LINGUIST List 6.351

Fri 10 Mar 1995

Disc: Language policy

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Deborah D K Ruuskanen, Re: 6.339 Language policy
  2. , Re: 6.339 Language policy
  3. Caoimhin P. ODonnaile, 6.258 Linguistic Human rights (Latvia's language policy)
  4. Wayne Cowart, S. 314

Message 1: Re: 6.339 Language policy

Date: Sun, 5 Mar 1995 21:25:48 +Re: 6.339 Language policy
From: Deborah D K Ruuskanen <>
Subject: Re: 6.339 Language policy

Regarding limiting languages (when is enough too much) in the EU,
only official documents are translated into all official languages,
and each country can decide if it does NOT want something translated.
In working groups and when writing drafts, usually only one or two
languages are chosen as working languages, decided upon by members
of the group, often at the first meeting.

Regarding the disappearance of Swedish in Finland, they have just
done away with compulsory Swedish in the lower comprehensive school:
children (or rather, their parents) can choose the first foreign
language. English seems to be winning out. Interestingly, Swedish is
not considered the 'first foreign language' for Finnish-speaking
Finns, but rather 'second domestic language'. Languages other
than Finnish or Swedish qualify as L2, which makes a problem with
questionnaires asking language abilities. The disappearance of
Swedish has more to do with the dominance of Finnish and the
reluctance of the Swedish-speaking parent in 'mixed' marriages to
insist the children speak Swedish - I think - than with old Swedish
speakers dying out. Previously completely Swedish speaking envlaves
on the coast are now being settled by Finnish speakers, which increases
the dominance of Finnish in the environment. It takes a real effort
on the part of the Swedish speaking parent to insist children go to a
Swedish speaking school - thus separating children from other children
in the neighbourhood who go to the local school - and to insist on
Swedish only being spoken in the home. The end result is usually that
you get situations of the parent speaking Swedish (or English in my
case) and the child answering in Finnish and carrying out conversations
in which each party speaks a different language which is understood by
the hearer. BTW, anything in the literature on this? It is not
'code switching', but what is it? I've heard it on buses here in Vaasa,
too, where one old auntie speaks Swedish and her companion Finnish
throughout the entire trip, each understanding the other and replying
in her native tongue.
Deborah D. Kela Ruuskanen \ You cannot teach a Man anything,
Leankuja 1, FIN-01420 Vantaa \ you can only help him find it \ within himself. Galileo
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Message 2: Re: 6.339 Language policy

Date: Sun, 05 Mar 1995 20:46:01 Re: 6.339 Language policy
From: <>
Subject: Re: 6.339 Language policy

Content-Length: 3765

Date mon.27 Feb 1995
)From August Cluver (
Subject linguistic human rights violations

The debate on Latvia's language policy seems to be moving in a more
general direction but one topic remains clear: when does a government
violate the individual's language rights? Tove Skutnabb Kangas
identified some of the language rights of a government: the state has the
right to prescribe certain linguistic prerequisites for jobs in the official
sector. But the most basic one is that the state has the right (in
consultation with the population) to declare one or more national
languages as official languages. How this consultation should take place
is not at all clear.
The question that I want to pose is: does it constitute a language
violation if a government selects as only official language a
non-indigenous language spoken by less than 5 percent of the
population? In a small economy the government naturally tends to
spend as much funds as possible on spreading the new official language
so that very little funds remain for the development of the indigenous
languages (this is related to the point made by Deborah Du Bartell).
Thus, even though the indigenous languages may be declared as
"national languages" and "part of our cultural heritage that must be
cherished" they remain underdeveloped and cannot be effectively used
outside the domains of the household and friendship circles. This leads
to the perception that these languages are "incapable of expressing
technical and scientific concepts". Once this perception becomes
internalised as part of the subconscious set of language attitudes, we are
at the beginning of a possible language shift cycle.
There are various African countries that fit this model but the most recent
one is the Republic of Namibia which introduced English as only official
language. English became the language of liberation in Namibia but prior
to independence it was spoken by a very small group (less than 5% of the
total population) in fairly restricted domains, mainly in commerce and
industry. The reasons why the existing official languages were
unacceptable to the democratically elected government will take us into
a debate other than this one on language violations by a government (of
which the previous Namibian government was also guilty).

The proceedings of the Third International Conference of the
International Academy of Language Law was held in Pretoria in April
1992 and the proceedings is publishead as Prinsloo, K.P., Y. Peeters. J.
Turi and C. van Rensburg (eds) 1993 Language, law and equality.
Pretoria: University of South Africa. (price: $13,56).

August Cluver, Department of Linguistics, University of South Africa, PO
Box 392, Pretoria .

When considering the practice of making the national language one
which is basically not spoken natively in a nation, e.g., the use of
English in Namibia, one must consider the divisive effects of
promoting one of several competing indiginous languages to the
position of national language. Speakers of other indigineous
languages, not chosen, may feel, with justification, that they have
been disadvantaged in the national arena. For examples of this
consider the naming of Hindi as the national language of India and
the reaction of many speakers of Dravidian languages to this
decision, or the (former, I believe) use of Amharic as the national
language of Ethiopia, or even the use of Russian as the national
language of the previous Soviet Union. For apparently very beneficial
results of choosing a language which was almost nobody's native
language as the national language, consider the case of Bhasa

Frank Anshen
Dept. of Linguistics
State U of New York
Stony Brook, NY 11733
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Message 3: 6.258 Linguistic Human rights (Latvia's language policy)

Date: Mon, 6 Mar 95 10:56:51 GMT6.258 Linguistic Human rights (Latvia's language policy)
From: Caoimhin P. ODonnaile <>
Subject: 6.258 Linguistic Human rights (Latvia's language policy)

Content-Length: 1551

Harold Schiffman said:

) The recent discussion raises a number of issues about "egalitarianism" in
) language policy. I think we have enough examples now to declare that
) egalitarianism in language policy does not result necessarily in equal
) outcomes.

I agree. With predictions that on current trends half of the world's
6000 languages will be extinct within a hundred years, there needs to
be a new awareness that languages are the storehouse of most of the
world's cultural inheritance and that endangered languages should be
supported and language diversity encouraged. This has to be taken on
board rapidly as a factor in the policies of Governments and other
organisations. Mere discussion of individual rights on its own is
not enough to determine language policy.

 Kevin Donnelly
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Message 4: S. 314

Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 11:43:15 -S. 314
From: Wayne Cowart <>
Subject: S. 314

Content-Length: 2408

Linguist Editors:

Following is a note that I believe should be circulated via LINGUIST. I
don't believe I've seen a reference to this matter up to now.

Thanks -- w

==============posting follows=====================

There is legislation before Congress that could have detrimental effects on
users of the Internet, including LINGUIST subscribers. Following is an
excerpt of a press release from the Center for Democracy and Technology

Senators Exon (D-NE) and Senator Gorton (R-WA) have introduced legislation
to expand current FCC regulations on obscene and indecent audiotext to
cover all content carried over all forms of electronic communications
networks. If enacted, the "Communications Decency Act of 1995" (S. 314)
would place substantial criminal liability on telecommunications service
providers (including telephone networks, commercial online services, the
Internet, and independent BBS's) if their network is used in the
transmission of any indecent, lewd, threatening or harassing messages. The
legislation is identical to a proposal offered by Senator Exon last year
which failed along with the Senate Telecommunications reform bill (S. 1822,
103rd Congress, Sections 801 - 804).

CDT is soliciting signatures for a petition opposing S. 314.

The best way to get further information about the bill and petition drive
is via the Web at:

Information is also available in the newsgroup:


Wayne Cowart
Language Sciences Laboratory
University of Southern Maine
96 Falmouth St.
Portland, ME 04103

(207) 780 4477
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