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Language, Ethnicity, and the State: Minority Languages in the EU. Ch2: Many Tongues but One Voice By Donall O Riagain. Post WWII: how did minorities fare?. Post-War Europe was not friendly to minorities (it was claimed they did not contribute to stability, were collaborators)

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Language, Ethnicity, and the State: Minority Languages in the EU

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Language ethnicity and the state minority languages in the eu l.jpg

Language, Ethnicity, and the State: Minority Languages in the EU

Ch2: Many Tongues but One Voice

By Donall O Riagain


Post wwii how did minorities fare l.jpg

Post WWII: how did minorities fare?

  • Post-War Europe was not friendly to minorities (it was claimed they did not contribute to stability, were collaborators)

  • 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights censured discrimination based on language

  • International Labor Organization (under UN) promoted education in mother tongue for indigenous peoples

  • UNESCO supported minorities’ rights to maintain schools for their languages


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Expansion of official EU languages

  • EU precursor organization initially chose French, but had to add more and more due to protests & requests

  • 1979 Gaetano Arfe (member of European Parliament) called for a Charter of Ethnic Minorities, and similar efforts soon followed, leading to 1982 establishment of European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages

  • 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages


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“Minority”, “lesser used”, etc. – how are these terms defined?

  • It is hard to define a minority language, since it might be an official language (Irish) or a majority language elsewhere (German in Belgium)

  • What is a language & what is a dialect?

    • Yes, the most important criteria is self-identification of the speakers


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European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages

  • Coordinates joint efforts among minorities across Europe

  • Lobbies governments to sign the Charter and enact policies that promote minority languages

  • Reports, publications, conferences

  • Funds visits to other minority groups to see what measures do and don’t work


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More Detail on the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

  • Minority language is

    • 1) used by a numerically smaller # of citizens in a given territory of the state

    • 2) distinct from state language

  • Minority language is not

    • 1) language of immigrants

    • 2) dialect of majority language

    • 3) non-territorial (Romany, Yiddish) -- but these are included in part II of Charter


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Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

  • Has been signed by most EU countries (plus Norway, Switzerland & others), and is under consideration by Russia

  • Has achieved widespread recognition of importance of linguistic human rights and linguistic diversity as a resource


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