LINGUIST List 7.234

Tue Feb 13 1996

Disc: Language Rights

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. Elena Bertoncini, Language Rights in Slovakia

Message 1: Language Rights in Slovakia

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 1996 13:10:27 +0100
From: Elena Bertoncini <>
Subject: Language Rights in Slovakia
Dear Linguists,

I do not want to be polemic, although Mr.Kontra's letter is not free
from bias. Maybe it should be useful to speak about minority rights in
different countries. (Unfortunately I had not yet subscribed to
LINGUIST when the LSA Statement on Language Rights circulated there.)

In Slovakia the Hungarians have their schools of all levels up to the
University level (not only in their territory, but also in the
capital), theatres, publishing house(s), political parties etc.etc. I
wonder whether the Hungarian minorities have more rights in other
countries and, on the other hand, whether the Hungarian Republic
offers more rights to its minorities. (E.g. whether the Slovaks in
Hungary may use anywhere their language in official contacts.)
I think (or rather I hope) that the aim of this language law is not to
revoke the Hungarian minority's rights, but - strange as it may seem -
to protect the Slovak rights. The localities where the ethnic
Hungarians live are mixed: there is a Slovak "minority", more or less
strong (somewhere up to 40%), that should also have the right to use
their language in official contact. But it has not been always the
case. Often there are not even Slovak schools.

Let us take one of Mr.Kontra's examples: a public transport bus driver
talking to a fellow driver on the job. What if there is a third
colleague, a Slovak, who also is concerned? Until now it was always
the Slovaks who had to learn Hungarian as quickly as possible because
the "ethnic" Hungarians often refuse to speak Slovak, or are not able
to do so. The new law wants to change this situation. Is it a crime
agains the human (=Hungarian) rights? Or is it not normal that public
announcements, street signs, church bulletins etc. in these localities
should be bilingual? (None of them is 100% monolingual.) Should not
the official documents be written in the official language of the
country? And in which language should be held an official meeting with
mixed participants? As far as I know, the minority territories in
other countries are bilingual, at the most, not monolingual in the
minority language. Please tell me whether I am wrong.

Elena Bertoncini
Prof. Elena Bertoncini
Via dell'Aeroporto 68
56121 Pisa
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