Linguistic Human Rights

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Linguistic Human Rights

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  • Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics


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Genuine peaceful contact presupposes a mutual will to try to understand the other party's signed or spoken signals and symbols; to accommodate, and to learn at least some of them (often using a pidgin, an auxiliary simplified language), or to learn a common lingua franca, foreign to both. For dominant groups, their own rights have often been, and still are, invisible: they take them for granted. Even today, this is one of the problems when discussing and trying to formulate linguistic/language rights (LRs). Dominant linguistic groups often feel a need to formally codify their language rights only when dominated groups, for example indigenous/tribal peoples, or minorities of various kinds (ITMs), start demanding LRs for themselves. Most people connect LRs mainly to ITMs, and most LRs are found among special minority or indigenous rights rather than general human rights (HRs). This article discusses LRs as HRs, LRs versus linguistic human rights (LHRs), LHRs for linguistic majorities and minorities, collective LHRs, justifications for LHRs, individual positive LHRs, and LHRs and the role of indigenous peoples.

Keywords: language rights; human rights; linguistic human rights; minorities; indigenous peoples; linguistic majorities

Article.  5704 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics ; Forensic Linguistics

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