Linguistic diversity and normative political theory huw lewis
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Linguistic Diversity and Normative Political Theory Huw Lewis . Introduction. Normative political theory and cultural diversity. Recent literature has focused on the issue of linguistic diversity. Key question:

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Linguistic Diversity and Normative Political Theory Huw Lewis

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Linguistic diversity and normative political theory huw lewis

Linguistic Diversity and Normative Political TheoryHuw Lewis


Introduction

Introduction

  • Normative political theory and cultural diversity.

  • Recent literature has focused on the issue of linguistic diversity.

  • Key question:

    • On what grounds should measures to support the prospects of linguistic communities be viewed as normatively required?


The value of linguistic diversity

The Value of Linguistic Diversity

  • A popular argument:

    • Measures to support various linguistic communities should be viewed as normatively required due to the value of linguistic diversity.

  • An argument that focuses on how society in general benefits from the existence of linguistic diversity.

  • Advocates:

    • David Crystal, Language Death (CUP, 2000).

    • Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine, Vanishing Voices (OUP, 2000).


The aesthetic value of linguistic diversity

The Aesthetic Value of Linguistic Diversity

  • Different languages provide different ways of expressing views, emotions or of producing art.

  • ‘Humanity gains so much from each fresh expression of itself in a language ... The best way for an educated person to feel the power of this argument ... is to ask what would be missed if – through an imaginary catastrophic language disappearance – we had never had X (where X is any well-known language). What splendours of literature, in particular, would we have never experienced if some event had prematurely ended the development of French, Spanish or Russian?’ (Crystal 2000: 45).


The scientific value of l inguistic diversity

The Scientific Value of Linguistic Diversity

  • The maintenance of linguistic diversity is important for the continued development of linguistics as a social science.

  • ‘Linguists need to study as many different languages as possible if they are to perfect their theories of language structure and to train future generations of students in linguistic analysis ... Satisfying answers to many current puzzles about languages and their origins will not emerge until linguists have studied many languages. To exclude exotic languages from our study is like expecting botanists to study only florist shop roses and greenhouse tomatoes and then tell us what the plant world is like’ (Nettle and Romaine 2000: 10-1).


The scientific value of l inguistic diversity1

The Scientific Value of Linguistic Diversity

  • The maintenance of linguistic diversity is important for the advancement of scientific knowledge in general.

  • ‘The knowledge contained in indigenous languages has much to contribute to scientific theories through the uncovering of potentially invaluable perspectives on a variety of problems such as land management, marine technology, plant cultivation and animal husbandry’ (Nettle and Romaine 2000: 51).


Concerns

Concerns

  • Should those who wish to advocate in favour of policies which support minority language communities pursue the value of diversity argument?

  • Problem 1:

    • A line of argument that does not provide a strong basis for claiming that policies supporting minority language communities are normatively required.

    • The supposed benefits are too diffuse to justify the potential costs or obligations.

  • Problem 2:

    • A line of argument that does not give due consideration to the views of the members of particular linguistic communities.

    • It leads to the establishment of moral duties rather than rights.


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • Arguments in support of language maintenance efforts that have as their starting points the interests of the members of particular linguistic communities, as opposed to society in general, are likely to carry much more force, but also to be less problematic from a moral perspective.


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