Legal Rights of Linguistic Minorities in the European Union

Durk Gorter and Jasone Cenoz

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

 Legal Rights of Linguistic Minorities in the European Union

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics


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Many linguistic minorities in Europe are vulnerable or severely endangered and in need of protection. Although there are still many weaknesses, there is a trend in Europe towards the improvement of minority rights. Inside the European Union (EU), Spain and the United Kingdom have taken the lead in devolving central power to minority-dominated regions. The Treaty of Lisbon, adopted in 2009, introduced for the first time the word ‘minorities’ in EU-primary law. Although its impact remains to be seen, it has the potential to improve the protection of European minority languages. This article focuses on the legal rights of linguistic minorities in the EU. It looks at some major international human rights instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) of the Council of Europe (COE) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) of the United Nations. The article then examines EU language policy and linguistic rights, and concludes with an outlook for the future.

Keywords: legal rights; linguistic minorities; European Union; minority languages; human rights; language policy; linguistic rights; Political Rights; European Convention

Article.  5197 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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