(Re)defining linguistic diversity: What is being protected in European language policy?

SAYERS, Dave and LÁNCOS, Petra Lea (2017). (Re)defining linguistic diversity: What is being protected in European language policy? SKY Journal of Linguistics, 30, 35-73.

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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 has 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.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Humanities Research Centre
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities > Department of Humanities
Page Range: 35-73
Depositing User: Dave Sayers
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2018 15:41
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 06:56
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18549

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