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Notes for HU901, on Linguistic Human Rights

University of Essex

Peter L Patrick


Questions for class discussion on

Linguistic Human Rights (LHR)


  • What are some of the basic rights to language use?
  • Which of these are often threatened?
    • Do you know of particular instances of such threats to LHR?
    • Do you know of any steps (that could be) taken to face them?
  • What are some of the basic duties and responsibilities that speakers of threatened have?
    • Can you suggest when these may be particularly called for?
    • When is the exercise of legally-protected LHR insufficient to protect threatened languages, or language-users?
  • What are some of the most widespread and harmful myths held by (primarily monolingual) speakers of dominant languages?
    • How do these myths come into play in contexts where language rights are threatened, denied or insufficiently protected?
  • Do speech communities have the right to voluntarily give up their mother tongue?
    • What other factors come into play when language choice is offered between a powerful and a minority or disrespected language?
  • With respect to a particular powerful standard language, should speakers of minority dialects have the same rights as speakers of other languages?
    • What kinds of attitudinal, legal or cultural factors might come into play in answering these questions?
  • Should immigrants (natively speaking a language which is not widely used in the country they reside in) have the same rights as speakers of other languages which are widely spoken in their new nation?
    • What are some of the contexts in which immigrants experience language rights, duties and restrictions differently to native members of a society?
    • Do you think multilingual societies treat such immigrants differently than monolingual societies? Can you think of any cases which might argue for or against your position?
  • The right to access criminal court proceedings in a non-official language is often granted to suspects or criminals, when no other LHRs are provided for.
    • (This is probably due to the influence of Article 14(3) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights see e.g. this excerpt from the Jamaica Constitution of 1962:, from this collection of relevant clauses in national constitutions:
    • If you could add only one other LHR to the constitutional or legislative protection of some nation, which would it be? Why?


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Last updated 03 March 2008