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Language, rights and the language of language rights

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It is only in recent years, after a surprising long period of neglect, that political theorists began to engage with the evident normative dimension of policymaking on language. Within the body of literature that has emerged in this process, the conceptual framework of language rights maintains a central position. The article examines this emerging debate on language rights, and identifies both advantages and drawbacks of committing the debate on normative language policy primarily to the language of rights. While recognising the valuable contribution of the refined analytical tools of political theory to the debate on normative language policy, it raises concerns about its relatively limited engagement with linguistics and sociolinguistics as distinct fields of inquiry, and therefore the adequacy and relevance of the work it produces. The article argues for the need to develop a new conceptual framework for normative language policy, and concludes with an outline for a more informed theory-building process.

Keywords: language ethics; language rights; linguistic justice; normative language policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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