Linguistic rights

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mōdgethanc
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Linguistic rights

Postby mōdgethanc » 2012-01-18, 4:30

Here's a thought experiment. Let's say we have Language Group A and Language Group B. These two groups of speakers coexist in the same territory peacefully for centuries, until one day Group A gains power and implements policies intended to marginalize Group B's language and drives it almost to extinction. Later, this regime is dissolved and Group B begins to recover their former prestige. Laws are enacted making both languages official, and both are used in education and the media. Seems fair, right?

But that's not the end of it. Some of the more militant members of Group B feel these efforts don't go far enough, and demand recompense. They insist that their language be the sole official one in areas where they form the majority, although there is a quite a large number of Group A speakers there as well. In effect, they want to deny the same rights to Group A that were previously denied to them. Their justification is their past persecution and what they claim is the need to save their language from extinction.

What I want to know is, do you find this justified? Is it morally defensible to deny certain people their rights if it leads to a rebirth of your own culture? Or is this merely a case of two wrongs not making a right?

Some obvious historical parallels include the treatment of Russians in Latvia, Anglophones in Quebec and Italians in Libya.

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Sol Invictus » 2012-01-18, 6:02

Some obvious historical parallels include the treatment of Russians in Latvia.

No way, really? :nope: Perhaps you should do some research before making such comparisons - most of Russians in Latvia are first and second generation immigrants, while your thought experiment, as I understand, initially has two historical groups of roughly same size, which also isn't true for pre-WWII situation in Latvia where there was one majority language and several minorities. If you want to use Latvia example, you could rather look at situation of Livonian or Latgalian.

What I want to know is, do you find this justified? Is it morally defensible to deny certain people their rights if it leads to a rebirth of your own culture? Or is this merely a case of two wrongs not making a right?

No, it probably will just screw up situation even more. It may be just, though, to force both groups to learn each others language, as seems to be the case in some European countries which have two official languages, one of which is spoken only by a small minority.

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby hlysnan » 2012-01-18, 6:23

I'd probably say issues such as linguistic rights should be decentralised to local authorities, and if the majority of people at that level support having one language as the sole official language, then fine by me.

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby mōdgethanc » 2012-01-18, 6:24

That sounds like a good idea to me, but even better would be to avoid the issue by simply having no national language at all.
Sol Invictus wrote:Perhaps you should do some research before making such comparisons - most of Russians in Latvia are first and second generation immigrants, while your thought experiment, as I understand, initially has two historical groups of roughly same size, which also isn't true for pre-WWII situation in Latvia where there was one majority language and several minorities. If you want to use Latvia example, you could rather look at situation of Livonian or Latgalian.
I don't think you can expect real life examples to fit the criteria perfectly. I'm well aware that most Russians in Latvia are recent immigrants. The point is that the official language policy since independence has been to increase the use of Latvian and encourage Russian speakers to learn it.

(Since when were Livonian or Latgalian ever on equal terms in speakers with Latvian, by the way?)
No, it probably will just screw up situation even more. It may be just, though, to force both groups to learn each others language, as seems to be the case in some European countries which have two official languages, one of which is spoken only by a small minority.
Such as?

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Sol Invictus » 2012-01-18, 6:53

Talib wrote:(Since when were Livonian or Latgalian ever on equal terms in speakers with Latvian, by the way?)

What you mean?
No, it probably will just screw up situation even more. It may be just, though, to force both groups to learn each others language, as seems to be the case in some European countries which have two official languages, one of which is spoken only by a small minority.
Such as?

Ireland for sure, suspect some other countries, but Wikipedia's down, so hard to do a proper research :ohwell:

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby mōdgethanc » 2012-01-18, 7:33

What you mean?
You took issue with my example of Russian in Latvia because most Russians there are recent immigrants, but Latgalian doesn't work either because as far as I know, it never had the same number of speakers as Latvian proper. Either way, it's just a thought experiment. It's meant to have broad applicability to real life.
Ireland for sure, suspect some other countries, but Wikipedia's down, so hard to do a proper research :ohwell:
Irish is taught in Ireland, that's for sure, but whether these efforts are working is less clear. Most Irish people still cannot speak it as well as English.

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Sol Invictus » 2012-01-18, 9:21

It is not, if it is working for Irish or not, it is that a historicaly important minority anguage ts trying to regain its importance. If they banned the use of English, we'd get situation similar to what you prupose. Probably wouldn't end well. So as long as both languages are co-official and both sides are okay with it and learn each others language it is probably more benefical to minority language.

There seem to be multiple cases of co-existing languages, probably we could find some that fits your rules exactly. The trouble is the examples we have aren't perfect - what we have here is "immigrant" minorities whith strong ties to other countries. Hence something like Latvian vs. Livonian or Latgalian would be better - two indeginous languages pitted against each other. Except Livonian now is too small to retaliate, while Latgalian is a dialect and as such it originlly didn't really co-exist, but probably was the majority language in its region. Plus it seems that here lack of mutual inteligibility and clearly distinct identities would be better. Belgium or Swiss may be better examples, but their languages still are spoken in other countries, so if they suddenly tried to kill each other it still wouldn't involve language extinction.
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Vortex » 2012-01-18, 9:31

Such ethnic nationalism expressed by group B should be discouraged by society. I think they are well with in their rights to wish to revive their language and culture but to go as far as to seek to force group A to experience the same treatment won't solve anything and would if anything spark ethnic conflicts that just won't end well for either group.

The best course of action I think would be no make neither language official and provide resources for all linguistics communities in the country to maintain/revive their languages. Also government paper work should be available for all languages spoken in the country (whether they are spoken by natives or immigrants). By doing this you get rid of the political aspect of language death (or shrinking) and work around the potential conflicts that may come about from nationalistic policies enacted by group A against group B and what group B wants to do to group A in retaliation.

However in the context of modern language death and revival, as long as one language holds economic and social prestige, it will be difficult if not impossible for moribund or shrinking minority languages to be revived or restored to their former glory.
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Sol Invictus » 2012-01-18, 10:06

Vortex wrote:However in the context of modern language death and revival, as long as one language holds economic and social prestige, it will be difficult if not impossible for moribund or shrinking minority languages to be revived or restored to their former glory.

BTW in modern context it seems unlikely that group B would get to retaliate. If group A initaly oppreses group B it is likely that they will have some kind of nationalist regime, in which case they will blast group B to oblivion. If group A tries to justify its regime, they probably won't be able to do much damage, so that in turn can be undone by reinstating two official languages and making it requirment to learn language B.

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby hlysnan » 2012-01-18, 10:41

Vortex wrote:Also government paper work should be available for all languages spoken in the country (whether they are spoken by natives or immigrants). By doing this you get rid of the political aspect of language death (or shrinking) and work around the potential conflicts that may come about from nationalistic policies enacted by group A against group B and what group B wants to do to group A in retaliation.

God no. What is the reasoning for this? If they don't bother learning one of the native languages, how were they expecting to survive here in the first place?

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Remis » 2012-01-18, 12:00

hlysnan wrote:
Vortex wrote:Also government paper work should be available for all languages spoken in the country (whether they are spoken by natives or immigrants). By doing this you get rid of the political aspect of language death (or shrinking) and work around the potential conflicts that may come about from nationalistic policies enacted by group A against group B and what group B wants to do to group A in retaliation.

God no. What is the reasoning for this? If they don't bother learning one of the native languages, how were they expecting to survive here in the first place?
This, I agree with. I don't see why we should have governmental papers written in Arabic, Urdu and Panjabi in Norway, for instance. English, Sámi and the two written forms of Norwegian, fine (I don't think we have English, actually), but if you're emigrating to ... whatever country for whatever reason, you should learn their language. It's only polite and respectful to do so (and if you don't, you may as well be seen as a troublemaker/potential criminal by the locals, as you're probably not planning on staying in a given country for a long time if you don't intend to learn the language).
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby MillMaths » 2012-01-18, 12:30

Remis wrote:but if you're emigrating to ... whatever country for whatever reason, you should learn their language. It's only polite and respectful to do so (and if you don't, you may as well be seen as a troublemaker/potential criminal by the locals, as you're probably not planning on staying in a given country for a long time if you don't intend to learn the language).
What about people seeking political asylum in another country because they're being persecuted in their home country?

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby linguoboy » 2012-01-18, 13:36

Sophie wrote:What about people seeking political asylum in another country because they're being persecuted in their home country?

Why should they be excepted? What better way to demonstrate their appreciation for that nation's willingness to assist them?
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-01-18, 21:25

hlysnan wrote: If they don't bother learning one of the native languages, how were they expecting to survive here in the first place?

When reading this, I just came to think of Australia and the US, where almost no one speaks the native languages ... :twisted:
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby linguoboy » 2012-01-18, 21:32

Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:When reading this, I just came to think of Australia and the US, where almost no one speaks the native languages ... :twisted:

How's your Sámi?
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-01-18, 21:39

Talib wrote:Here's a thought experiment. Let's say we have Language Group A and Language Group B. These two groups of speakers coexist in the same territory peacefully for centuries, until one day Group A gains power and implements policies intended to marginalize Group B's language and drives it almost to extinction. Later, this regime is dissolved and Group B begins to recover their former prestige. Laws are enacted making both languages official, and both are used in education and the media. Seems fair, right?

But that's not the end of it. Some of the more militant members of Group B feel these efforts don't go far enough, and demand recompense. They insist that their language be the sole official one in areas where they form the majority, although there is a quite a large number of Group A speakers there as well. In effect, they want to deny the same rights to Group A that were previously denied to them. Their justification is their past persecution and what they claim is the need to save their language from extinction.

What I want to know is, do you find this justified? Is it morally defensible to deny certain people their rights if it leads to a rebirth of your own culture? Or is this merely a case of two wrongs not making a right?

Some obvious historical parallels include the treatment of Russians in Latvia, Anglophones in Quebec and Italians in Libya.

I would like a return to previous languages, and I would want every language to have a place of its own. If language shift was possible in one direction it should be possible in the other as well. (But it might not be.)

Say that English would be forbidden everywhere in the world, and the previous local language forced on all. :twisted:
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

Jag är rebell: jag sockrar teet, saltar maten, cyklar utan hjälm, och tänder glödlampor.
(Ovanstående var förut, nu försöker jag minska sockret och saltet.)

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Jurgen Wullenwever » 2012-01-18, 21:46

linguoboy wrote:
Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:When reading this, I just came to think of Australia and the US, where almost no one speaks the native languages ... :twisted:

How's your Sámi?

It is worse than my Estonian, and I am of Estonian ancestry, and Finnish, but speak only Swedish. :cry:

I have not heard of Sami traces this far south in Sweden, although there might be some placenames pointing to Uralic settlements, but the precise truth in these matters is beyond possible knowledge. Germanic should have some native areas, and southern Scandinavia is among them.
Chekhov wrote:I don't know about naive worldviews, but Jurgen Wullenwhatever pisses me off to no end because of his extreme pessimism and cynicism. You'd think the world was going to end imminently when talking to that guy.

Jag är rebell: jag sockrar teet, saltar maten, cyklar utan hjälm, och tänder glödlampor.
(Ovanstående var förut, nu försöker jag minska sockret och saltet.)

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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Hunef » 2012-01-18, 22:34

linguoboy wrote:
Jurgen Wullenwever wrote:When reading this, I just came to think of Australia and the US, where almost no one speaks the native languages ... :twisted:

How's your Sámi?
Except that Norse is no less native language in Scandinavia than Sami is.
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby linguoboy » 2012-01-18, 22:39

Hunef wrote:Except that Norse is no less native language in Scandinavia than Sami is.

That would depend on where exactly in Scandinavia you are.
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Re: Linguistic rights

Postby Saim » 2012-01-19, 2:08

Talib wrote:Here's a thought experiment. Let's say we have Language Group A and Language Group B. These two groups of speakers coexist in the same territory peacefully for centuries, until one day Group A gains power and implements policies intended to marginalize Group B's language and drives it almost to extinction. Later, this regime is dissolved and Group B begins to recover their former prestige. Laws are enacted making both languages official, and both are used in education and the media. Seems fair, right?

But that's not the end of it. Some of the more militant members of Group B feel these efforts don't go far enough, and demand recompense. They insist that their language be the sole official one in areas where they form the majority, although there is a quite a large number of Group A speakers there as well. In effect, they want to deny the same rights to Group A that were previously denied to them. Their justification is their past persecution and what they claim is the need to save their language from extinction.

What I want to know is, do you find this justified? Is it morally defensible to deny certain people their rights if it leads to a rebirth of your own culture? Or is this merely a case of two wrongs not making a right?

Some obvious historical parallels include the treatment of Russians in Latvia, Anglophones in Quebec and Italians in Libya.

I don't think that the experience of Italians in Libya is a good parallel because the Italians were expelled and not robbed of linguistic rights (they continue to speak Italian, just not in Libya).

I think that the government favoring no language, while it may sound good on paper, ends up favoring the larger language over historically oppressed ones. I know you think it's a false dichotomy, but I think it's really important to make sure language B doesn't disappear. Furthermore, I don't think you can say "coexisted for centuries" when usually one group lived there first and then another group supplanted them. Saying "no government intervention" at this point is the worst time, because this is when the supplanting process can be reversed and a stable multilingualism can be promoted. Perhaps banning education in the dominant language is a bit much, but I would certainly support subsidizing and promoting education and media in minority languages.

You've also mentioned Irish education, and I don't think the "force" element is the problem there. The problem is that students are not taught in Irish. Irish isn't used as a medium of communication, but rather as some folkloric artifact to be respected but not really used (I've read that Irish students in English-mediums schools are made to decipher old Gaelge poems rather than actually converse in the language). I would definitely in this case support introducing some Irish-medium education into English-medium schools, as at the moment I think only the elites or something like an eighteenth of students have access to Irish medium. Talib, is it still linguicide if the government only mandates some language B medium education in all schools, allowing traditionally language A schools be bilingual or trilingual? I mean, schools enforce maths, history and language A, so why not language B? Is it 'linguicide' if this is only mandated in public schools?

Back to the main topic, I don't really think what you're talking about can be called linguicide. In most cases the goal is not to stamp out the historically prestigious language from the region entirely but to maintain language B as the native one and language A as the lingua franca. Maybe it is the case with Russian in Latvia but certainly not with English in Quebec and Ireland or Spanish in the Catalan countries. Where language A native-speakers are no longer the majority, and language B speakers no longer have much knowledge of language A (as with Swedes in Finland and Russians in Latvia) I then think language A should be the one to be respected and preserved.

I think I should also point out that I can't think of any examples where language B is imposed on A-land in the same way A-land imposed their language on B-land, it's only B-land imposing (or in my eyes, promoting and preserving) language B in B-land. Thus, it's not really a "taste of their own medicine" situation. A "taste of their own medicine" would be B-land (Quebec, Catalonia, Ireland, whatever) taking over A-land (English Canada, Castile, England...) and imposing B-language there. B-speakers do not always have language rights in A-land either (although yes English Canada is an exception), so they're not denying A-speakers rights that have only recently been granted to B-speakers. They're denying them rights that B-speakers never have had, even after linguistic recognition within their own homeland.

Vortex wrote:However in the context of modern language death and revival, as long as one language holds economic and social prestige, it will be difficult if not impossible for moribund or shrinking minority languages to be revived or restored to their former glory.

Are you then saying that if one were to find this restoration very important, then you would indeed


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