LINGUIST List 6.192

Sat 11 Feb 1995

Disc: Latvia's language policy

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  1. Kazuto MATSUMURA, Re: Latvia's lg policy
  2. MARC PICARD, Latvian language policy

Message 1: Re: Latvia's lg policy

Date: Sat, 4 Feb 95 15:45:12 JSTRe: Latvia's lg policy
From: Kazuto MATSUMURA <>
Subject: Re: Latvia's lg policy

) Re: language policy in Latvia (6.149)

In his query concerning Latvia's language situation, Martin Haspelmath
uses the expression "Russian-speaking Estonians." I wonder who he (or
German public TV) means by it. Haspelmath writes:

)I am interested in references to reports on the recent language policy
)situation in Latvia. There was a report recently on German public TV that
)painted a rather worrying picture, showing that knowledge of the Latvian
)language is sometimes required of Russian-speaking Estonians even where
)it makes no sense. From the report it was difficult to avoid the
)impression that
)"linguistic human rights" violations are normal in present-day Latvia.
)I am particularly interested in reports by neutral observers, perhaps
)Western journalists and human rights groups.

Accusations about the so-called "linguistic human rights" violations
in the Baltic countries are not recent phenomena. It was Estonia that
was accused of "linguistic human rights violations" until a year or
two ago. Now it seems Latvia's turn.

If "Russian-speaking Estonians" were to mean "ESTONIAN CITIZENS visiting
Latvia who try to survive by speaking Russian only," then this is hardly
a case of human rights violation in the strict sense of the term. Try not
to speak German at all in Germany.

If they were to refer to "ETHNIC ESTONIANS living permanently in Latvia
whose native language is Russian," then the idea would make as little
sense to me as the expression "an ethnic German living permanently in
Italy whose native language is French." What would happen if if he/she
insisted on using French only in his/her everyday life?

Who are those "Russian-speaking Estonians" that are allegedly so hard
pressed in Latvia?

) ---------------------------------------------------
 ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
 Nishigahara 4-51-21, Kita-ku, TOKYO 114 JAPAN
 tel. +81-3-5974-3801 fax: +81-3-5974-3838
) ---------------------------------------------------
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Message 2: Latvian language policy

Date: Sat, 04 Feb 1995 12:05:29 Latvian language policy
Subject: Latvian language policy

Martin Haspelmath mentioned a German TV report of some sort "showing
that knowledge of the Latvian language is sometimes required of
Russian-speaking Estonians even where it makes no sense".

Try as I may, I can't begin to imagine any circumstance where it
wouldn't make sense to speak Latvian in Latvia. Personally, I would hope
that Latvians would take any measures they deem necessary to get everybody
in their country to speak their language. I'm sure all of those who have
been shown that kind of disrespect in their own country by people who think
they're above learning the national language would applaud any such measures.

Marc Picard
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