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Linguistic Diversity in a Globalizing World: A Sociological and Educational Perspective on ‘Minority’ Languages in Australia, the Philippines and Belarus

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In spite of the previous assumptions, globalization has not generated the degree of cultural homogeneity envisaged by many educationists, sociologists and political analysts. Instead, it has generated forces that have contributed to the persistence of cultural and linguistic diversity, within states and at global level. Linguistic diversity per se has aroused contradictory responses, ranging from tension and conflict to harmony and creativity. The article adopts the humanistic sociological approach to analyse the outcomes that occur at the juncture points of different linguistic and cultural groups, ranging from persecution and discrimination of minorities, to their tolerance and inclusion in cultural interaction through active human agents being involved in a cultural negotiation process. The paper examines the cases of minority migrant and indigenous languages in Australia; of dominant and non-dominant indigenous languages of the Philippines; and the fate of the Belarusian language which is being rendered a subordinate tongue within the group’s own Belarusian nation-state. The influence of the education system as a reflection of the state’s national policy on languages is examined with reference to factors which either contribute to the survival and development, or the erosion and eventual loss, of minority languages.

In the course of investigating minority languages in a variety of cultural and political contexts, our research group frequently encountered the view that studies on language maintenance were rather futile, in view of the homogenising effects of globalisation that were sweeping the world. The general expectation was that, under its impact, we were witnessing a process that would continue until the convergence of cultures eventuated. This was assumed to spell the doom of any efforts directed towards the survival and development of “minor” national languages, let alone the languages of ethnic minorities or of indigenous people.
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Keywords: Australia; Belarus; indigenous languages; linguistic diversity; minority languages; the Phillippines

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Adelaide

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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  • Political Crossroads is a bi-annual, international, refereed journal which, since 1990, publishes critical and empirical scholarship in political science and international relations. Its areas of focus include global security, terrorism, national identity, migration and citizenship, and the politics of resources and trade.
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