Can A Linguistic Human Rights Approach Deliver

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Can a "linguistic human rights approach" "deliver"? Reflections on complementarities, tensions and misconceptions in attempts at multidisciplinarities

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas

University of Roskilde, Dept of Languages and Culture,
Keynote paper at the International conference on Language, Education and Diversity,br University of Waikato, Hamilton, Aotearoa/New Zealand, 26-29 November 2003.

List of contents:

0. Prologue: Alastair the Mayor of Vasa, Finland

1. A set of claims about undermining multilingualism/ plurilingualism and the maintenance of linguistic diversity

2. Claim: Multilingualism is a problem. Question: What is problematic - multilingualism/plurilingualism and linguistic diversity, or the monolingual reductionism and habitus of some researchers?

3. Claim: Mother tongues are just like other languages, superficial features of behaviour; language is non-essential for identity. Question: If millions of people recognise concepts like "mother tongue" and "language" as meaningful, how scientific or ethical is it to "disinvent" them without having anything else meaningful to offer instead?

4. Claim: minorities do not want to learn any languages; they have to be forced to learn the dominant languages and protected from being forced to learn their own languages. Question: Where on earth are these minorities?

5. The role of linguistic human rights in supporting the protection of linguistic and cultural diversities?

5.1. LHRs as part of supply-increasing and demand-increasing language policies.

5.2. Individual versus collective rights - no necessary conflict.

5.3. Instrumental versus expressive interests and rights - no necessary conflict.

5.4. Is it in practice possible to maintain linguistic diversity? Are the costs not prohibitive?

5.5. Has the Linguistic Human Rights approach "delivered"?

"As long as we have the language, we have the culture. As long as we have the culture, we can hold on to the land." Manu Metekingi, a Māori man from the Whanganui iwi (tribe), in a film shown at the Whanganui Iwi Exhibition, at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington, 29 November 2003 - May 2006. The Exhibition tells about "our heartland, the Whanganui River, and our place within it". The Whanganui iwi write: "The well-being of our river is intertwined with its people's well-being" (from the brochure describing the exhibition, with the theme: "Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au. I am the river, the river is me".

Prologue: Alastair the Mayor of Vasa, Finland

I want to start my keynote telling about a nightmare I had some weeks ago. I had started thinking about what to say in this paper. I was worried. I was planning to critique what several friends have written, including Alastair Pennycook. I was rereading parts of Alastair's Critical Introduction to Critical Applied Linguistics (2001 ), a marvelous book - and Alastair is so modest, so nice and good in that book. The evening before the nightmare, the Danish news were full of reports about a local mayor who was being prosecuted because of several irregularities. And I was at the same time also writing a paper for a conference in Finland, in my old home town Vaasa/Vasa, an officially bilingual town, with two thirds Finnish-speakers and one third Swedish-speakers, a good place to grow up for a childhood bilingual like me.

In my dream, I was driving around in Vasa/Vaasa with Alastair, showing him my old school, telling him about bilingualism in Finland and about the history of Finland (Finland was colonized by Sweden for some 650 years and then by Russia for another 110 years, before becoming independent in 1917). I also told him about discussions I had had to participate in, in some of the neonationalist chatrooms on the web where Fennomans want to get rid of the Swedish language and Swedish-speakers in Finland and their "privileges", i.e. their/our right to use Swedish in official contexts .

Next moment, we are in the City Hall of Vasa. Alastair has been elected the new Mayor of Vaasa, and he is giving his installation ceremony speech. In order not to irritate the Fennoman chatroom people, he is giving it in a neutral language, English (of course he does not know Finnish or Swedish). He is telling about his dreams for Vasa. He will make it modern. The city will no longer need to live with essentialising concepts which are just promoting the reinforcement of the neocolonial oppression. Therefore, he has, among other things, planned to get rid of mother tongues. In addition, he wants to disinvent language in Finland. Lots of details.

And then there is a loud voice from the audience. It is a schoolgirl, speaking in the Finland Swedish dialect of Närpes, a very distinct dialect (which I only know receptively). She says, what in standard Finland Swedish would be: "Vad pratar han om? Har han smitit från Kakola?" ["Va prat'an om? Har'an smiti frå Kakola?]. "What on earth is he talking about? Has he escaped from Kakola?" Kakola could nowadays be translated as "the loonie bin". It used to be a place for dangerous mentally ill criminals. After the intervention, everybody starts applauding, and then people walk out. In the dream, I interpret this as a gap between some researchers' theory and the practice of the people of Vasa.

Then I force myself to wake up from this quite amusing dream.

Now one could interpret this nightmare in lots of ways. I won't. I think the mixture of the preceding evening's impressions explains it all: Vasa, the criminal Danish mayor, my worries about criticizing my friend Alastair, my worries about many recent theoretical discussions.

But the suggestions that Alastair the Mayor presented in my dream and that the schoolgirl rightly rejected as crazy (and they would be seen as crazy by more or less hundred percent of the population in the Nordic countries, I am sure), do in fact have elements that are all too real. When an American English-speaking researcher went to Latvia, one of the Baltic countries, some years ago, to present suggestions on how to solve some of the conflicts between Russian speakers and Latvian speakers, she ended up suggesting the use of a neutral language, English (together with opening up for American business)! In Japan, there has been a serious suggestion, with a lot of debate, to make English a second official language (see Kubota 2002 for analysis in relation to globalisation and Japanese self-colonisation and nationalism).

Fortunately, Alastair is not the only one and certainly not the main one I am going to critique in this paper - and fortunately, I also get some of the arguments for my critique from him and from Stephen May and others whom I also critique on some points. I also suspect that Alastair and Stephen and some of the others share many of my worries and agree with me on several points, whereas I know that some other "objects" of my efforts in critical applied linguistics do not. I hope we get a good dialogue.

1. A set of claims about undermining multilingualism/ plurilingualism and the maintenance of linguistic diversity

My claims in this paper are as follows:

1. Many researchers, while seemingly accepting and even celebrating multiculturalism (under whatever name, interculturalism, transculturalism, etc), do not accept multilingualism/plurilingualism and the maintenance of linguistic diversity in the same unconditional way. They are suspicious of them, see them as problematic in various ways, and are either actively or passively (through no support to them) undermining them.

2. This undermining can be seen, inter alia, in a) claims about no or little connection between culture and language; b) claims about no or little connection between language and identity, and especially mother tongue(s) and identity; c) claims about no or little difference between mother tongue(s) and other languages: d) questioning in a generalising way the concept of mother tongues on the basis of the experience of only a small minority of people which reflect special situations, and thus invalidating the experience of many people and groups; e) less than constructive questioning of the concept of language; f) the use of often negative labelling of some arguments, to the point where once something has been given one of the fashionable put-down labels (like "essentialist", "constructed", "nationalist", "segregation", or "ghetto"), the content of the arguments becomes taboo and cannot or need not be discussed anymore; the researchers whose work is thus labelled become stigmatised in a similar way to people with the label "communist" in McCarthy times in the USA; g) a postmodern detachment from fundamentals of power and issues of class and access and also agency (despite some nods towards these, and despite sometimes claiming that others do not consider them); h) an uncritical acceptance of the claim of Great Stories being dead; this often leads to or is connected with helplessness, avoidance or embarrassment in relation to basic ethical and moral questions.

3. Many of the arguments used to undermine multilingualism/plurilingualism and the maintenance of linguistic diversity are contradictory: a) they claim to adhere to a principle of situatedness, but make huge generalisations themselves, about issues detailed above; b) they criticise essentialising, at the same time as they themselves, often incorrectly and against solid evidence to the contrary, not only essentialise but even demonise the arguments of those they criticise; c) they criticise some concepts (like "mother tongue" or "language") and some schools or theories (like "the linguistic human rights approach") in vague ways, ", for unclarity and confusion or for "not being able to deliver", often without giving any details or proof. At the same time, either they themselves provide little else to put in instead, or the concepts they put in instead are extremely vague and unclear, not defined (like "disinventing language", or "linguistic citizenship").

4.Many of the arguments used to undermine especially the maintenance of linguistic diversity represent a eurocentric quasi-evolutionary paradigm in several ways. One of them entails seeing the development of languages in a vulgar-Darwinist way, completely different from the way language ecologists see them. I have discussed this in terms of a language death paradigm, as opposed to a language murder paradigm. Languages are in a language death paradigm seen to disappear naturally, with no agency; they are seen as no longer fit for post-modern, technological information societies and so they "die" a "natural" death; their speakers leave them in their own interest. We find among the supporters of this quasi-evolutionary paradigm many of those who claim to cherish all languages, but who at the same time claim that, unfortunately, nothing can be done to maintain the small languages against pressures to modernise and against the speakers' will to "exit" their group and to assimilate. In another type of quasi-evolutionary thinking, the arguments are presented in ways which build clear evolutionary hierarchies between schools of thought so that those who do not jump onto the latest post-post-post research theory fashion bandwagon are labelled in ways which remind one of the evolutionary continua in development theories where everything western was seen as inherently being at a higher level than anything from the rest of the world (see, e.g. Odora-Hoppers, ed., 2002, Smith Tuhiwai 1999 for powerful criticism of these evolutionary hierarchies).

5. Many of the arguments used to undermine multilingualism/plurilingualism and the maintenance of linguistic diversity are more or less mono-disciplinary and often ignore how various concepts are seen and defined in other disciplines. Many of those who criticise a "linguistic human rights approach" know little about human rights law; many of those who question the importance of mother tongue medium education for minorities know little about education and little about any other aspects of applied linguistics except SLA (Second Language Acquisition) - see references to Brutt-Griffler in the bibliography as a good example of this ignorance); many of those who criticise an ecolinguistic approach know little about modern evolutionary biology and neo-Darwinism or the correlational relationships between biodiversity and linguistic diversity or the relationship between the latest modern science and traditional ecological knowledge (see the discussion and references in Skutnabb-Kangas, in press a, Section 3 for some of these) .

6. Many of the arguments used are to some extent ethnocentric, taking as the self-evident norm from which they generalise people who remind of the authors themselves. A very large majority of those researchers who are most quoted on identity theories of this post-post kind, seem to write in English and be native speakers of one of the numerically big languages themselves, often English. This does not necessarily mean that they are monolingual themselves, and many of them are global research nomads, holding jobs all over the world, often making the usual rounds in rapid succession, from Britain or USA or Canada to Sydney or Singapore or Hongkong, etc. And still. "As it is, only English speakers generally take for granted their right to use their language in all circumstances" (Mark Fettes, 2003: 41, discussing the League of Nations, the United Nations and the European Union). Does one need to have the experience of one's own language being threatened or invalidated/marginalised in some/many situations, to be able to understand some of the real existential dilemmas that many of us others may experience? Claiming that would logically lead to completely impossible additional claims about who can experience what and who can do research on what - only children can do research about children, only XX about XX; meaning I am NOT claiming it. And still. Maybe some of the post-post people have not tried hard enough. Maybe some of them have not even lived enough together with Others, on an equal basis, to internalise the common human experience and the differences (see my 1988a and Menk 2000)? In any case, often the writers are people who are either native speakers of English (whatever this might mean) or have learned English from childhood, and/or who live in countries where English is (one of) the official language(s), and/or whose own language(s) has/have never been threatened and who are (or are on their way towards becoming) English-dominant. Interestingly, all other keynote speakers at this conference except myself belong to this group of people from whose experience what I am critiquing has been generalised; they all have most of the characteristics - even Timoti whose Māori language is still threatened, lives in a country where English is an official language. I should have double time, because of needing to speak in my fifth language in terms of order of learning.

7.Many of the current arguments (where some are presented as new and exciting) are really reinventing the wheel. The same old conflicts that were there and were thoroughly analysed a quarter of a century ago (or even half a century ago) are still with us. This obviously shows that there are real problems, but it also shows that many of them are ideological, not mainly material - they are parts of a power struggle even if they are not discussed in these terms. But in addition, some more historical awareness might do no harm. Here it is the grandmother talking.

This is a very big mouthful, and I obviously have time/space to present and critique only some of my claims, under a few subtitles where the claims will blend into each other, rather than following the list given above. This will be done mainly in the form of examples, followed by some comments and counterexamples. There is more detail about several of the claims in many of my recent and forthcoming papers .

Before starting to present and counter some of the claims, a few clarifications are in order. In today's world, it is impossible to imagine linguistic diversity consisting of more or less monolingual groups living isolated from all others. Most likely, this has never been the case; even groups with very high degrees of self-sufficiency and little risk of ecological disasters like drought have traded with each other and many in the group have known the neighbouring language(s) (see, e.g., Nettle 1999, Diamond 1998, Corballis 2002, Wells 2002). Many if not most speakers of numerically small languages are necessarily multilingual as adults, and some degree of individual multilingualism is a prerequisite for them for participation in the wider society. Except for extreme fundamentalist ignoramuses, few researchers are today decisively against individual multilingualism, once it has been achieved, while many are trying to prevent children from achieving high levels of bi-or multilingualism, for instance through depriving them of mother tongue medium education. In contrast, many are against societal multilingualism, plurilingualism, and, especially, any linguistic human rights for indigenous peoples and minorities that would enable them to reproduce themselves as minorities. And many are against the world's linguistic diversity, claiming it is problematic and not cost-effective. Some of the claims that I present below are about individual multilingualism, some about societal plurilingualism, and some about (the maintenance of) linguistic diversity in general.

2. Claim: Multilingualism is a problem. Question: What is problematic - multilingualism/plurilingualism and linguistic diversity, or the monolingual reductionism and habitus of some researchers?

Many researchers would rather get rid of both plurilingualism and linguistic diversity if they could. They claim it is unnecessary, messy, costly, inefficient, and a lot of other negative things. In a populist version, the rhetorical question is: Wouldn't it be nice and efficient if all of us spoke just one or a few languages? I'll start at the lighter end.

I co-hosted a lunch at my university in 1997 for the then United States Ambassador to Denmark, Mr. Elton (picked straight from business, as many high-level American diplomats are). He had spoken to my students, who had given him a hard time. Mr. Elton had a grandchild who, at four, was multilingual, and he was very proud of her, so no problems in appreciating individual elite multilingualism. But at the lunch, he said the following memorable sentence, which I immediately wrote down: "The most serious problem for the European Union is that it has so many languages. This prevents real integration and development of the Union".

By the way, some researchers seem to have solved this problem already: for David Laitin and Rob Reich, two Stanford, USA, professors, English is already "the language of the proto-European state" (2003: 98; emphasis added).

But it is not only politicians or diplomats who think that many languages, i.e. linguistic diversity (LD), is a problem. Even to many researchers, LD seems messy. Powerful voices are joining the homogenising chorus. Some of them even claim that they are defending minority rights, and are certainly seen by others as "friends of multiculturalism". Ulf Mörkenstam, a Swedish political scientist, first quotes Will Kymlicka's "the defenders of minority rights have won the day" (Kymlicka 2001: 33), saying Kymlicka is "clearly enthusiastic" about this (Mörkenstam 2003: 8). Then Mörkenstam contrasts Kymlicka to Nathan Glazer who in his book We Are All Multiculturalists Now (1997: 160) tells us that multiculturalism "is something unpleasant [but] nevertheless unavoidable" (Mörkenstam 2003: 8). With this kind of "friends" and "non-friends", those who are openly our adversaries may sometimes be a bit easier to deal with than the so called friends. Some examples follow of various kinds of our "diversity is a problem" "friends" and non-friends.

Abram de Swaan echoes the American Ambassador. His latest formulation in International Herald Tribune (25 September 2003; see also his 2001 book with similar opinions) puts it like this:

The variety of languages and cultures in Europe surely is a wealth, but it is also a burden. Barriers of language and culture are an almost insurmountable obstacle to the exchange of opinions among Europeans. They impede the emergence of a European public sphere, where political and cultural debate may be carried on beyond borders. The Europeans do not understand each other well enough even to disagree.

Even respected scholars, like political theorists Will Kymlicka and Alan Patten, seem to accept that things are "complicated by linguistic diversity" (Patten & Kymlicka 2003: 3) or that LD is "one of the most important obstacles to building a stronger sense of European citizenship" (ibid., 9) or that LD is a "problem" (ibid., emphases added). These are not just unfortunate slips: they repeat these prejudices about LD as an obstacle (Kymlicka & Patten 2003: 6) and add new ones (see later).

Labelling LD as a complication, obstacle or problem is denying and lamenting not suggestions or dreams but facts - just as if they were bewailing that having two legs and ten fingers is more complicated than having one. With very few exceptions, the world's countries ARE multilingual, and, with Debi Pattanayak's nice Indian understatement, "[o]ne language is an impractical proposition for a multilingual country" (1988: 382). But the difference between these two types of fact ("the world has many languages"; "humans have two legs and ten fingers") is that the first one can change, and is in fact being changed very rapidly, whereas the second one is not at least yet changing - babies are still mostly born with two legs and ten fingers, even if we may soon be getting many more anomalies among humans too, as a result of pollution, just as we already have them among fish, frogs and other species.

LD is the normal state of life on our planet, and should be seen as the norm. But monolingual reductionism seems to have penetrated many of the researchers whose arguments I question, to the extent that it has become part of their habitus (see Gogolin 1994 on monolingual habitus; see my in press a for an elaboration of this point).

To me, the complication/obstacle/problem is not the existence of many languages and thus LD, but those negative attitudes to LD which I have exemplified, and which I have earlier discussed under the label of monolingual reductionism (e.g. 2000: 238-248). These attitudes see monolingualism as something normal, desirable, sufficient, and unavoidable. These attitudes can be harboured by individuals, or they can, through powerful individuals, and backed up by institutional structures, become prevailing ideologies which then guide decisions by various institutions (including schools and media). The attitudes can concern individuals (so that one sees individual monolingualism as normal), or they can concern societal plurilingualism (i.e. a diversity of languages is seen as threatening, a problem, etc). Many of the dangerous "friends" of multilingualism and linguistic diversity seem, under a veneer of celebrating diversity, still to be harbouring some of these monolingual reductionism attitudes, concerning both individual and, especially, societal multi/plurilingualism (even if some differentiate between them, as did the American Ambassador: his granddaughter's individual multilingualism was good; the presence of many languages in Europe was a problem).

3. Claim: Mother tongues are just like other languages, superficial features of behaviour; language (provided the concept exists at all) is non-essential for identity. Question: If millions of people recognise concepts like "mother tongue" and "language" as meaningful, how scientific or ethical is it to "disinvent" them without having anything else meaningful to offer instead?

Many arguments claim that multiculturalism is completely separate from multilingualism - we can have multiculturalism without having many languages. This is because there is no relationship or at least no necessary relationship between a culture and a language (see Eastman 1984, May 2001, 2003, in press). De Swaan (2003) claims that "[t]here is hardly any connection between linguistic diversity and a sense of cultural diversity". Likewise, it is claimed that language is not necessarily important for ethnic identity; this can be maintained, it is claimed, even if one never uses and does not know the language that was or is used by the ethnic group in its "homeland". This language has just "transformed from a language of use" to an "associated language" (Eastman 1984: 264); the group can "retain their ethnic identity without active (instrumental) use of their language as long as they still have an association (or sentimental attachment) with it" (ibid.: 265), because "language knowledge and use do not affect our underlying or primordial identity" (ibid.: 274; emphasis added).

This is a tricky argument. There are many indigenous peoples who DO claim a language they do not know to be their mother tongue, and this is an argument I fully support. In most cases, the loss of the language is a result of earlier denial of linguistic human rights, caused by forced assimilation where children have been "forcibly transferred to another group" (one of the definitions of genocide in the UN Genocide Convention - see my 2002 at for elaboration). But a genocidal abnormal situation is not what should be seen as a norm; it is a lamentable situation which should not be accepted and which should not guide language policy. Many of the situations Eastman gives as examples, where she claims that people are still Xish (Alsatians in urban France, Kikuyu in urban Kenya, native peoples in Alaska), have changed dramatically even in the two decades since her article was published. Of the 192 native languages in Alaska that she mentions (210 according to Krauss 1996) only 21 have speakers left (Krauss 1997), as compared to the 83 that were spoken according to Eastman in 1984 (1984: 260). Writing about one of the two indigenous students of English who participated in her study, Lee Su Kim (2003: 142) says: "The Kadazan student could not speak her mother tongue, Kadazan, because her parents spoke only English to her". In Eastman's view, then, even this student's great great grandchildren could easily maintain a Kadazan ethnic and linguistic identity. Indigenous peoples lament the language loss, the fact that many of them no longer know their ancestors' language, as a great tragedy. Many of them now see it as a result of forced assimilation and linguistic genocide. Through her belittling of the link between language, culture and (ethnic) identity, Eastman is in fact normalising and legitimating a gross human rights violation. Often those researchers who see language loss and death as "normal", as part of evolution, cover up their negative attitudes towards the existence of many languages by claiming that their disappearance is "unavoidable": it is unavoidable, regardless of how much we lament it, that most small languages will not survive. An example comes from Daniel Weinstock: (2003: 258) "one should […] not deny that evolutionary explanations account, regrettably perhaps, for at least some unavoidable linguistic erosion". They then label this as a rational choice on the part of the speakers of the small endemic languages. Will Kymlicka & Alan Patten's 2003 edited book is, for instance, full of this kind of "rational choice theory" legitimations for assimilation - it is made to seem more or less always voluntary.

We others who want all the world's languages to have a fair chance of being maintained and developed, are according to these people just unrealistic romantics. In addition, we are demagogically labelled all kinds of often nasty and self-seeking extremists. Laitin & Reich's favourite term about people who want small languages to survive is "linguistic entrepreneurs of minority groups" (e.g. 2003: 94) - we have fooled minorities into using language as a mobilising factor, for our own selfish reasons. Minority parents who want mother tongue medium education are labelled "regional separatists" (ibid.: 97) and Laitin & Reich "want to empower states to constrain [these] parents from so limiting their children's language repertoires" (ibid.: 98). Instead of mother tongue medium education, Laitin & Reich "demand that [minority] parents provide linguistic repertoires to their children that allow them a meaningful range of choices as adults" (ibid.: 98). All this coercion by researchers and the state is seemingly only needed in relation to minority parents. Dominant group parents seem to have a self-evident right to have dominant-language medium education only (with no foreign languages on the curriculum) for their children; these are allowed to become and remain monolingual. One could ask where the "meaningful range of choices" is for them?

John Edwards also argues in the same vein that, for minorities, the communicative and symbolic values of language "are separable, and it is possible for the symbolic to remain in the absence of the communicative" (1984: 289). Since "the symbolic value of language is essentially a private ethnic marker" (ibid.), governments should take no action to enable minorities to maintain their languages "on the grounds that matters of ethnicity are best left to those directly concerned" (ibid.: 299) and "public institutions" like schools, should not "promote private ethnicity" (ibid.: 300). Legal experts claim exactly the opposite; it is only the symbolic, "expressive" rights that Rubio-Marín calls "language rights in the strict sense" (2003: 56; see section 5.3; see also Robert Phillipson's keynote at this conference). Edwards admits that for most majority populations, the symbolic and communicative aspects coexist (ibid.: 289). Thus, the use of the majority languages in schools does, in addition to promoting communication is them, promote majority children's "private ethnicity" - something that is not acknowledged by Edwards. Recent philosophy of law and political science discussions about what kind of language rights minorities should or should not have, state categorically that while a state can "guarantee religious neutrality by not embracing any official religion, it cannot guarantee perfect linguistic neutrality […]. Because the state needs to function in some language, pure linguistic disestablishment is simply not an option" (Rubio-Marín 2003: 55). Edwards (ibid.: 303) explicitly agrees with Kelman who argues (1972: 200) against "deliberate attempts by central political authorities to create a sense of national identity". Likewise, he holds that "attempting to ensure national well functioning by attending to particular interests is retrogressive" (Edwards 1984: 303). Thus attending to the majority's particular interests (through maintaining and supporting their language as part of their private ethnicity) is implicitly normalised by Edwards (against what even liberal political scientists, e.g. Kymlicka 1995: 111 suggest) whereas doing the same for minorities is not allowed. Contradiction?

Even Stephen May, who presents many critical arguments against researchers who would like to deny most language rights for minorities (e.g. in his 2003), helps at the same time to undermine these rights by also belittling the language-identity link. Firstly, situating himself "clearly […] within the 'liberal culturalist' position", he states "I reject unequivocally any conception of language as a 'primordial' feature of identity, along with any related essentialist notions of the language-identity link" (May 2003: 140). Then he claims that "language, or any specific cultural aspect of ethnic and/or national identity […] must be recognized as a contingent factor in that identity (see May 2001: Chs 1-2); to suggest otherwise is to reinforce an essentialist conception of groupness" (May 2003: 140-141; emphasis added). To be sure that I understood May aright and fully, I looked up the meaning of "contingent" both in the latest 1876-page Oxford English dictionary (Oxford 1993), and in the even larger (2175 pages) 1999 English language dictionary, Encarta . This is then what language is to identity, according to May: "of uncertain occurrence, incidental; happening by chance; subject to accident; at the mercy of; true only under certain conditions; conditional; non-essential". May's claim is: "Language clearly does not define us, and may not be a necessary feature, or even an important one, in the construction of our identities, whether at the individual or the collective level" (ibid.: 141). The only concession May then grants is "refusing to take the next step that is often taken by constructivists: that is, to assume that, if language is merely a contingent factor of identity [which May agrees with], it cannot therefore (ever) be a significant or constitutive factor of identity" (ibid.: 141). For May, then, in theory, language/a mother tongue might just sometimes accidentally be important for identity but in most cases this would not be the case. This also seems to me to legitimate a reversal of what I have experienced as the most common occurrence (= language is important), so that this becomes more or less an exception. Aotearoa, Canadian and US First Nations' peoples do not seem to agree with the researchers I have quoted, neither do many African researchers, nor, for that matter, most researchers I know who do not represent the English-dominant group that I mentioned at the beginning of my paper. A few quotes follow (for many more, see Skutnabb-Kangas 1984, 2000).

A young Chief at the Sweetgrass First Nations conference where I gave a keynote in October 2003 expressed his feeling about his language like this, first in his own language, then in English: "My mother tongue is in my genes. It is in the very texture of my body" .

"There is an awareness among the people that time is critical. If we lose the language, we lose the culture" says Andy Gokee (Camp Coordinator of the 2nd Ojibwe Language Immersion Camp at Red Cliff, Wisconsin, summer 2003). "Eileen Skinaway, St. Croix elder and cultural presenter at the camp, remarked how wonderful it was just to listen to people from Canada who are very fluent in Ojibwemowin. 'It is like music to my ears', she comments'." (Erickson 2003: 17).

Most indigenous peoples who have pronounced on their languages, share the attitudes from Canada, described by Mary Joy Elijah (2002) in her literature review. They see their language as a "cultural core value" (Smolicz 1979, 1981). One example that Mary Joy Elijah quotes is from Resolution No. 9/90 Protection of First Nations' Languages, Special Chiefs Assembly, Ottawa, Ontario - December11, 1990, Georges Erasmus National Chief:

SUBJECT: Protection of First Nations' Languages

WHEREAS language is a direct gift from the Creator; and WHEREAS First Nations languages are the cornerstone of who we are as a people; and WHEREAS our culture cannot survive without our languages; and WHEREAS the right to use and educate our children in our aboriginal languages is an inherent aboriginal and treaty right,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, as aboriginal people of this country, First Nations languages must be protected and promoted as a fundamental element of aboriginal heritage and must be fully entrenched in the Constitution of Canada; and FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the federal government has a moral and legal obligation, through (pre-Confederation) treaties and through legislation, to provide adequate resources that will enable First Nations languages to exercise this right.

Francis Akindès, Professor at Université de Bouaké in Côte d'Ivoire, writes about how the "additional differences, as well as the knowledge and know-how they include, [brought by immigrants in African countries] constitute valuable human capital for the host societies" (Akindès 2003: 5) which are already "characterized by an extraordinary cultural, religious and linguistic diversity" (ibid., 3). He thinks that the American philosopher Charles Taylor, basing his policy of recognition (of citizenship rights for immigrants) on the liberal principle of human rights, at the same time "remains close to what is still meaningful in Africa: the fact that individuals are rooted in religious, ethnic and linguistic communities. To be meaningful, the integration of immigrants has to involve the recognition of this multiculturality which successive waves of immigration have contributed to enriching" (ibid.: 5; emphasis added).

Maarja Talgre was born in Sweden in 1945, in an Estonian refugee camp. Her father, "an Estonian patriot" and resistance fighter, was killed in Estonia, and she never saw him. She spoke Estonian with her Estonian family in Sweden, despite her Swedish classmates not understanding why and despite wanting desperately to conform in everything else. Estonian also became the language of her hidden sorrow. Maarja Talgre describes her relationship to her two languages in her book about her father and her childhood, Leo's dotter. Två verkligheter (Leo's daughter. Two realities, 2003):

I'm sitting here writing in Swedish at the same time as I am crying in Estonian. All the non-verbalised sorrow from my childhood I have to re-live in Estonian, in order then to be able to formulate it in Swedish. With the help of Swedish I get the necessary distance which enables my grown-up self to understand what happened to the child (quoted from Tuva Korsström's review of Talgre 2003; my translation from Swedish).

And so I could go on, and on, with thousands of examples from all over the world. Of course, defining concepts like culture, language, mother tongue, and identity, for purposes of looking at the links, maybe even correlations, is notoriously difficult, and there are literally hundreds of ways of defining each of them. Still we need definitions. If we simply want to count the number of speakers of a language, we need to know what "a language" is, as opposed to a dialect or another type of variant - there are and cannot be reliable criteria and thus definitions, except those based on power relations (see my discussion of this in Skutnabb-Kangas 2000, Chapter 1). The Ethnologue's 14th edition has, for instance, 41.000 names of various languages (alternative names or dialects) but only between 6,800 and a bit over 7,000 languages. It is equally unclear who can be labeled a "speaker" of a language and using which criteria. This is equally unclear for concepts like "native speaker", "mother tongue speaker", "first language speaker", "second language speaker" or "foreign language speaker". All these concepts have been discussed, criticized and questioned, mainly on two grounds. First, the criteria for how to define the concepts are unclear: what can be required to count a person under one of the categories. I fully agree with this criticism. Second, many critics claim that concepts like mother tongue, first language, etc, essentialise and reinforce static images of (both individual and group) identities which are in fact changing, flexible, processual and hybrid and which may be forced on people as exo-categorisations (see, e.g., Canagarajah 2002, Makoni, quoted in Pennycook 2002a: 25, May 2001, 2003, in press, Pennycook 2002a, Rampton 1990, 1996, Ricento 2002).

I agree with the risk. On the other hand, it is certainly not necessary (or even very common, I would claim), to essentialise or treat linguistic identities as static - and here I claim that much of the essentialising is what some critics are doing themselves. It seems that many of those writing about these identities see the(ir own) theory-building that these constructs build upon as something completely new and exiting. In order to be able to do this, many have constructed older theories and experiences about identities as homogenous and static - they have in fact in their eagerness to show how new and different their own theories are, not only essentialised the older ones, but demonised them. Some of them are constructing straw people and straw theories, in order to have something to criticize, and some researchers are using gross misrepresentations of other researchers' work in order to be able to do this . This reminds me of Marianne Gronemeyer's devastatingly wonderful article (1992) "Helping". She shows how those who, for their own sake, needed to "help" others, first had to construct these Others as helpless. Many - of course not all - of those who, for their own sake, need to show that they are followers of the cults of post-post everything, are in the process of constructing everything else as "helpless", as bad theory, as traditional Herderian essentialising.

Of course linguistic identities are, as are all identities, multiple and flexible, processes and relations more than characteristics, more or less focused and salient, depending on the situation, fragmented and dialogic, contextual, nomadic and negotiated, becoming rather than being; they involve border crossing, hybridity and diaspora (see Skutnabb-Kangas 2000: 134-164; see also my 1987 where I have tried to operationalise this for empirical field work) . People (like myself) may claim several of these identities at the same time and be multilingual and multicultural, and "multi-ethnial" (or "bicountrial", as one of the Sweden-Finnish youngsters in one of my studies said when asked about Finland and Sweden: "Surely you can be bicountrial too" (Skutnabb-Kangas 1987; Markku Peura and I subsequently used it as part of the title of a book, 1994). Starting to link these vague concepts (e.g. language and culture) is hazardous. There are many examples of non-convergence both ways - several cultural and/or ethnic groups using the same language, or one cultural group using two or three different (first) languages. When ethnicity, another contested concept, is added, so that we get ethnocultural groups defined on the basis of languages , the measures become even more imprecise. But with all these caveats, it is still the case that many of those groups who demand linguistic human rights do claim these concepts: they claim to know what their mother tongues are, they claim to know which ethnic or ethnolinguistic or ethnocultural group or groups they belong to. There is in reality a very high degree of convergence between ethnicity, culture and mother tongue, regardless of how much liberal political scientists or sociolinguists want to denounce both this, and the concepts themselves. I have not seen more than a few dozens of examples of non-convergence, and they seem always to be the same ones. Even if there were several hundreds of examples, they would still be exceptions rather than a rule, and even if exceptions are important as checks on theories, generalisations cannot build on exceptions but on what is more common. Several colleagues seem to try to raise these exceptions to rules in recent debates in an eagerness not to be accused of essentialising (e.g. May 2001, 2003, in press, Pennycook 2002a). Likewise, the same few examples of loss of language, with the culture and identity still living on (the Irish, the Jews, and a few more) are trotted out and then used as proof when claiming that there is little or no relationship between language and culture. Jurek Smolicz and Margaret Secombe have in their core value theory, after stating that "other cultural factors, such as a specific religion, social structure or "racial" affiliation may prove to be of equal or greater significance than language, for some peoples" (Smolicz 1994: 236; emphasis added), attested in several articles (e.g. Smolicz et al., 1990) to the fact that most cultures in fact do not last many generations after the language has disappeared, and that for most cultures, language is a central core value.

ALL identities are also of course constructed to the extent that we are not born with identity genes. Even in cases where we are talking about phenotypically visible genotypical features like skin colour, very obviously the way these features are interpreted are dynamic social constructions, not innate or inherited givens. It seems that several of the critics somehow automatically assume that if something is "constructed" (rather than "innate" or "inherited" or "primordial" or whatever one sees as the opposite of constructed) it is somehow a less valid and less "authentic" concept, and therefore stands for something that can easily be left behind, changed, shifted. It is as if something "constructed" somehow cannot be really important. It is as if people are deceiving or pretending or at least being fooled by others if they self-identify with a "constructed" concept. Researchers like Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawn who have convincingly shown the constructed nature of several important concepts and traditions have unwittingly contributed to this kind of vulgarised belief. Knowing and accepting that a concept (like "mother tongue", "language", "ethnicity", "culture") is socially constructed, does not in any way need to invalidate the concept. All science, for instance, is socially constructed - still our conclusion is not that we should stop talking about science or stop using it, or that we should somehow "disinvent" it. Therefore, I do not see the necessity of getting rid of concepts like "mother tongue" or "language", or to "disinvent" them (and maybe then "reinvent" them, with different characteristics), as Pennycook and Makoni are suggesting (see Pennycook 2002a). It is understandable that a linguistic decolonisation of the mind also demands that one looks critically at entities that have been historically constructed as separate languages by "white" missionaries in Africa (see also Alexander1989), and there are lessons for general theory from this, because all standard languages and the languageness of languages in general are of course constructed entities too (see also Mühlhäusler 1996, 1997). But if the necessary conceptual deconstruction of concepts like "mother tongue" or "language" leads to "disinventing" them or to getting rid of them, this takes us up a blind alley. Theories trying to explain living people which lie so far from ordinary people's everyday lived experience that people no longer recognize themselves in them have little explanatory power and may be seen as less than scientific. People no longer experience them as real or of any use.

This also implies that if we really mean it when we call for respect for people's self-identification, people's claims about their mother tongues and their importance for their identities and cultures should be respected, and they should be seen as more important than outside researchers' exo-categorisations. And in terms of how people experience those features of their life that may be important aspects of their identities, obviously the very fact that some of them (like the first languages) have been learned in very early childhood, do give them a special character that is not the same for features acquired later. Accepting this is NOT essentialising; it is just accepting that small children experience the world in a different way from cognitively more mature adults. Linguists who claim otherwise know too little about (child) psychology and psychiatry, i.e. many sociolinguists and political scientists might profit from a basic dose of childhood psychiatry. - and of reminding themselves of old Marx: "[Wo]Men make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own making" (Karl Marx 1852. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, quoted in Monbiot 2003: 42). Critical analysis also means being open and not accepting vogue taboos. If federal governments have a moral and legal obligation to protect and provide resources to First Nations languages, as they do, according to the Special Chiefs Assembly Resolution above, then researchers' moral obligation is to adjust their theories so that the gap between theory and people's own endo-categorisations about themselves, and the concepts people use, are respected, even when they are critically analysed.

Baumgardner & Brown (2003: 245) present Hamnett et al.'s (1984) work where these discuss the logical relationships between and the ethics of, firstly, research (which incorporates concepts, theories, methods and practices), secondly, practice, and, thirdly, the "context of production" of research. Baumgardner & Brown (ibid.) agree with Hamnett et al. that "ethical conduct in teaching 'cannot be decided upon or defined apart from those practical situations that give it meaning' (1984: 57)." Applying this to the debates about "disinventing" concepts like "mother tongue" and "language", we might wonder to what extent ethical conduct in research can afford to be decided upon or can afford to get rid of concepts, without taking into account those practical situations that have for hundreds of years given and continue to give meaning to those concepts, and the people using them. If millions of people recognise concepts like "mother tongue" and "language" as meaningful, how scientific or ethical is it to "disinvent" them without having anything else meaningful to offer instead?

Kendall King (2003: 78) quotes with approval a sentence from Alastair Pennycook: "work on language policy is only as good as its ability to relate language to social, economic and political concerns in complex ways". I agree, but with a necessary addition. To me, it is not enough "to relate language to social, economic and political concerns in complex ways" unless these "complex ways" also include serious ethical, even moral, considerations about possible consequences for not only ordinary people but especially dominated groups and peoples , and not only people but everything we share the planet with. This is one of the necessary prerequisites for our legitimation as researchers. Says Darrell Posey (1999: 5-6):

In fact, science is far behind the environmental movement. It still sees nature as objects for human use and exploitation. […] Technology has used the banner of scientific 'objectivity' to mask the moral and ethical issues that emerge from such a functionalist, anthropocentric philosophy. […] The dominant scientific and economic forces assume that traditional communities must change to meet 'modern' standards, but indigenous and traditional peoples feel the opposite must occur: science and industry must begin to respect local diversity and the 'Sacred Balance'. […] Science and industry have lost their legitimate role as responsible global leaders.

George Monbiot (2003: 4-5) ends the "Prologue. Some Repulsive Proposals" of his recent book The Age of Consent. A Manifesto for a New World Order, with the following words, which I fully agree with:

I ask just one thing of you - that you do not reject these proposals until you have better ones with which to replace them. It has been too easy for both our movement and its critics to dismiss the prescriptions they find disagreeable without proposing workable measures of their own, thereby preventing the possibility of radical change. If you believe that slogans are a substitute for policies, or that if we all just love each other more, there'll be a transformation of consciousness and no one will ever oppress other people again, then I am wasting your time, and so are you.

Many of us might, in theory, agree with this. "Postcolonial writing needs to work … to articulate both counterdiscursive arguments and alternative realities", Alastair Pennycook writes (1998a: 217). In a review of Pennycook, Alice Filmer (2003: 328) takes Pennycook to task:

An equally well-documented volume that explores what those counterdiscourses and other realities might look like would be a welcome sequel to this excellent diagnosis of the discursive dilemma before us. The line is fine between reifying colonial discourses by resisting them and denying their potent potentialities by ignoring them entirely. Constructing alternative realities somehow needs to encompass critical awareness of oppressive discourses while imagining and articulating our way beyond them.

Developing and using theories which claim to be general but only explain the experience of a very small minority of the people they are supposed to apply to, is a waste of time. Stephen May acknowledges this in a way when he states: "In theory then, language may well be just one of many markers of identity. In practice, it is often much more than that" (May 2003: 141; emphases added). Still, some researchers are sitting on the fence. We face a host of academic challenges, trying to analyse the arguments used when institutions and ideologies function so as to prevent most indigenous peoples and many minorities from enjoying basic LHRs. Why are the often false arguments used, and why are they bought by colleagues, authorities, the general public, politicians? And, very importantly, it is necessary also for researchers to work politically for change, together with those whose human rights are now being violated. There is no way that any of us can shirk this responsibility if we are to act in ethical ways. Ethically-impelled academics need to get their act together rather than theorizing in ways that may be used to support an oppressive state and global system. Stephen May et al.'s 2003 reports about Māori education are excellent examples of this positive theorizing. The Great Stories are as alive as they have always been; they are there, just outside Academia, to be seen and heard, for anybody who cares to see and listen .

4. Claim: minorities do not want to learn any languages; they have to be forced to learn the dominant languages and protected from being forced to learn their own languages. Question: Where on earth are these minorities?

Other misconceptions that abound even among solid scholars are that minorities are somehow reluctant ("unable or unwilling", Kymlicka & Patten 2003; 12) to learn the majority/dominant languages, and that they become ghettoised (ibid.), so that "even the second and third generations of immigrant groups will live and work predominantly in their ancestral language, with only minimal or non-existent command of the state language" (Patten & Kymlicka 2003: 8; the same sentence in Kymlicka & Patten 2003: 6). These "either-or" researchers, including Laitin & Reich 2003 and Pogge 2003 (whom Stephen May effectively takes to task in his 2003) seem to think that wanting to learn one's own language properly and wanting to have it as a main medium of education, somehow prevents one from learning the dominant language (e.g. Laitin & Reich 2003, Brutt-Griffler 2002, in press a,b, are full of this kind of misconception). In fact it is quite the opposite: the longer the mother tongue medium education lasts for minorities, the better the results seem to be also in the dominant language, according to several very large-scale quasi-longitudinal studies (e.g. Ramirez et al. 1991a, b, Ramirez 1992,Collier 1989, Collier & Thomas 2002, Thomas & Collier 2002a, b) and many smaller-scale studies (including my own 1987 study). Obviously this result requires that education fulfils the Hague Recommendations on the Educational Rights of National Minorities (from OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities;; see also van der Stoel 1997): "State language should also be taught as a subject on a regular basis preferably by bilingual teachers who have a good understanding of the children's cultural and linguistic background. Towards the end of this period, a few practical or non-theoretical subjects should be taught through the medium of the State a subject, preferably by bilingual teachers"

I do not know any minorities who would NOT want their children to learn the dominant language as well as possible, in addition to the mother tongue. What many minorities have started rejecting is subtractive teaching where the dominant language is taught at the expense of the mother tongue. But presenting issues in the either-or way above is, again, imagining a largely non-existent problem and making others believe that minorities in general are unwilling to learn dominant languages. If some adults are "unable", this is largely because of bad teaching, given by monolingual teachers, where the learners' mother tongue and metalinguistic awareness are not used as a resource and the teaching is not contrastive. But if one suffers from a belief where one is "assuming that there are limits on the capacity of the average person to acquire multiple languages" (Weinstock 2003: 251), learning even two or three languages may be seen as VERY difficult. In the case Weinstock describes, the person (in Canada) has, according to Weinstock (ibid.), to make "difficult trade-offs", i.e. choose only one of the three languages involved. Obviously most people in Africa and Asia (where many people are multilingual ) are not "average persons"…

Some researchers also claim that not forcing minorities to "linguistic integration" (which seems to mean assimilation), with "standardized public education in a common language" (Kymlicka & Patten 2003: 12) "serves to separate citizens into distinct and mutually antagonistic groups" (ibid.). Thus granting minorities a right to mother tongue medium education would according to this type of theorising be a veritable disaster, both to the minorities themselves and to the whole society. It would prevent them from learning the dominant languages, it would ghettoise them and make them antagonistic towards all other groups. All the work of the OSCE’s first High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel (e.g. 1997, 1999; see also references in Rothenberg 1997) testifies to the opposite: mother tongue medium teaching and the granting of other LHRs tend to reduce antagonisms (see also Hettne 1987, 1990, Eide 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994). But according to some researchers it also seems that indigenous peoples and minorities are not only unwilling to learn dominant languages. They are also unwilling to learn and maintain their own languages. Learning them is just something that, again, we unrealistic romantics force on them. This kind of argument can be found in many researchers' writings, starting with Christina Bratt Paulston (1981) who claimed that immigrant minority children in Sweden, given the chance, would like to assimilate and become good Swedes. "[M]any members of marginalized groups would prefer linguistic assimilation even if it were not ideologically coerced", Laitin & Reich (2003: 87) also claim . It is, according to them - and according to international human rights law, and I agree - an individual right to exit a minority language group. But then Laitin & Reich continue: these individual rights are not to be "overridden by the interests of subgroups in coercively maintaining the loyalty of their members" (ibid., 89). A liberal society "cannot adopt policies designed to keep a language in existence if those who speak it prefer to let it go", Laitin & Reich say, quoting Barry 2001 with hundred percent approval (ibid., 86).

I have major difficulties in recognising this world where minority entrepreneurs force poor unwilling minority members to continue speaking this useless minority language against their will and where we "force people into cultural milieus from which they might want to exit" (ibid., 87), or where we are "turning cultural minorities into the equivalent of endangered species that warrant preservation for the sake of maintaining diversity" (ibid., 89). Or, because of the "alleged 'intrinsic value' of particular languages and of particular linguistic communities [we seem to have] the need to preserve such languages and communities, even against the decisions of their own members" (Weinstock 2003: 252) . For instance, my own suggestion about what should be fundamental individual linguistic human rights for children has, since the late 1980s, had as two of its four main types of right, the right to learn an official language and the right to choose what the relationship between the two languages should be, meaning also that if they wish to shift languages, to exit from the group linguistically, this is their linguistic human right. According to these two rights , a

Universal Covenant of Linguistic Human Rights should guarantee at an individual level, in relation to […]


- that everybody whose mother tongue is not an official language in the country where s/he is resident, has the right to become bilingual (or trilingual, if s/he has 2 mother tongues) in the mother tongue(s) and (one of) the official language(s) (according to her own choice).


- that any change of mother tongue is voluntary (includes knowledge of long-term consequences), not imposed.

At the same time, even if a few of these minority individuals might want to learn their own languages voluntarily, they cannot be trusted in any case because "individual choices can fail to reflect people's actual linguistic preferences because, in an unrestricted context,, there are dangers to their acting on their ideal preferences that they have a paramount interest in avoiding" (Weinstock 2003: 252). So regardless of what minorities decide or do not decide about their own languages, this can be overruled by researchers, because these know better what the real interests of minorities are - a Catch 22 situation that smacks of old vulgar Marxism with paternalistic ideas about the people's "false consciousness". An odd bedfellow for avowed liberals…

One might then ask: are these quoted colleagues "evil" people because what they suggest often either directly or indirectly leads to homogenization, at least linguistically and sometimes also culturally? Most of these "friends" and even some of the "non-friends" of multiculturalism claim that what they suggest is done with good motives: they want to "help" or "support" the indigenous peoples or minorities concerned. It is often difficult to discuss the patronizing tone and the negative implications and, especially, the similarities in the ideologies and actions of this kind of "friends" and "non-friends". I do not see a discussion of individual motives as productive or constructive. It might be possible to show that the actions of "non-friends" imply at least indirect and sometimes also direct (individual and collective) discrimination. The latter is, according to human rights lawyer Päivi Gynther, 2003: 46, "contrasted with equality of opportunity" and the former with "equality of outcome". The actions of "friends" could be discussed in terms of forming part of institutional discrimination, where "the individual generally does not have to exercise a choice to operate in a racist manner. Individuals merely have to conform to the operating norms of the organization, and the institution will do the discrimination for them" (ibid.: 47). Here "friends" might then be guilty of "unintentional discrimination", by contributing to a formation of academic institutional norms where statements essentialising and demonizing certain ways of reasoning go unquestioned, regardless of how much against facts they go. In this type of debate climate, incorrect assertions become "facts" (see the debate between me and Janina Brutt-Griffler in the Journal of Language, Identity and Education). It might be more profitable, instead of questioning researchers' motives and intentions, to discuss issues of violations of linguistic human rights in terms of systemic discrimination. When we think of multidisciplinarity in research on linguistic human rights in education, it is interesting to note that some of the issues that some of us have analysed for quite some time, are now being analysed in similar ways in human rights law. Most of the court cases on language rights and educational rights have been raised in terms of alleged discrimination. This is true of the old Lau vs Nicholls case in the United States which led to some acceptance of bilingual education, and of those recent cases in the United States where a Spanish-speaking parent has been ordered to speak English to her or his own child. Likewise, the old "Belgian linguistic case" which stated that parents did not have the right to choose the medium of education, stated that this was not discriminatory. All of these cases have discussed the discrimination and, especially, its effects, in terms of named individual children and adults; motives and intentions have been connected to effects. The type of theorizing where structures and various institutions' ways of functioning are focused has not been prevalent in human rights law, partly because collective rights and the protection against their violations have been weakly developed. Human rights lawyer Päivi Gynther suggests now (2003) in relation to (lack of) educational rights that a new concept, systemic discrimination, be used. She uses racism research as an example when developing the concept, and wants to get away from a focus on intentionality and individual actors and their motives. Systemic discrimination focuses on

ontological equality, demanding that specific attention is given to the situation of the most subjugated groups of the society and to the identification of the sources of the differential treatment that lie in some sense within the system rather than simply with the individuals who represent it […] By paying attention to the notion of systemic discrimination we can draw attention to structures rather than individual actors, to permanent situations rather than single events, and to repression, segmentation and marginalization rather than intention. (ibid.: 46, 51).

When I compare this to my own 1988 definition of linguicism (an analogous concept with (biologically argued) racism and sexism, it is easy to see that sociologically oriented language-in-education analyses have done exactly what human rights lawyers now want to do. I defined linguicism as: 'ideologies, structures and practices which are used to legitimate, effectuate, regulate and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources (both material and immaterial) between groups which are defined on the basis of language' (Skutnabb-Kangas 1988b: 13).

This leads to a discussion of both linguistic human rights and of some of the difficulties of multidisciplinary research. In the final part of my paper, I want to discuss some of the roles that linguistic human rights could play to support the maintenance of linguistic diversity, and, also reflect on some of the criticism that has claimed lately that the "linguistic human rights movement" or "paradigm" or "approach" does not “deliver”. The way this criticism has been presented is, in my view, creating discourses which may in the best case be delaying positive action and in the worst case harm attempts to maintain diversities on earth.

5. The role of linguistic human rights in supporting the protection of linguistic and cultural diversities?

5.1. LHRs as part of supply-increasing and demand-increasing language policies Before getting to the role of linguistic human rights, I shall introduce some concepts in sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3 that can be used in analysing the relationship between minorities and states when minorities start demanding LHRs in education. Granting LHRs to everybody should be seen as a part of a country's language policy. Language policy has been defined as

A systematic, rational, theory-based effort at the societal level to modify the linguistic environment with a view to increasing aggregate welfare. It is typically conducted by official bodies or their surrogates and aimed at part or all of the population living under their jurisdiction (Grin 2000: 7)

Recourse to linguistic human rights (LHRs) can in a narrow sense be seen as representing one strategy in language policy using international law as an instrument (this will be detailed more below in section 5.4). This strategy can be taken to use by the "official bodies" in the definition above, e.g. government or local authority representatives, through national and international normative standard-setting (e.g. ratifying HRs instruments) and through granting various linguistic human rights, both "negative" (non-discrimination rights) and "positive" . When the government provides or guarantees minority language services, it is responsible for the "supply increasing" side of language policy (cf. Grin 2000: 53). The earlier example of Papua New Guinea shows a state increasing supply, and this can sometimes happen even before a strong demand has arisen. A state can also decrease supply, for instance by stopping the training of minority mother tongue teachers (as in Sweden, Skolverket 2001: 8), something that has recently been criticised by the Advisory Committee monitoring the ratifying countries' governments' behaviour in relation to Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (see the Government reports and the Advisory Committee's replies; the issues were discussed at a Council of Europe Conference 30-31 October 2003; see Duncan Wilson 2003 and Skutnabb-Kangas 2003c for the education parts). Likewise, states which deny the HR of access to free and compulsory basic education, are restricting supply - several countries have introduced school fees for basic primary education in the last decade or two, often prompted by the World Bank's and the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment demands. This fact has been strongly criticized by the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, international lawyer Katarina Tomaševski (e.g. 2001).

LHRs can also be used as a "demand-increasing" mobilising strategy, often by the minorities themselves, with goals at several levels, locally, nationally, and internationally. Competence in a language increases when it is being used. Becoming/being competent in a language makes people realise that the language can also be used in new areas/domains (for instance in formal education, rather than only at home, in informal education). This awareness may lead to demands for being allowed/able to use it in those new domains. Demand increases with use and if demands are being met by the government (or some other body, including the minority itself), which increases the supply side, this enables still more use .

If the supply side again increases as a result (so that, for instance, mother tongue medium education is offered and minority language teachers are being trained), this mutual positive influence may eventually lead to a "normalisation" of a minority language's position: a situation where it can be used (government responsibility) and is being used (joint responsibility for minority and government) for many or most official purposes, in addition to private use. Its knowledge becomes a valued resource, linguistic capital convertible to other forms of capital. This has, for instance, happened with the Catalan and Basque languages after Franco's death in Spain - the languages have been "normalised". It is happening in the Baltic states where Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian, as minorized majority languages, are still in a somewhat vulnerable position, as compared to Russian, the majorized minority language (Druviete 2000, Ozolins 1999, Rannut 1998, 2003, Skutnabb-Kangas 1994). The normalisation is just starting to happen in several Russian Federation contexts, for instance in education in the Mari Republic (Erik Juzykain, personal communication - the first conference devoted to this change was held in June 2001).

This "good circle", with mutual positive influence between supply and demand, with the goal of granting minorities equal access to participation in society also linguistically, can harness (linguistic) human rights for democracy. But many states are today in a "bad circle": they are afraid of linguistic and other demands, especially demands about autonomy (minorities) and self-determination (indigenous peoples). Therefore many restrict supply (e.g. mother tongue medium education) in order to contain the demands. This is, for instance, how we can analyse the actions of those states in the USA that have restricted bilingual education and/or adopted pro-English cum anti-minority-languages legislation. States refuse to grant positive LHRs in education and do not always want to respect even negative non-discrimination rights. Through this denial of LHRs they are, instead of solving problems, breeding conflict, inviting trouble and undermining democracy. Offering education only through the medium of a language that minority students do not have full access to restricts supply and may in time increase demand. Reasonable but unmet demands invite conflict. This was also what the Nepali example was about.

The same supply and demand issues can be analysed in many other ways, from the point of view of other disciplines. The lively discussions about justice in political philosophy and political sciences in general, applied to minority rights (or "accommodation rights" as Will Kymlicka now calls them), presented, e.g., in Kymlicka & Patten's edited book Language Rights and Political Theory (2003), exemplify this well. Drawing especially on John Rawls (e.g. 1971, 1993, 1999) and Ronald Dworkin (1981, 2000), researchers debate what kind of language rights can be justified on what bases, i.e. which demands justify what kinds of supply (even if most of them do not use these terms from economics). Some of the main discussions are about whether all or only some (and in that case which ones) of those inequalities that are due to characteristics (in the individual or in society) that are not chosen by the individual should be "compensated for" or "rectified" by the state, and how. Being born to parents who speak a language which is not the dominant language in the society where the person lives, and suffering injustice if this language has low status, could be seen as facts where individuals could justifiably demand "compensation", i.e. the state should offer more supplies. Most liberal political scientists do not see, though, that states should support the maintenance of the existence of minority groups beyond present generations. This seems to be due to partly the fact that they see speaking a minority language as some kind of a handicap (as in deficiency theories) to be compensated for. With this view, obviously this "handicap" should not be carried on to the following generations. If parents choose to do it, it is their responsibility; they have had a choice. The question then is if the child has a choice; and here we get the pretty outrageous wishes by Laitin & Reich above, about states coercing parents. Partly the liberal view concentrates on individual rights and therefore minority groups as groups do not according to many political scientists of this kind have justifiable demands to continue their existence as minority groups - they are given the choice to assimilate, or to continue without a justified claim for support for collective rights. The more communitarian-oriented political scientists are conspicuously absent from or silent (silenced?) in many of the most prominent debates.

5.2. Individual versus collective rights - no necessary conflict For demands to be voiced in HRs terms, both individual and collective awareness of rights, and indigenous/minority organisation are necessary. The relationship between collective rights and individual rights, discussed in international law for as long as the discipline has existed, is complex, as the recent political science debates on minority rights also show. Most of the initial human rights under the United Nations regime were individual rights. This resulted in that most of those rights which during the League of Nations had included some language rights, namely minority rights (which are collective per definition), were not developed by the UN before the 1980s, after the 1979 Capotorti Report to the United Nations . One of the arguments was that if every individual had certain rights, people were protected as individuals; therefore, collective rights were not needed. Minorities were seen, for instance by American delegates to the United Nations HRs instruments drafting bodies, as "a European problem". Today, certain collective rights are increasingly being included in the HRs regime, often at the demand of non-western states. My claim is that both types of right are needed, and that there is no necessary conflict between them. Quite the opposite, as we will see below. This claim goes against many if not most of the liberal political scientists who have recently started to interest themselves for the question of minority rights, whereas many sociologists, even in the West, would be able to agree, especially those with a more communitarian bent.

A somewhat bold general claim would be that European regional HRs instruments contain fewer collective rights (and also fewer binding duties/responsibilities) than the 4 African HRs instruments. This is clear even in the name of the first general African instrument, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, 1981 (emphasis added). The Organization of American States' 14 instruments resemble the European instruments. There is as yet no inter-governmental HRs system at the regional level in Asia, but several attempts have been made to concretise a regional stance on HRs, with governments and NGOs highlighting different viewpoints (see Muntarbhorn, 2000, for an overview; see also Beetham, 2000, for a discussion of universality and cultural differences in HRs). One of the sources of disagreement has to do with the relationship between individual and collective rights (and another one with the relationship between rights and duties;). One of the important demands that most indigenous peoples and minorities are forcefully presenting today all over the world is to have the collective right to exist and reproduce themselves as a distinct collectivity respected and formally legalised. Subcommandante Marcos beautifully described this in an interview where he, addressing the fear of fragmentation that many states seem to have, also drew the connections between collective rights, peace or "ethnic" conflict, and globalisation:

Our aim is to get the Mexican Congress to recognise the identity of indigenous people as 'collective subjects' by right. Mexico's constitution doesn't recognise Indians. We want the government to accept that Mexico has a variety of peoples; that our indigenous peoples have their own political, social and economic forms of organisation, and that they have a strong connection to the land, to their communities, their roots and their history.

We are not asking for an autonomy that will exclude others. We are not calling for independence. We don't want to proclaim the birth of the Maya nation, or fragment the country into lots of small indigenous countries. We are just asking for the recognition of the rights of an important part of Mexican society which has its own forms of organisation that it wants to be legally recognised.

Our aim is peace. A peace based on a dialogue which is not a sham. A dialogue that will lay the groundwork for rebuilding Chiapas and make it possible for the EZNL to enter ordinary political life. Peace can only be had by recognising the autonomy of indigenous peoples. This recognition is an important precondition for the EZNL to end its clandestine existence, give up armed struggle, participate openly in regular politics and also fight the dangers of globalisation (from Ramonet 2001: 1).

Marcos also emphasized the demand for mother tongue medium education as one of the important motivating forces for the 2-week march in February 2001 from Chiapas to Mexico City.

One could draw a close parallel with the United States where the constitution does not recognise indigenous peoples or minorities as proper collective subjects either, and where minority rights and even indigenous rights are denied in the name of national unity. While the indigenous peoples in the USA are well aware of this, many of the minorities still have a long way to go before they start in earnest to use international law to demand basic human rights, including educational LHRs, both individually and as collectives. Even today the denial of collective rights has to do with the (mostly unfounded) fear of the disintegration of the state. An imagined unity of the state through forcibly trying to homogenise the citizens linguistically, culturally and even ethnically is one of the strong motives behind HRs violations where the elites controlling the state are the perpetrators. We can see the same trend all over the world, in Australia's "one literacy", a "singular, measurable, narrowly defined, English-only literacy" (Lo Bianco 2001), in the "homogenising effect of imposed Hispanization" (Bolivia) or "a deliberate attempt to 'whiten' and 'Chilenise' Andean populations … under Pinochet" (Arnold & Yapita 2001), or in the European examples of ""such abject failures of nerve…such failures to attempt to defend the rights of linguistic minorities … such sociolinguistic sophistry" that Peter Trudgill (2000:58) quotes from Bulgaria (Videnov), Greece (Angelopoulos), Hungary (Deme) and Britain (Stein and Quirk), just to take a few examples.

Unless collective rights are considerably strengthened very soon (but without weakening individual rights), the world's linguistic diversity will be lost.

5.3.Instrumental versus expressive interests and rights - no necessary conflict The final pair to be discussed is about the two kinds of interest in LHRs which can be distinguished, according to Ruth Rubio-Marín (Professor of Constitutional Law in Seville, Spain). One is "the expressive interest in language as a marker of identity", the other an "instrumental interest in language as a means of communication" (Rubio-Marín 2003: 56). The expressive (or non-instrumental) language claims

aim at ensuring a person's capacity to enjoy a secure linguistic environment in her/his mother tongue and a linguistic group's fair chance of cultural self-reproduction (Rubio-Marín 2003: 56).

It is only these rights that Rubio-Marín calls "language rights in a strict sense" (2003: 56), i.e. these could be seen as linguistic human rights (LHRs). This formulation beautifully integrates individual rights with collective rights, in the sense I suggested above. The instrumental language claims, on the other hand,

aim at ensuring that language is not an obstacle to the effective enjoyment of rights with a linguistic dimension, to the meaningful participation in public institutions and democratic process, and to the enjoyment of social and economic opportunities that require linguistic skills (ibid.).

So far, it is far from clear what should and what should not be considered LHRs, and there are lively debates about the topic. One of the difficulties is, as seen in the formulations by François Grin below, that the issue is multidisciplinary while many researchers are not. Often human rights lawyers know little about language, at least initially. Often language specialists know little about legal matters. Some sociolinguists, sociologists, educationists, political scientists, etc, may be more knowledgeable about the power relations necessarily involved in all language policy matters but many are still too little informed about human rights law and sometimes even languages and certainly often about bilingual education.

Negative debates also ensue when some instrumentalists claim that those interested in the expressive aspects exclude the more instrumental communication-oriented aspects (for instance unequal class- or gender-based access to formal language or to international languages). The debates in several 2003-4 numbers of the Journal of Language, Identity and Education are an example of this old division being reinvented again. The same debates have been fought already in the 1960s and 1970s, both over integration of minorities: are they more interested in their languages, or in jobs) and over indigenous claims (are they more interested in identity, language and traditions, or in autonomy/land right) in the 1960s and 1970s. Most groups are mostly interested in both types of rights, expressive and instrumental, and often one is a prerequisite for the other, with both being alternately causal AND dependent variables. Many of us work with both aspects, and see them as complementary, not mutually exclusive.

To some extent similar debates have been raging in discussing biodiversity and its legal protection. Here some of the science-technology-industry complex, described in the Posey quote above (and today more and more: the military-industrial and biotechnology-medical complexes; see Alternatives to Economic Globalization. A Better World Is Possible 2002, Chomsky 1994, 1996, 2000, Chomsky & Herman 1979, Kneen 1999, Pilger 1998, 2003, Shiva 1991, 1997, Singer 2003, for descriptions and criticisms of these) would stand for the instrumental values, and the Sacred Balance (see also Harmon 2003) for the more expressive-intrinsic values. Ecofeminism (e.g. Reichel 1997) and deep ecology (e.g. Naess 1989) advocate for a thorough shift from the instrumental values to the intrinsic values, and so does Posey (1999: 14) but without false romantisizing of indigenous peoples and their relationship with nature as "ecologically noble savages", something that, e.g., Jared Diamond has shown is incorrect anyway (see Diamond 1991) and that many indigenous peoples themselves reject (Posey 1999: 7).

5.4. Is it in practice possible to maintain linguistic diversity? Are the costs not prohibitive?

Now many people might want to maintain diversity. There "is a degree of social consensus over the notion that diversity is, by and large, 'a good thing'…", Grin writes (2003: 179) - but adds: "… albeit perhaps a costly one" (ibid.). And this is the question many ask: is it in practice possible to maintain linguistic diversity? Are the costs not prohibitive? I present two examples.

Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country in the world. Within a population of some 5 million, there are over 850 languages. In 2001, 380 languages were used as the media of education in preschool and the first two grades; the plan was to add another 90. What are the results, according to David Klaus (earlier World Bank) (2003)? - children become literate more quickly and easily in their mother tongues than they did in English; - they learn English more quickly and easily than their older brothers and sisters did under the old system; - the results of the Grade 6 examination in the three provinces which were the first to begin the reform in 1993 were much higher than the results of students from provinces where students were immersed in English from Day One of Grade One; - access to formal education is increasing because many parents now appear more willing to send their children to school and to make the sacrifices necessary to keep them in school.; - dropout (or push-out as I call them) rates have decreased. In particular, a higher proportion of girls are in school than was previously the case; - children are more excited, pro-active, self-confident, and inquisitive about learning, and ask more questions (Klaus 2003; see also Nagai & Lister 2003, Skutnabb-Kangas 2003c). Papua New Guinea is not one the world's materially richest countries - their riches lie in linguistic and cultural diversity and biodiversity. Still, they have managed to grant some basic LHRs to speakers of hundreds of languages. No other country can claim that they do not have the resources to at least start maintaining and developing all their languages; the USA and Canada, for instance, have extremely few indigenous languages in comparison. Count yourself: 850 languages for every 5 million people would be 1,700 languages for 10 million people. How many millions do you have? My second example, very different, comes from Nepal. What is at stake here is to try and balance costs and benefits of granting or not granting educational LHRs and thus supporting or not supporting the maintenance of linguistic and cultural diversity. If mother tongue medium education is not organised (as part of granting a necessary LHR), there are at least three negative costs, one educational (loss of talent through non-education), one political (resistance and conflict) and one economic (the costs of civil war). The only benefit is illusory: the elites may stay in absolute power for a bit longer. This has to be balanced against costs and benefits of granting some of those rights by organising mother tongue medium education. The costs would be educational - it costs a bit more at least initially to teach through the medium of many languages than to teach through the medium of Nepali only in government schools. But as we have seen, Papua New Guinea is managing with 7-8 times more languages and a fifth of the population as compared to Nepal, and donors could be found. The political cost would possibly be some more prerequisites for democracy - and this would be a cost only from the point of view of present elites. The educational benefits would be similar to those in Papua New Guinea, and granting rights might also lead to fewer and possibly less violent political conflicts. I illustrate this by quoting from a very recent (private, October 2003) email from a very good Nepalese friend (Lava Deo Awasthi - thanks, Lava, for the permission to quote you!) who works with education:

We are preparing a National Plan of Action for EFA [Education For All, TSK] implementation. I will send you a copy as soon as it gets finalized. Donor negotiations are taking place to support our Education For All programme. Norway, Danida, Finland, EU, IDA, Unicef, JICA(Japan), Asian Development Bank and Unesco have formed a consortium to work with the Ministry of Education. We have succeeded in making children's linguistic rights a major issue in Nepal's EFA framework. Norway, Finland have been very much supportive to this. Fortunately, this time the World Bank mission is headed by [XX, name deleted by TSK], who appears to me exceptionally pro-people. He has been very supportive to indigenous peoples' issues. XX's [country name deleted, TSK] role is very dubious. Other donors are also realizing the fact that language is a key to ensuring children's equitable access to basic and primary education. We have convinced the development partners that unless non-Nepali speaking children have access to mother tongue medium education, Nepal cannot achieve EFA goals by 2015. We also face a problem with elite capturing inside the country, which appears to be more difficult than we thought. The elite are trying to resist change. But, we have to continue putting pressure on them that ultimately it is also in their interest. We are saying that if they do not support mother tongue medium programmes there will be more Maoists and there will be bigger conflict in the country. We tell them that insurgency is the result of our indifference to ethnic and linguistic minority children's education in the past.

The situation in the country is worsening. The army and the foreign powers are trying to widen the gap between the government and the Maoists. We do not see any immediate solution to the crisis.

If we agree that biocultural diversity should be maintained, and that the costs for the linguistic diversity part are not prohibitive, we can then ask whether linguistic human rights, and especially educational LHRs, can play any role in this maintenance. I am not going to present the legal part of what kind of linguistic human rights we have today in various international and regional human rights instruments, and where the gaps are - this is something that I have written tens of articles and edited several books about (see my home page, Suffice it to say that language in education gets a very poor hearing in them - it disappears in the educational Articles, or if it is there, these Articles are so full of modifications, opt-outs and draw-backs (see Duncan Wilson 2003 for this nice expression applied to one of the European instruments) that many are virtually meaningless. There are, though, some recent instruments which might make one vaguely optimistic.

With these divisions presented, we can now look at the role of linguistic human rights. What can they do - what have they done, what could or should they do?

5.5. Has the Linguistic Human Rights approach "delivered"?

Some of those people who are today starting to claim that what they call "the linguistic human rights movement/approach" has "not delivered", seem to be on the very fringes of both the liberal debate and certainly completely outside the legal debate, but often without having fully thought through the prerequisites or implications of the positions they take (and in some cases not even quite knowing that they have a position, I'm afraid).

It is unclear what the "LHRs movement" should have delivered and hasn't (e.g. Stroud 2001, Stroud & Heugh 2003). I agree fully with François Grin's analysis that "the discourse of rights can only ever make up but a small part of diversity management" (2003: 181). He sees a three-partite division of labour here. The first part has to do with an "analysis of the [philosophical] criteria that should govern our choices regarding alternatives in diversity management" (ibid.), something that has been discussed in "political science leaning towards political philosophy" (ibid.), and, certainly, in the philosophy and sociology of law, and also in the linguistic human rights discourse. My discussion in this paper has mostly concentrated on some of the sociological and sociolinguistic prerequisites for this part. The second part, where linguistic human rights are one central aspect, has to do with embodying the philosophical and political choices made on the basis of the first part, into legislation, both national and international. And the third part evaluates to what extent "the policy measures adopted to give them substance are effective or not" (ibid.). In Grin's view (which I also share), this "requires a shift of emphasis away from the intrinsically normative discourse of rights to the positive approach of policy analysis and policy evaluation" (ibid.). Thus we need to properly understand the limitations of the role that LHRs can play - and also the possibilities. This understanding has been in short supply among the critics.

As with any new areas of research and policy, a linguistic human rights approach also has first had to show its legitimacy and usefulness. From a theoretical point of view, it is clear that the fact that linguistic rights now are more or less accepted as part of human rights, even by human rights lawyers (see, e.g. de Varennes 1996a, b, 2000; Thornberry 1997, Thornberry & Gibbons 1997; see for a list of projects and links), i.e. the fact that they are now seen as linguistic human rights, is a major achievement. This now gives access to the whole human rights apparatus where next to nothing had happened with, for instance, educational language rights since the famous "Belgian linguistic case" (1968) where parents were judged as not having any right to choose the medium of education for their children ( see also Sieghart 1983: 249). Today, things are happening, as several recent language or education-related instruments show (e.g. OSCE's Hague Recommendations mentioned above, and both Council of Europe's regional instruments, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, both in force since 1998 (; their treaty numbers are 148 and 158). Likewise, the fact that an entry on "linguistic genocide" is now being included in Macmillan's large reference Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (see Skutnabb-Kangas, in press b), mainly edited by human rights lawyers, shows the legitimacy of the research area.

Secondly, more and more indigenous peoples and minorities all over the world are now aware of the concept of LHRs, and they are increasingly starting to demand these rights, often very vocally (I could fill a whole book just listing these demands from various parts of the world). The awareness that (historical and present-day) non-supply or restricted supply of rights has raised, has found expression in channelling the anger into demands for various aspects of LHRs, most importantly educational LHRs (see, e.g., Littlebear 1996, McCarty 2003, Thomas 2001). Here additive mother tongue medium education with the resulting high levels of multilingualism and good school achievement can represent both expressive and instrumental language claims, both individual and collective rights. The awareness has also started to penetrate schools, even if this is still in its infancy in many parts of the world. Linguists, sociolinguists, language teacher organisations and conferences are increasingly passing resolutions and recommendations which are couched in LHRs terms (my collection of these counts hundreds, and I am probably aware of only a very small fraction). And some of them do lead to action . The literature on LHRs is also growing exponentially (as one can see if one, for instance, does an advanced Google search ( on the exact term "linguistic human rights" - the result on 20th November 2003 was 1.530 entries) and LHRs are a separate entry in many recent sociolinguistic books, and fill much in introductory and summing-up articles (see, e.g. Tsui & Tollefson 2003 . Tollefson & Tsui 2003). And thirdly, even if many of the LHRs granted are still on paper only (an accusation in, e.g. Stroud & Heugh 2003), the number of cases where they are being actually implemented is growing day by day.

Thus claiming that the "LHRs movement" has not delivered is based either on several types of ignorance (including ignorance about the place of LHRs in diversity management, as described above, and ignorance - or cynism - about human rights normative standard-setting) or on completely unrealistic expectations of the relationship between research and politics, or on researchers not knowing enough about the struggles outside the universities, and the results achieved. More networking with indigenous peoples and minorities might enlighten some of those whose time is spent on theorizing only. Likewise, the criticism of the theoretical basis and concepts used when discussing LHRs is an example of how difficult it is to appreciate the complexities of multidisciplinary theory-building. If certain concepts come from, say, international law, it is not terribly scholarly to criticise them for not being political theory or SLA concepts, without knowing international law and the prerequisites for how and why those concepts have been developed and why they are used the way they are. In multidisciplinary theory, there has to be give and take, analysis and criticism and further development, on the basis of knowing at least the basics of the disciplines involved. This has unfortunately not seemed to be the case with some very vocal critics. There has been, as François Grin so nicely describes it (2003: 173),

self-referential families of discourses. The degree of interconnection between them, despite an a priori community of interests, remains limited. […] In practice, this situation means that discussions on language and minority rights often takes place in discrete spheres, in which authors may be tempted to reinvent the wheel, at great cost in terms of time - and corresponding limitations to the relevance of some of their results (ibid.).

And, one might add, delaying badly needed policies and causing a lot of harm to indigenous peoples and minorities.

One can see the tension between Paulo Freire's "language of critique" and the "language of possibility" (see Henri Giroŭ's 1985: xiv exposé of this) at the same time as positive and promising for research itself, but also negative, if the gap between these two types of discourse becomes too big. Both parts of political theory and parts of sociolinguistics concerned with linguistic human rights are experiencing a veritable dilemma today. It seems that the discourse of critique is so dominant in the area of minority rights that the relationship mentioned above, from Hamnett, and Baumgardner & Brown, between, firstly, research concepts, theories, methods and practices, secondly, practice, and, thirdly, the "context of production" of research, is seriously endangered. In the words of political scientists themselves, there is a "separation of normative from empirical political theory", something that has created "a normative theory that is no longer informed […] by the state of empirical knowledge of politics" (Shapiro 2002: 597). If it is true, as Baumgardner & Brown claim (2003: 245, quoting Hamnett) that ethical conduct [in research] 'cannot be decided upon or defined apart from those practical situations that give it meaning' (Hamnett 1984: 57), then I think those sociolinguists who have lately latched onto these political theory discourses that I have criticised and that are "no longer informed […] by the state of empirical knowledge of politics" may have a problem in not only not (being able to?) suggest(ing) alternatives but also a problem of ethics. Here I sadly still see my quote from 15 years ago as valid (from the book Minority Education: from Shame to Struggle, Skutnabb-Kangas 1988: 38-39):

It may be time for linguists also to realize that linguicism is not a bunch of ill-willed, misinformed individuals. It is not a question of information, but of power structure. Obviously, it is our job as linguists to produce information, but unless we know whose questions we ask in our research and why, we may unknowingly provide arguments for supporting linguicism and racism, especially the hidden, unconscious, invisible kind, which is the most difficult one to detect and to fight. A poster I have on my study door has, as a part of the devastating and beautiful picture by Malaquias Montoya, a text by G. R. Castillo: "One day the apolitical intellectuals of my country will be interrogated by the simplest of our people". Researchers are some sort of intellectuals too, aren't we?


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