, indigenous languages) but also other forms of linguistic variety (e.g. dialects, registers) and practices of language mixing performed by people from diverse cultures, religions, and social classes… In general, this book has several strengths. First, all the chapters are logically structured andtheir arguments are solidly supported. Instead of a monotonous narration of the history anddevelopment of Indonesia, the author presents numbers and other data that emphasise thehighly diverse character of the country (Chapter 2). The comprehensible and accessiblenature of the book invites readers to take an enjoyable journey among Indonesia’s diverselanguages.Second, Zein succeeds in offering insightful accounts of the important topics that are emergingin multilingual Indonesia and dominating its language policy discourse, including indigenouslanguages (Chapter 3), Indonesian (Chapters 2 and 4), RLFs (Chapter 5), andlanguage in education (Chapter 6). Third, the author applies a new lens – the superdiverse perspective – to the discussion of Indonesia’s complex linguistic environment, exploring not only Indonesian (Chapters 2 and 4) but also the development of languages other than Indonesian (Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6). All in all, covering a wide range of themes and containing thorough discussions on manydifferent practices, this systematic, in-depth, and integrated book offers well-structured andcontent-based insights about Indonesia’s language policy as well as the country’s linguisticecology, and will be an important guide for researchers, teachers, and students with an interestin language policy and language planning…” Read More

— Professor Huiyu Zhang & Yao Ke, Zhejiang University, China

Review appearing in 2021 in International Journal of Multilingualism. Published online: 18 September 2021. doi:10.1080/14790718.2021.1978452

“This book provides comprehensive analysis and thorough recommendations about LPP for preserving linguistic superdiversity in Indonesia. Zein thoroughly conveys the dynamic growth of linguistic varieties from the perspectives of history, polity, ideology, and intense language mobility across islands in archipelagic Indonesia. He addresses interdisciplinary perspectives and a wide range of themes for characterizing Indonesia’s linguistic superdiversity. All in all, this book not only broadens readers’ insights into the field of LPP and language diversity, but also invites scholars and language stakeholders to further explore how LPP plays fundamental roles in dynamism and polycentricity of language maintenance and preservation within superdiverse linguistic environments…” Read More

— Professor Huiyu Zhang & Yao Ke, Zhejiang University, China

Review appearing in 2023 in LanguagePolicy. Published online: 28 January 2023. doi: 10.1007/s10993-022-09646-z