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(Re) defining linguistic diversity:

  • Linguistic diversity is complicated. It involves two main elements: a headcount of “languages”, plus variation and variability within and between them. In this article we show how language policy in Europe claims to protect diversity but falls short on these two measures. Our legal analysis examines the institutional politics of the European Union, details of accession, and institutionalisation of multilingualism. We describe the manifestation of a multilevel language hierarchy: working languages are topmost, then official languages, then non-official languages. This largely privileges national languages, principally English. Meanwhile allochthonous (‘immigrant’) languages are discounted, despite outnumbering autochthonous (‘indigenous’) languages. Our legal analysis therefore suggests an early stumble for linguistic diversity: even limited to a headcount of “languages”, most are neglected. Next, our sociolinguistic analysis examines the Council of Europe’s approach to protecting minority languages. We show how diversity can decline even among protected languages, using two case studies: Cornish, a young revival; and Welsh, an older, more established revival. The Cornish revival could only proceed after agreement on singular standardisation. Meanwhile the internal diversity of Welsh as declined significantly, fuelled by the normative reproduction of its standard form in education, and by sharpened social pressures against local dialects. Moreover, by comparing the EU and the Council of Europe, we aim for an overarching argument about “European language policy”. We conclude that linguistic diversity is neglected, through exclusion of most of the languages spoken in Europe, and pressures on language-internal diversity within protected languages. Linguistic diversity is something richer and more complex than the limited goals of existing policies; it transcends language boundaries, and may be damaged by planned intervention.

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Author:Petra Lea Láncos, Dave Sayers
ISSN:ISSN: 1456-8438
Parent Title (English):Sky Journal of Linguistics
Subtitle (English):What is being protected in European language policy?
Publisher:Suomen Kielitieteellinen Yhdistys
Place of publication:Helsinki
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2018/02/27
Publishing Institution:Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung
Release Date:2018/02/27
Page Number:38
First Page:35
Last Page:73
Documents of the German Research Institute for Public Administration (FÖV):Sonstige Schriften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell-Keine Bearbeitung