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Ten (Socio-) Linguistic Axioms

Peter L Patrick, University of Essex


1.        Language is speech, or sign; writing is a secondary technology.

2.        Children are biologically designed to become multilingual...

3.        ...But acquiring literacy is best done in one’s mother tongue.

4.        All natural languages are equivalent in their potential value – moral, aesthetic & social – and in their expressive capacity.

5.        Language is a primary means for engaging the world, developing & expressing (both individual and group) identity.

6.        Educational institutions use arbitrary language standards as gate-keeping devices to reproduce the status quo.

7.        Standard languages and writing-based norms historically have privileged elite minorities, and continue to do so, necessarily.

8.        Bias towards/against a language or dialect stands in for bias towards/against its speakers.

9.        Ethnicity and language have complex and dynamic relations.

10.  Language planning (=language interference) and legislation, even by expert practitioners, frequently fails or backfires.


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Last revised 16 November 2004