Linguistic rights

Linguistic rights

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Linguistic rights are the human
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 concerning the individual and collective right
Right
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

 to choose the language or languages for communication in a private or public atmosphere. Other parameters for analyzing linguistic rights includes degree of territoriality, amount of positivity, orientation in terms of assimilation or maintenance, and overtness.

Linguistic rights include, among others, the right to one's own language in legal, administrative and judicial acts, language education, and media in a language understood and freely chosen by those concerned.

Linguistic rights in international law are usually dealt in the broader framework of cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 and education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

al rights.

Important documents for linguistic rights include the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights is a document signed by UNESCO, the PEN Clubs, and several non-governmental organizations in 1996 to support linguistic rights, especially those of endangered languages...

, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

 and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was signed on February 1995 by 22 member States of the Council of Europe ....

.

Brief History


Linguistic rights became more and more prominent throughout the course of history as language came to be increasingly seen as a part of nationhood. Although policies and legislations involving language have been in effect in early European history, these were often cases where a language was being imposed upon people while other languages or dialects were neglected. Most of the initial literature on linguistic rights came from countries where linguistic and/or national divisions grounded in linguistic diversity have resulted in linguistic rights playing a vital role in maintaining stability. However, it was not until the 1900s that linguistic rights gained official status in politics and international accords.

Linguistic rights were first included as an international human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 in 1948.

Formal treaty-based language rights are mostly concerned with minority rights. The history of such language rights can be split into five phases.


1. pre-1815. Language rights are covered in bilateral agreements, but not in international treaties, e.g. Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

 (1923).


2. Final Act of the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 (1815). The conclusion to Napoleon’s empire-building was signed by 7 European major powers. It granted the right to use Polish to Poles in Poznan alongside German for official business. Also, some national constitutions protects the language rights of national minorities, e.g. Austrian Constitutional Law of 1867 grants ethnic minorities the right to develop their nationality and language.


3. Between WWI and WWII. Under the aegis of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

, Peace Treaties and major multilateral and international conventions carried clauses protecting minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, e.g. right to private use of any language, and provision for instruction in primary schools through medium of own language. Many national constitutions followed this trend. But not all signatories provided rights to minority groups within their own borders such as Britain, France, and US. Treaties also provided right of complaint to League of Nations and International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

.


4. 1945-1970s. International legislation for protection of human rights was undertaken within infrastructure of United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. Mainly for individual rights and collective rights to oppressed groups for self-determination.


5. Early 1970s onwards, there was a renewed interest in rights of minorities, including language rights of minorities. e.g. UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

Language Rights + Human Rights = Linguistic Human Rights (LHR)


Some make a distinction between Language Rights and Linguistic Human Rights because the former concept covers a much wider scope. Thus, not all language rights are LHR, although all LHR are language rights. One way of distinguishing language rights from LHR is between what is necessary, and what is enrichment-oriented. Necessary rights, as in human rights, are those needed for basic needs and for living a dignified life, e.g. language-related identity, access to mother tongue(s), right of access to an official language, no enforced language shift, access to formal primary education based on language, and the right for minority groups to perpetuate as a distinct group, with own languages. Enrichment rights are above basic needs, e.g. right to learn foreign languages.

Individual Linguistic Rights


The most basic definition of linguistic rights is the right of an individual to use their language with other members of their linguistic group, regardless of the status of their language. They evolve from general human rights, in particular: non-discrimination, freedom of expression, right to private life, and the right of members of a linguistic minority to use their language with other members of their community.


Individual linguistic rights are provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

:
  • Article 2 - all individuals are entitled to the rights declared without discrimination based on language.

  • Article 10 - individuals are entitled to a fair trial, and this is generally recognized to involve the right to an interpreter if an individual does not understand the language used in criminal court proceedings, or in a criminal accusation. The individual has to right to have the interpreter translate the proceedings, including court documents.

  • Article 19 - individuals have the right to freedom of expression, including the right to choose any language as the medium of expression.
  • Article 26 - everyone has the right to education, with relevance to the language of medium of instruction.

Linguistic rights can be applied to the private arena and the public domain.

Private Use of Language


Most treaties or language rights documents distinguish between the private use of a language by individuals and the use of a language by public authorities. Existing international human rights mandate that all individuals have the right to private and family life, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and/or the right of persons belonging to a linguistic minority to use their language with other members of their group. The United Nations Human Rights Committee defines privacy as:
“… the sphere of a person’s life in which he or she can freely express his or her identity, be it by entering into relationships with others or alone. The Committee is of the view that a person’s surname [and name] constitutes an important component of one’s identity and that the protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with one’s privacy includes the protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with the right to choose and change one’s own name.”

This means that individuals have the right to have their name or surname in their own language, regardless of whether the language is official or recognised, and state or public authorities cannot interfere with this right arbitrarily or unlawfully.

Linguistic Rights in the Public Domain


The public domain, with respect to language use, can be divided into judicial proceedings and general use by public officials.


According to Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

, individuals have the right to a fair trial. Therefore, in the name of fairness of judicial proceedings, it is an established linguistic right of an individual to an interpreter when he or she does not understand the language used in criminal court proceedings, or in a criminal accusation. The public authorities must either use the language which the individual understands, or hire an interpreter to translate the proceedings, including court cases.


General use by public officials can cover matters including public education, public radio and television broadcasting, the provision of services to the public, and so on. It is often accepted to be reasonable and justified for public officials to use the language of minorities, to an appropriate degree and level in their activities, when the numbers and geographic concentration of the speakers of a minority language are substantial enough. However, this is a contentious topic as the decision of substantiation is often arbitrary. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from March 23, 1976...

, Article 26, does promise to protect all individuals from discrimination on the grounds of language. Following that, Article 27 declares, “minorities shall not be denied the right… to use their own language”.

Collective Linguistic Rights


Collective linguistic rights are linguistic rights of a group, notably a language group or a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

. Collective rights is "the right of a linguistic group to ensure the survival of its language and to transmit the language to future generations". Language groups are complex and difficult to demarcate than states. Part of this difficulty is that members within language groups assign different roles to their language, and because of the difficulty in defining a language. Some states have legal provisions for the safeguard of collective linguistic rights because there are clear-cut situations and under particular historical and social circumstances.


Collective linguistic rights apply to states because it expresses itself in one or more languages. Generally, the language regime of states, which is communicated through allocation of statuses to languages used within its boundaries, qualifies linguistic rights claimed by groups and individuals in the name of efficient governance, in the best interest of the common good
Common good
The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all members of a given community...

. States are held in check by international conventions and the demands of the citizens. Linguistic rights translate to laws differently from country to country, as there is no generally accepted standard legal definition.

Territoriality vs. Personality Principles


The principle of territoriality refers to linguistic rights being focused solely within a territory, whereas the principle of personality depends on the linguistic status of the person(s) involved. An example of the application of territoriality is the case of Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, where linguistic rights are defined within clearly divided language-based cantons. An example of the application of personality is in federal Canadian legislation, which grants the right to services in French or English regardless of territory.

Negative vs. Positive Rights


Negative linguistic rights are the right for the exercise of language without the interference of the State
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

. Positive linguistic rights require positive action by the State involving the use of public money, such as public education in a specific language, or state-provided services in a particular language.

Assimilation-oriented vs. Maintenance-oriented


Assimilation-oriented types of language rights refer to the aim of the law to assimilate all citizens within the country, and range from prohibition to toleration. An example of prohibition type laws is the treatment of Kurds in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, where they are forbidden to use the Kurdish language
Kurdish language
Kurdish is a dialect continuum spoken by the Kurds in western Asia. It is part of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian group of Indo-European languages....

. Maintenance-oriented types of language rights refer to laws aiming to enable the maintenance of all languages within a country, and range from permission to promotion. An example of laws that promote language rights is the Basque Normalization Law, where the Basque language is promoted. The neutral point between assimilation-orientation and maintenance-orientation is non-discrimination prescription, which forbids discrimination based on language.

Overt vs. Covert


Another dimension for analyzing language rights is with degree of overtness and covertness. Degree of overtness refers to the extent laws or covenants are explicit with respect to language rights, and covertness the reverse. For example, Indian laws are overt in promoting language rights, whereas the English Language Amendments to the USA Constitution are overt prohibition. The Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child all fall under covert toleration.

Criticisms of the framework of Linguistic Human Rights


Some have criticized linguistic rights proponents for taking language to be a single coherent construct, pointing out instead, the difference between language and speech communities, and putting too much concern over inter-language discrimination rather than intra-language discrimination.


Other issues pointed out are the assumptions that the collective aims of linguistic minority groups are uniform, and that the concept of collective rights is not without its problems.


There is also the protest against the framework of Linguistic Human Rights singling out minority languages for special treatment, causing limited resources to be distributed unfairly. This has led to a call for deeper ethnographic and historiographic study into the relationship between speakers’ attitudes, speakers’ meaning, language, power, and speech communities.

Practical Application of Linguistic Rights


Linguistic Rights manifest as legislation (the passing of a law), subsequently becoming a statute to be enforced. Language legislation delimiting official usage can by grouped into: official, institutionalizing, standardizing, and liberal language legislation, based on its function.
"Official legislation makes languages official in the domains of legislation, justice, public administration, and education, [commonly according to territoriality and personality]. Various combinations of both principles are also used... Institutionalizing legislation covers the unofficial domains of labour, communications, culture, commerce, and business..."


In relation to legislation, a causal effect of linguistic rights is language policy
Language policy
Many countries have a language policy designed to favour or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. Although nations historically have used language policies most often to promote one official language at the expense of others, many countries now have policies designed to...

. The field of language planning falls under language policy. There are 3 types of language planning: status planning (uses of language), acquisition planning (users of language), and corpus planning (language itself).

International Platform



The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights is a document signed by UNESCO, the PEN Clubs, and several non-governmental organizations in 1996 to support linguistic rights, especially those of endangered languages...

 was approved on 6 June 1996 in Barcelona, Spain. It was the culmination of work by a committee of 50 experts under the auspices of UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

. Signatories were 220 persons from over 90 states, representing NGOs and International PEN Clubs Centres. This Declaration was drawn up in response to calls for linguistic rights as a fundamental human right at the 12th Seminar of the International Association for the Development of Intercultural Communication and the Final Declaration of the General Assembly of the International Federation of Modern Language Teachers. Linguistic rights in this Declaration stems from the language community, i.e. collective rights, and explicitly includes both regional and immigrant minority languages.


Overall, this document is divided into sections including: Concepts, General Principles, Overall linguistic regime (which covers Public administration and official bodies, Education, Proper names, Communications media and new technologies, Culture, and The socioeconomic sphere), Additional Dispositions, and Final Dispositions. So for instance, linguistic rights are granted equally to all language communities under Article 10, and to everyone, the right to use any language of choice in the private and family sphere under Article 12. Other Articles details the right to use or choice of languages in education, public, and legal arenas.


There are a number of other documents on the international level granting linguistic rights. The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from March 23, 1976...

, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 makes international law provision for protection of minorities. Article 27 states that individuals of linguistic minorities cannot be denied the right to use their own language.


The UN Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1992. Article 4 makes "certain modest obligations on states". It states that states should provide individuals belonging to minority groups with sufficient opportunities for education in their mother tongue, or instruction with their mother tongue as the medium of instruction. However, this Declaration is non-binding.


A third document adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, which makes provisions for linguistic rights is the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Rights of the Child
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children...

. In this convention, Articles 29 and 30 declares respect for the child's own cultural identity, language and values, even when it is different from the country of residence, and the right for the child to use his or her own language, in spite of the child's minority or immigrant status.

Africa


Linguistic rights in Africa have only come into focus in recent years. In 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed to help defend the fundamental human rights of all Africans. It adopted in 1981 the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent....

, which aims to promote and protect fundamental human rights, including language rights, in Africa. In 2004, fifteen member states ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Court is a regional, legal platform that monitors and promotes the AU states' compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. It is currently pending a merger with the Court of Justice of the African Union
African Court of Justice
The African Court of Justice was originally intended to be the “principal judicial organ of the Union” with authority to rule on disputes over interpretation of AU treaties....

.

In 2001 the President of the Republic of Mali, in conjunction with the OAU, set up the foundation for the African Academy of Languages
African Academy of Languages
The African Academy of Languages is a Pan-African organization founded in 2001 by Mali's then-president Alpha Oumar Konaré, under the auspices of the African Union, for the harmonization of Africa's many spoken languages...

 (ACALAN) to "work for the promotion and harmonisation of languages in Africa". Along with the inauguration of the Interim Governing Board of the ACALAN, the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

 declared 2006 as the Year of African Languages (YOAL).

In 2002, the OAU was disbanded and replaced by the African Union (AU). The AU adopted the Constitutive Act previously drawn up by the OAU in 2000. In Article 25, it is stated that the working languages of the Union and its institutions are Arabic, English, French and Portuguese, and if possible, all African languages. The AU also recognizes the national languages of each of its member institutions as stated in their national constitutions. In 2003, the AU adopted a protocol amending the Act such that working languages shall be renamed as official languages, and would encompass Spanish, Kiswahili and "any other African language" in addition to the four aforementioned languages . However, this Amendment has yet to be put into force, and the AU continues to use only the four working languages for its publications.
Europe


The Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 adopted the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

 in 1950, which makes some reference to linguistic rights. In Article 5.2, reasons for arrest and charges have to be communicated in a language understood by the person. Secondly, Article 6.3 grants an interpreter for free in a court, if the language used cannot be spoken or understood.


The Council for Local and Regional Authorities, part of the Council of Europe, formulated the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

 in 1992. This Charter grants recognition, protection, and promotion to regional and/or minority languages in European states, though explicitly not immigrant languages, in domains of "education, judicial authorities, administrative and public services, media, cultural activities, and socio-economic life" in Articles 8 to 13. Provisions under this Charter are enforced every three years by a committee. States choose which regional and/or minority languages to include.


The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was signed on February 1995 by 22 member States of the Council of Europe ....

 was implemented by the Council of Europe in 1995 as a "parallel activity" to the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. This Framework makes provisions for the right of national minorities to preserve their language in Article 5, for the encouragement of "mutual respect and understanding and co-operation among all persons living on their territory", regardless of language, especially in "fields of education, culture and the media" in Article 6. Article 6 also aims to protect persons from discrimination based on language.


Another document adopted by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in 1998 is the Recommendation 1383 on Linguistic Diversification. It encourages a wider variety of languages taught in Council of Europe member states in Article 5. It also recommends language education to include languages of non-native groups in Article 8.

Austria



Under the Austrian Constitutional Law (1867), Article 9 grants the right to maintenance and development of nationality and language to all ethnic minorities, equal rights to all languages used within the regions in domains of education, administration and public life, as well as the right to education in their own language for ethnic communities, without the necessity of acquiring a second language used in the province.

Canada



The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. It forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982...

 (1982) grants positive linguistic rights, by guaranteeing state responsibility to the French and English language communities. Section 23 declares three types of rights for Canadian citizens speaking French or English as their mother tongue and are minorities in a region. The first accords right of access to instruction in the medium of the mother tongue. The second assures educational facilities for minority languages. The third endows French and English language minorities the right to maintain and develop their own educational facilities. This control can take the form of “exclusive decision-making authority over the expenditure of funds, the appointment and direction of the administration, instructional programs, the recruitment of teachers and personnel, and the making of agreements for education and services”. All of these rights apply to primary and secondary education, sustained on public funds, and depend on the numbers and circumstances.

Croatia



Croatian language
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

 is the stated to be the official language of Croatia in Article 3 of the Croatian constitution. The same Article of Constitution stipulates that in some of local units, with the Croatian language and Latin script, in official use may be introduce another language and Cyrillic or some other script under the conditions prescribed by law. The only example of the use of minority language at the regional level currently is Istria County
Istria County
Istria County is the westernmost county of Croatia which includes the biggest part of the Istrian peninsula . The area of the county is called Istra in Croatian and Slovene...

 where official languages are Croatian and Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. In eastern Croatia, in Joint Council of Municipalities
Joint Council of Municipalities
Joint Council of Municipalities is a body that aligns the interests of the Serb ethnic community in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in the Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Syrmia County, coordinate the law and provides initiatives and proposals to the institutions of government,...

, at local (municipal) level is introduced Serbian
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

 as co official language. Each municipality, where a certain minority has more than one third of the population, can if it wants to introduce a minority language in official use.

Finland



Finland has one of the most overt linguistic rights frameworks. Discrimination based on language is forbidden under the basic rights for all citizens in Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. Section 17 of the Constitution of Finland explicitly details the right to one’s language and culture, although these languages are stated as either Finnish or Swedish. This right applies to in courts of law and other authorities, as well as translated official documents. There is also overt obligation of the state to provide for the “cultural and societal needs of the Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking populations of the country on an equal basis”. Other language communities, the ones specifically mentioned are indigenous groups, are granted the right to maintenance and development of their own language. There is an additional right for the specific group, the Sami, that they may use the Sami language when communicating with authorities. The deaf community is also granted the right to sign language and interpretation or translation.


Regulations regarding the rights of linguistic minorities in Finland, insist on the forming of a district for the first 9 years of comprehensive school education in each language, in municipalities with both Finnish- and Swedish-speaking children, as long as there is a minimum of 13 students from the language community of that mother tongue.

India



The constitution of India was first drafted on January 26, 1950. There is estimated to be about 1500 languages in India. Article 334-335 declared that the official languages of India will be Hindi and English. India does not have a national language. Article 345 states that “the Legislature of a state may by law adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the State or Hindi as the language or languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of that State: Provided that, until the Legislature of the State otherwise provides by law, the English language shall continue to be used for those official purposes within the State for which it was being used immediately before the commencement of this Constitution”.

Spain



Spanish language is the stated to be the official language of Spain in Article 3 of the Spanish constitution. However, the constitution makes provisions for other languages of Spain to be official in their respective communities. An example would be the use of the Basque language in the Basque Autonomous Country (BAC). Apart from Spanish, the other co-official languages are Basque, Catalan and Galician.

United States



Language rights in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 are usually derived from the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

, with its Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, because they forbid racial and ethnic discrimination, allowing language minorities to use this Amendment to claim their language rights. One example of use of the Due Process Clauses is the Meyer v. Nebraska
Meyer v. Nebraska
Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , was a U.S. Supreme Court case that held that a 1919 Nebraska law restricting foreign-language education violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.-Context and legislation:...

case which held that a 1919 Nebraska law restricting foreign-language education violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Two other cases of major importance to linguistic rights were the Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad
Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad
Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad, 271 U.S. 500 , was a legal case in which the Supreme Court of the United States decided that a law passed by the U.S. colonial government of the Philippines in 1921 — Act No...

case, which overturned a language-restrictive legislation in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, declaring that piece of legislation to be "violative of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Philippine Autonomy Act of Congress", as well as the Farrington v. Tokushige
Farrington v. Tokushige
Farrington v. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously struck down the Territory of Hawaii's law making schools that teach foreign languages without a permit illegal because it violated the due process clause of the Fifth...

case, which ruled that the governmental regulation of private schools, particularly to restrict the teaching of languages other than English or Hawaiian languages, as damaging to the migrant population of Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. Both of these cases were influenced by the Meyer case, which was a precedent.

Basque, Spain



The linguistic situation in Basque is a precarious one. The Basque language is considered to be a low language in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. Until about 1982 the Basque Language was not used in administration in Spain. In 1978, a law was passed allowing for Basque to be used in administration side by side with Spanish in the Basque Autonomous Communities.

Between 1935 and 1975, the period of Franco’s regime, the use of Basque was strictly prohibited, as such language decline begun to occur as well. However, following the death of Franco, many nationalistic people in Basque demanded for the Basque language to be recognized. One of these groups was the Euskadi Ta Askatasun (ETA
ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

). The ETA had initially begun as a non violent group to promote Basque language and culture. However, when their demands were not met, they turned violent and evolved into terrorist groups. Today, the ETA’s demands for a separate state partially stems from the problem of perceived linguistic discrimination.

Faroe Islands



The Faroese language
Faroese language
Faroese , is an Insular Nordic language spoken by 48,000 people in the Faroe Islands and about 25,000 Faroese people in Denmark and elsewhere...

 conflict occurred roughly between 1908 and 1938. The language conflict has been described to be political and cultural in nature. The two languages that were in conflict to become the official language of the Faroe Islands were the Faroese language and Danish language. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the language of the government, education and Church was Danish whereas Faroese was the language of the people. The movement towards Faroese language rights and preservation was begun in the 1880s by a group of students. This spread to from 1920 onwards towards a movement to using Faroese in the religious and government sector. Faroese and Danish are now both official languages in the Faroe Islands.

Sri Lanka


The start of the conflict regarding languages in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 goes as far back as the rule of the British. During the colonial period, English had a special and powerful position in Sri Lanka. The British ruled in Sri Lanka from the late eighteenth century to 1948. English was the official language of administration then. Just before the departure of the British, a “swabhasha” (your own language) movement was launched in a bid to slowly phase out English, replacing it with Sinhala or Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

. However, shortly after the departure of the British the campaign, due to various political reasons, evolved from Sinhala and Tamil to replace English to just Sinhala replacing English.

In 1956, the first election after independence, the opposition won and the official language was declared to be Sinhala. The Tamil people were unhappy because they felt that they were greatly disadvantaged. Due to the fact that Sinhala was now the official language, it made it easier for the people whose mother tongue was Sinhala to enter into government sector and also provided them with an unfair advantage in the education system. Tamil people who also did not understand Sinhala felt greatly inconvenienced as they had to depend on others to translate official documents for them.

Both the Tamil and Sinhala-speaking people felt that language was crucial to their identity. The Sinhala people associated the language with their rich heritage. They were also afraid that, given that there were only 9 million speakers of the language at that time, if Sinhala was not the only official language it would eventually be slowly lost. The Tamil people felt that the Sinhala only policy would assert the dominance of the Sinhalese people and as such they might lose their language, culture and identity.

Despite the unhappiness of the Tamil people, no big political movement was undertaken till the early 1970s. Eventually in May 1976, there was publicly made demand for a Tamil state. During the 1956 election the Federal party had replaced the Tamil congress. The party was bent on “the attainment of freedom for the Tamil-speaking people of Ceylon by the establishment of an autonomous Tamil state on the linguistic basis within the framework of a Federal Union of Ceylon". However it did not have much success. As such, in 1972, the Federal Party, Tamil Congress and other organizations banded together into a new party called the “Tamil United Front”.

One of the catalysts for Tamil separation arose in 1972 when the Sinhala government made amendments to the constitution. The Sinhala government decided to promote Buddhism as the official religion and claimed that "it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism”. Given that the majority of the Tamils were Hindus, this created unease. There was then a fear among the Tamils that people belonging to the “untouchable castes” would be encouraged to convert to Buddhism and then “brainwashed” to learn Sinhala as well.

Another spur was also the impatience of the Tamil youths in Sri Lanka. The veteran politicians noted that the current youths more ready to engage in violence and some of them even had ties to certain rebel groups in South India. Also in 1974, there was conference of Tamil studies organized in Jaffna
Jaffna
Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna district located on a peninsula of the same name. Jaffna is approximately six miles away from Kandarodai which served as a famous emporium in the Jaffna peninsula from classical...

. The conference turned violent. This resulted in the deaths of seven people. Given the rise in violence, about 40 – 50 Tamil youths in between the years of 1972 and 1975 were detained without being properly charged further increasing the tension.

A third stimulus was the changes in the criteria for University examinations in the early 1970s. the government decided that they wanted to standardize the university admission criteria based on the language the entrance exams were taken. It was identified that students who took the exams in Tamil scored better than the students who took it in Sinhala. As such, the government decided that Tamil students had to achieve a higher score than the students who took the exam in Sinhala to enter the universities. As a result, the number of Tamil students entering universities fell.

After the July 1977 election, relations between the Sinhalese and the Ceylon Tamil people became worse. There was flash violence in parts of the country. It is estimated about 100 people were killed and thousands of people flee from their home. Among all these tensions, the call for a separate state among Tamil people grew louder.

See also


  • List of linguistic rights in African constitutions
  • List of linguistic rights in European constitutions
  • List of human rights articles by country
  • Territorial principle
  • Language policy
    Language policy
    Many countries have a language policy designed to favour or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. Although nations historically have used language policies most often to promote one official language at the expense of others, many countries now have policies designed to...

  • Language planning
    Language planning
    Language planning is a deliberate effort to influence the function, structure, or acquisition of languages or language variety within a speech community. It is often associated with government planning, but is also used by a variety of non-governmental organizations, such as grass-roots...

  • Linguistic purism
    Linguistic purism
    Linguistic purism or linguistic protectionism is the practice of defining one variety of a language as being purer than other varieties. The ideal of purity is often opposed in reference to a perceived decline from an "ideal past" or an unwanted similarity with other languages, but sometimes simply...

  • Language ideology
    Language ideology
    In sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, a language or linguistic ideology is a systematic construct about how particular ways of using languages carry or are invested with certain moral, religious, social, and political values, giving rise to implicit assumptions that people have about a...

  • Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
    Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights
    The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights is a document signed by UNESCO, the PEN Clubs, and several non-governmental organizations in 1996 to support linguistic rights, especially those of endangered languages...

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

  • Language education
    Language education
    Language education is the teaching and learning of a foreign or second language. Language education is a branch of applied linguistics.- Need for language education :...

  • Ballantyne, Davidson, McIntyre v. Canada
    Ballantyne, Davidson, McIntyre v. Canada
    Ballantyne, Davidson, McIntyre v. Canada was a case on Quebec's language law decided by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in 1993.-Facts:...

  • Belgian linguistic case
  • Diergaardt v. Namibia
    Diergaardt v. Namibia
    J.G.A. Diergaardt et al. v. Namibia was a case decided by the Human Rights Committee in 2000.-Complaints:...

  • Lau v. Nichols
    Lau v. Nichols
    Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 , was a civil rights case that was brought by Chinese American students living in San Francisco, California who had limited English proficiency...

  • R. v. Beaulac
    R. v. Beaulac
    R. v. Beaulac [1999] 1 S.C.R. 768 is a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on language rights. Notably, the majority adopted a liberal and purposive interpretation of language rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, overturning conservative case law such as Société des Acadiens...

  • Freedom of speech
    Freedom of speech
    Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...


Papers and Books on Linguistic rights

  • Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Phillipson, R., Linguistic Human Rights: Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994.
  • Faingold, E. D. (2004). "Language rights and language justice in the constitutions of the world." Language Problems & Language Planning 28(1): 11-24.
  • Alexander, N. 2002. Linguistic rights, language planning and democracy in post- apartheid South Africa. In Baker, S. (ed.), Language Policy: Lessons from Global Models. Monterey, CA.: Monterey Institute of International Studies.
  • Bamgbose, A. 2000. Language and Exclusion. Hamburg: LIT-Verlag.
  • Myers-Scotton, C. 1990. Elite closure as boundary maintenance. The case of Africa. In B. Weinstein (ed.), Language Policy and Political Development. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  • Tollefson, J. 1991. Planning Language, Planning Inequality. Language Policy in the Community. Longman: London and New York.
  • Miller D, Branson J (2002). Nationalism and the Linguistic Rights of Deaf Communities: Linguistic Imperialism and the Recognition and Development of Sign Languages. Journal of Sociolinguistics. 2(1), 3-34.
  • Asbjorn, Eide (1999). The Oslo Recommendations regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities: An Overview. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights. , 319-328. ISSN 1385-4879
  • Woehrling, J (1999). Minority Cultural and Linguistic Rights and Equality Rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. McGill Law Journal.
  • Paulston, C.B (2009). Epilogue: Some Concluding Thoughts on Linguistic Human Rights. International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 127(1), 187–196. (Druviete, 1999)
  • Kontra, M, Phillipson R, Skutnabb-Kangas T, Varday T, (1999). Language, a right and a resource: approaching linguistic human rights. Hungary: Akademiai Nyomda.

External links