Why Should Diversities Be Maintained. Language And Biological Diversity And Linguistic Human Rights
(Why) should diversities be maintained? Language diversity, biological diversity and linguistic human rights
Glendon Distinguished Lecture 2003, Tuesday 14th October 2003
York University, Glendon College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Linguistic diversity: The variety and richness of languages in human societies. Biodiversity: The total variability among genes, plant and animal species, and ecosystems found in nature.
Biocultural diversity: The diversity of life on Earth in both nature and culture. (Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003, Glossary).
"Biodiversity is not an object to be conserved. It is an integral part of human existence, in which utilization is part of the celebration of life" (Posey 1999: 7). Or, mutatis mutandi, maybe: "Linguistic diversity is not an object to be maintained. It is an integral part of human existence, in which using the languages is part of the celebration of life"
Each Contracting Party shall "subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional life-styles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote the wiser application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices"
(from Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity)
Total Aboriginal Population: 51,778 (June 1995).
Total Aboriginal Population who now only speak English: 50,771
Total Aboriginal Population who also speak an Aboriginal Language: 1,601 3.09% of total First Nations Aboriginal Population speak a Native Language
(Source: Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council Inc., Speakers of Aboriginal Languages Survey; A Survey of 24 Aboriginal Communities in Southern Ontario, Canada) http://www.woodland-centre.on.ca/SGpage.html - anchor407035
"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).
1. What are the problems? False friends?
2. Aspects on costs and benefits, losses and gains 2.1. Internalities and externalities as factors in cost-effectiveness 2.2. The relationship between creativity, invention, investment, multilingualism and additive teaching
3. Biocultural/biolinguistic diversity 3.1. Definitions: Global 2000 Ecoregions, biodiversity hotspots, megadiversity countries, ethnolinguistic groups 3.2. More biolinguistic correlations 3.3. Causality in biocultural relationships – TEK 3.4. Is it in practice possible to maintain linguistic diversity? Are the costs not prohibitive?
4. The role of linguistic human rights in supporting the protection of linguistic and cultural diversities? 4.1. LHRs as part of supply-increasing and demand-increasing language policies 4.2. Individual versus collective rights - no necessary conflict 4.3.Instrumental versus expressive interests and rights - no necessary conflict 4.4. Has the Linguistic Human Rights approach "delivered"?
5. Concluding remarks
1. What are the problems? False friends?
Even if biodiversity is in the title of my paper, and I shall certainly discuss it too, I do not see it as my task here to argue for the need of the maintenance of the world's biodiversity - this need is today commonly accepted at a theoretical level, and there are a few legal documents to support this, most importantly the Convention on Biological Diversity, and I quote above the Article from it, 8(j) which is the most important one for biolinguistic and biocultural diversity. Since I am - or at least used to be - some kind of sociolinguist, I shall concentrate on the language part of biocultural diversity.
Seeing the title of my paper, some people might feel puzzled. Is there a problem? Are not all diversities intrinsically good and positive? Does one need to even ask if they should be maintained - is it not self-evident? Does one really need to argue why this is so? This would at least be my instinctive laywoman reaction.
If my reaction was the general one, I could stop here. But there are other reactions which do NOT see all diversities as positive, and certainly not linguistic diversity. They would rather get rid of linguistic diversity if they could. They claim it is unnecessary, messy, costly, inefficient. Wouldn't it be nice if we had never had the tower of Babel? If all of us spoke the same language? If all of us understood each other? Peace, and paradise on earth? Back to the good VERY old times? Or, in the "best" case, they claim that they have nothing against diversity, but "we" (whoever that is supposed to be) cannot do much to save it and many of those people who represent the small languages want themselves to get rid of them, in any case, to "exit" their group and to assimilate.
If this was only the reaction of a few fundamentalists, without much power, I and others could let them dream further about their homogenised McWorld and not worry. Unfortunately, it seems that the matters are much worse than that, and rapidly deteriorating. Powerful voices are joining the homogenising chorus, and it seems to me that they have to be taken very seriously. 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). It seems to me that 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. 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 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 "ordinary people" or politicians or diplomats who think that many languages, i.e. linguistic diversity (LD), is a problem. Even to many researchers, LD seems messy. 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 like wailing 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 changing 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.
If all the languages in the multilingual countries are not supported, most of the world's linguistic diversity will disappear, and the homogenisers' dreams will come true. Most of the numerically big languages do not need this support, partly, of course, because of their size and, more importantly, the power of their speakers, but also because several of them are spoken natively, at least by elites, in several countries. If we consider the fact that some 83% of the world's spoken languages are endemic, i.e. they exist in one country only (Harmon 1995), that means that if these endemic languages are not supported, each in the only country where they exist, they will disappear completely. Each of them is an invaluable resource, not a problem.
LD is the normal state of life on our planet. But images presented of linguistic diversity often seem to envisage a demagogical continuum, where at one end we have maximal and at the other end minimal linguistic diversity. The maximal linguistic diversity is presented as a situation where all languages on earth, every single one, are maintained, and developed. At the minimal linguistic diversity end, only one language is maintained - no prize for guessing which one today's likely candidate is. It is easy to reject the scenario with one language only in the whole world, as both unrealistic and also undesirable, as something that only some of the real fundamentalists, reproducing at a global level extreme US English-Only ideologies, might envisage. But at the same time as this one-language end of the continuum is rejected as extreme, the other end of this type of a continuum, namely maintaining all of today's linguistic diversity, is constructed as an equally extreme image that only other extremists, hopelessly romantic or worried-about-their-jobs-disappearing-with-the-languages-linguists are defending. What the realists want to do, then, is to choose a few liberal, balanced middle points on this continuum. They would, then, for each point, assess the relative benefits and costs, in terms of both quantifiable factors and qualitative, non-tangible factors (as in UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage). Finally, they could, maybe, suggest some measures to support the type of diversity that after a careful cost-benefit analysis grants the best ROI (=Return On Investment).
Instead of the liberal and balanced way of doing language policy that this approach is marketed as, it may be a demagogical way of constructing what could be seen as "normal", as something extreme and unrealistic. The continuum presented by sociolinguists might just as well be a different one. The maximally reductionist view with one language only would still be at one end of the continuum. But one could imagine that, for instance, the creation of masses of new languages and varieties, in addition to the existing ones, could be somewhere towards the maximal diversity end. In this image, maintaining all the existing diversity could be the balanced middle-way: the norm.
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. Many of the dangerous "friends" of multilingualism and linguistic diversity seem, under a veneer of celebrating diversity, still be harbouring some of these monolingual reductionism attitudes. Often they concentrate on the "unavoidable" aspect of the type: "it is unavoidable, regardless of how much we lament it, that most small languages will not survive". An example is Daniel Weinstock's (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 (e.g. Kymlicka & Patten's 2003 edited book is full of this kind of "rational 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). Minority parents who want mother tongue medium education are "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). They "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 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? And for Laitin & Reich, even small useless languages like Italian or Hungarian offer no choice, not to speak of Slovak that is not even worth mentioning: "We can well imagine the decision of some small national minorities in Europe, say Italian Swiss or Hungarian Slovaks, that their lives would go better if they were to give up speaking Italian or Hungarian and seek their professional and political fortune in the German- or French- or English-speaking parts of the European Union" (2003: 90). Suggesting that a minority should give up speaking the dominant official language in the country where they live, is pretty ludicrous. Would Laitin & Reich make the same suggestion to minorities in the USA? If not, where are the universal principles they claim to follow in their theorizing? English-Only being spread to Europe too by Stanford professors? So knowing Hungarian which has 14,5 million speakers, in 11 countries or Italian, with 62 million speakers in 30 countries, is of no use for anybody's "professional or political fortune"… and poor Slovak, with only 5,6 million speakers in 8 countries (all according to Ethnologue's 14th edition), is just embarrassing, not worth mentioning at all. On the other hand, Dutch (with a total of 20 million speakers in 14 countries) is, together with French and Spanish, hailed as one of the "global languages […] that allow their speakers to communicate with a vast number of the planet's inhabitants" (Weinstock 2003: 251). What "-centrism" would that be called?
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 language, 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 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 the 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 language.as a subject, preferably by bilingual teachers" http://www.osce.org/hcnm/. I do not know any minorities who would NOT want their children to learn the dominant language 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 this either-or way is imagining a largely non-existent problem and making others believe that minorities in general are unwilling to learn dominant languages. If some 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 has the type of belief where one is "assuming that there are limits on the capacity of the average person to acquire multiple languages" that Weinstock (2003: 251) seems to have, learning even two languages may be VERY difficult. In the case Weinstock describes, the person has to make "difficult trade-offs", i.e. choose only one of the three languages involved. Obviously most people in Africa and Asia 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 (MTM) 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 arguments can be found in many researchers' writings, starting with Christina Bratt Paulston (1981) who claimed that immigrant minority children, 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", claim Laitin & Reich (2003: 87) . It is an individual right to exit a minority language group, and 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 cannot recognise this world where minority entrepreneurs force poor unwilling minority members to continue speaking this useless minority language against their will and "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) .. At the same time, these minority individuals cannot be trusted in any case (just as they do not want to learn the dominant language or their own language, see above); "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…
Still other arguments claim that multiculturalism is separated 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 May 2000, 2003, in press). De Swaan (2003) claims that "[t]here is hardly any connection between linguistic diversity and a sense of cultural diversity". And so I could go on, and on.
Kendall King (2003: 78) quotes with approval a sentence from Alistair 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 I would like to add to it. 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.
Even the most 'optimistic realistic' linguists now estimate that half of today's oral languages may have disappeared or at least not be learned by children in a 100 years' time (e.g. Wurm, ed., 2001). The 'pessimistic but realistic' researchers estimate that we may only have some 10% of today's oral languages (Krauss 1992) (or even 5%, some 300 languages, Krauss 1995) left as vital, non-threatened languages in the year 2100. UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage Unit’s Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages (see UNESCO 2003a; see also UNESCO 2003b, c) uses this more pessimistic figure in their report, Language Vitality and Endangerment. Some researchers, like Mart Rannut from Estonia (2003), fears that only those 40-50 languages will survive this century in which you can talk to you coffee pot, i.e. if Microsoft computer software and Nokia mobile phone menus and the like are not programmed in a language, it has little chance of survival.
In the next part of my paper, I shall look at what kind of costs should be counted in when we discuss costs and benefits of the maintenance or lack of maintenance of diversities. Since I am interested in what is lost if linguistic diversity (LD) is not maintained on earth, I could ask and have asked (see bibliography) questions about what is likely to happen, to individuals, societies, the whole of humanity, and to maintenance of biodiversity, if nothing or very little is done to support the world's languages and to reverse today's negative development. As most of us know, the most negative languages future predictions operate with just some dozens of languages being able to reach next century. I have discussed many of these "negative" reasons for supporting languages (and thus LD), these "costs of not maintaining diversity", in both my 2000 book and in many recent papers (see bibliography). Many (but not all) of the costs of NOT maintaining diversity have a counterpart which can be formulated as questions of what is gained if present linguistic diversity (LD) is maintained. What are the likely benefits, for individuals, societies, humanity at large, and biodiversity, if the world's languages are supported and the present negative development is reversed. I have also discussed these positive reasons for supporting languages, and thus LD, "benefits of maintaining diversity", at length in several other papers and my 2000 book. Here I shall only mention one specific benefit. But because of lack of space I shall then concentrate on only three additional questions in the rest of the paper. In addition to some more general observations about the desirability of support for languages, linguistic diversity and multilingualism, I shall discuss the relationship between biological diversity and linguistic and cultural diversity, also from the point of view of costs. If an abstract cost-benefit analysis shows that linguistic diversity should be maintained, many people who may agree in theory, still ask: but is it in practice possible to do this? Are the costs not prohibitive? I do not think they are, and this will be exemplified by two very different educational issues from Papua New Guinea and Nepal. Finally, I shall discuss some of the roles that linguistic human rights could play to support 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”. Throughout the paper, I shall also take further issue with some of the misconceptions and claims already presented. These are, in my view, creating discourses which may in the best case be delaying positive action and in the worst case harming attempts to maintain diversities on earth.
2. Aspects on costs and benefits, losses and gains
2.1. Internalities and externalities as factors in cost-effectiveness
I shall start by asking what kind of costs should be counted in when estimating whether it is cost-effective to maintain diversities, and especially linguistic diversity. There are many ways of looking at the question, and nobody has done more in this area than linguoeconomist François Grin who has developed several innovative and varied ways of analysing diversity-related costs, both theoretically and empirically (see bibliography). I have chosen only a few aspects. In mainstream economics, internalities are the costs that are routinely counted in the price of a product, while externalities are costs which can be seen as possible side-effects, long-term effects (like environmental pollution or deaths from traffic accidents which are not counted in the costs of a car). Many externalities are today not only not counted as costs which the consumer should pay; they are often not mentioned or not even known.
In medicine, we can speak of an earlier concept of health where health was seen as absence of illness, as negative health. The WHO (World Health Organisation) defined already in 1948 health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being". This is in sociological terms positive health, not only not being ill but feeling positively good and healthy. The concepts of negative and positive health are about to be accepted globally.
To the positive health definition, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (2002) has recently added "ecological". Health is "a state of complete physical, mental, social and ecological well-being" (emphasis added). They state that our health ultimately depends on the health of the ecosystem of which we humans are a part (ibid.). Ecosystem health is an emerging discipline with the purpose to develop theories, methods and practical tools for assessing, monitoring and improving society's ability to sustain Earth's life support systems (see Rapport 1989, Rapport et al. 1998, in the bibliography, for the concept of ecosystem health). Traditional research and practice in the area of the environment-human nexus has mainly concentrated on the effects of air, water and soil pollution and other toxins on human health (ibid.). Likewise, the Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung (1996) discusses the concepts of negative peace, which is only absence of war, and positive peace which is much more. Putting the two types of concept discussed so far, together, Galtung states that for negative peace, externalities have to be internalised, counted as costs for war. For positive peace, externalities have to not only be internalised but have to be shared, globally, as internalities
This can also be applied to language maintenance and LHRs. I shall come back to the negative/positive ecosystem health and peace aspects at the end of the paper; here I shall look at externalities and internalities in relation to linguistic minorities and linguistic majorities or linguistically dominant groups In relation to linguistic majorities, (or dominant groups in general), externalities are today mostly left as externalities, i.e. not counted in the costs that majorities cause. More specifically, the costs for the protection of their LHRs are often not even mentioned, let alone counted. A few examples.
Many of the costs of translation and interpretation are not "caused" by minorities or indigenous peoples who in most cases are bilingual or multilingual, but still they participate in paying for them. Especially interpretation costs are often caused by monolinguals, and these are more often individuals from linguistic majority populations, for instance North Americans or Brits or Chinese or Russians, than individuals from minorities. We others know some of the big languages and might not need interpretation. In most cases, they do not know our languages at all. We take the Russian Federation as an example. Alexei Leontiev gave in 1995 the following figures (Leontiev 1995: 199):
According to the official census data from 1989, there are some 120 million Russians in the Russian Federation. Only 726,450 (0,637%) of them know another language of the former USSR. 11,802,537 Russians live in formerly autonomous Republics, now mostly called "Republics" or Soviet Socialist Republics. Only 84,427 (0,7153%!) of them fluently speak the official language of the Republic where they live.
Leontiev compares this with the percentage who spoke Russian fluently among the almost 10 million native speakers of the languages of "title nations", e.g. the Chuvash in the Chuvashian Republic: it was 79,99%. We might get similar figures for China, the United States, Australia, etc.
If the more or less monolingual dominant language speakers want to know what we others say (and they should, as much as we want to know what they say), they either need interpretation, or they need to learn our languages. The fact that we often know their languages but they do not know ours, is a result of us having used a lot of time learning theirs while this has not been matched by them. Costs for language learning, caused by the fact that people need common languages in order to be able to communicate, are not shared evenly. For instance, the teaching of English worldwide is paid for by everybody else but the native English speakers. Still it is their monolingualism and refusal to learn other languages that forces all of us others to learn their language, in a unidirectional, unsymmetrical bilingualism. We pay the costs while they benefit much more . I give here four examples of externalities - the list is just a pick of many more possibles, and is in no way meant to be complete.
1. Monolingual English speakers do not need to pay for our learning.
2. (Monolingual) English speakers (or, rather, some of them) get direct cash transfers from our learning - the English teaching is a multibillion dollar business for Britain and the United States.
3. Monolingual English speakers save a lot of money and curriculum time by not investing it in learning other languages. In a paper (in press) called "On the costs of cultural diversity", François Grin discusses "inequalities that may result from the imposition of a dominant or majority language on others", and gives a list of five main types of effect. One of these is the "language learning saving effect" discussed here. Grin counts that some 1.500-2.000 hours in all (instruction plus home work) are being spent per student in pre-university years for foreign languages in those countries which do teach them. Based of extrapolations from Switzerland (Grin & Sfreddo 1997) - the average investment into teaching just one foreign language represents between 5% and 10% of total educational spending per capita - he uses 7,5% as a mid-range value, and counts, using on-line data from the OECD and from the US Department of Education that the savings because of the very limited foreign language teaching in the US, with some 38 million pupils in elementary and secondary schools, are minimally around 19 billion dollars per year. This is according to Grin a rough first estimate. These savings are made possible because "people in the rest of the world are willing to devote time, money and effort in learning […] English". And obviously the US can then invest this saved money (and time) into some other human-capital-enhancing activity that gives their students an edge.
4. (Monolingual) English speakers are in a better negotiating position, being able to use their mother tongue while we others have to use a foreign or second language (I am writing this in my fifth language in terms of order of learning). Grin calls this the "legitimacy and rhetorical effect" (ibid.). They can concentrate more on content and less on form when using the mother tongue. In research, they dominate "international" journals (look at the editorial boards of a few…) and conferences; their papers are accepted into journals and conferences more often than equally scientifically solid papers by foreign-language writers of English, and so on (see Grin 2003, van Parijs 2003, Ventola & Mauranen 1995, David Wilson 2002, Skutnabb-Kangas 2003a for references). The first three of these externalities would not be impossible to put in direct cash whereas parts of the last one are more difficult to quantify. What is clear is that the externalities should be internalised. The debt that speakers of those big languages that we others learn as foreign languages owe to us others, should be counted in when we ask for protection of our languages for the sake of justice and equity. Philippe van Parijs has several concrete suggestions for how these English-speaking free-riders could start paying back at least some of the debt they owe us in the academia, by making an electronic version of all English-language scientific journals available free of charge to all academics outside the English-speaking world, or by waiving intellectual property rights on the reproduction of English publications in any country in which English is not the mother tongue of the majority (2003: 167-168).
In addition, he thinks "generous direct cash subsidies to the teaching of English (and supercentral languages) seem inescapable, not as a matter of charity, nor merely as a tool of cultural imperialism, but as a duty of justice" (ibid., 168). I agree, and have several additional suggestions myself. This would be an example of not only internalising but starting to share the externalities caused by the different statuses of various languages combined with the fact that children have not chosen their parents and mother tongues (except if we believe that we have, through our karma, chosen where to reincarnate).
On the other hand, when counting what is cost-effective in relation to minorities (or other dominated groups/peoples), externalities are often counted as costs, i.e. internalised. Several of the misconceptions discussed in this paper are a result of this way of counting. -And these internalised externalities are certainly not shared (see Kontra 2002 and 2003 for some data and suggestions for possible solutions - partly based on the work of Szilágyi - of this in the area of (higher) education in the countries which are to join the European Union in 2004). Therefore, the conclusion is often drawn that the granting of (linguistic) human rights to minorities (including the maintenance of the languages of minorities and indigenous peoples, also through mother-tongue medium education, and proper L2 learning where teachers are bilingual) is not cost-effective - it is simply too expensive. On the other hand, the cost of not granting LHRs is treated as an externality or not even mentioned. Likewise, the benefits are not drawn in to balance the costs. Wrong economics prevail over human rights.
One example of the benefits of supporting linguistic diversity that is seldom mentioned has to do with the relationships between additive teaching, high levels of multilingualism, creativity, innovation and investment. This is how the argument goes, in a very short version.
2.2. The relationship between creativity, invention, investment, multilingualism and additive teaching
We know now that creativity, innovation, investment are related, and can be results of additive teaching and multilingualism. Creativity and new ideas are the main assets (cultural capital) in a knowledge society and a prerequisite for humankind to adapt to change and to find solutions to the catastrophes of our own making. The more linguistically and culturally diverse the world is, the more new ideas and creativity of various kinds there is likely to exist. High levels of multilingualism may enhance creativity, monolingualism and homogenisation kill it.
In an industrial society, the main products are commodities. Those who control access to raw materials and own the other prerequisites and means of production, do well. In a knowledge or information society, the main products are knowledge, ideas. Those who have access to diverse knowledges, diverse information, diverse ideas: creativity, do well. In knowledge societies uniformity is a handicap. Some uniformity might have promoted aspects of industrialization. In post-industrial knowledge societies uniformity will be a definite handicap. We can describe the relationship between creativity, innovation, investment - results of additive teaching and multilingualism as follows:
1. Creativity precedes innovation, also in commodity production.
2. Investment follows creativity.
3. Multilingualism may enhance creativity.
4. High-level multilinguals as a group have done better than corresponding monolinguals on tests measuring several aspects of 'intelligence', creativity, divergent thinking, cognitive flexibility, metalinguistic awareness, sensitivity to feedback cues, the capacity to learn additional languages faster and better, etc.
5. Additive teaching can lead to high-level multilingualism. Therefore, additive teaching, through the medium of indigenous and minority children's mother tongues (or through minority languages, i.e. second languages, for linguistic dominant group children, in immersion or two-way-immersion programmes - see Skutnabb-Kangas 1996, ed. 1995, Skutnabb-Kangas & García 1995, for comparisons of these), is necessary.
We should also ask ourselves: What are the costs involved in people not understanding the messages (also in education!) and not being able to fully utilise their potential and creativity?
Europe is both genetically (e.g. Cavalli-Sforza 2001, Diamond 1998, Wells 2002) and linguistically (according to Price 2000 and the distribution of languages in the Ethnologue, 14th ed.), the poorest part of the world. We can ask ourselves: Is Europe making itself still poorer, through its genocidal educational policies? Europe has received new genetic and linguistic resources recently, but is busy killing the new linguistic resources, its linguistic capital, cultural capital, knowledge capital, its prerequisites for creativity. The Nordic countries are also promoting this handicapping homogenisation. In terms of the diversity and creativity potential, the richest parts of the world are Africa, Asia and the Pacific. This cultural and linguistic capital will at some point on our way towards a full networking (Castells 2000) and knowledge /information society become convertible to other kinds of capital and to structural power. Thus countries should promote LHRs and here especially the right to additive mother tongue medium education, because it can lead to high levels of multilingualism to creativity to innovation to investment to economic welfare, i.e. there are solid reasons to promote LHRs not only because of ethical concerns but indeed in the various countries' own interest.
In this connection, one might also note the predictions about English only not being enough.’Good’ English will fairly soon be like literacy yesterday or computer skills today: employers see it as self-evident and necessary BUT NOT SUFFICIENT for good jobs. Supply and demand theories predict that when many people possess what earlier was a scarce commodity (near-native English), the price goes down. The value of ’perfect’ English skills as a financial incentive decreases substantially when a high proportion of a country’s or a region’s or the world’s population know English well. All else being equal, those with skills X, Y and Z, plus "native-like" (or "native - whatever that might be) English, will lose out, in competition with those who possess the same skills X, Y and Z, plus "native-like" English plus another language or two. Obviously those with more marketable (= "big") languages in addition to English will be in a better position for most jobs than those with numerically smaller languages (these will thus need more support because the market does not - yet? - appreciate them as much, but the losers will definitely be the monolingual English speakers who will then neither have the added advantages from multilingualism nor uniquely superior English. Studies testifying to the decreasing value of English (also on the internet) are starting to appear, and attitudes are slowly starting to change, with growing awareness, it seems. Just a few quotes:
The Financial Times, 3.12.2001: inability to speak client’s language can lead to failure. A survey undertaken for the Community of European Management Schools, an alliance of academia and multinational corporations, concludes that a company’s inability to speak a client’s language can lead to failure to win business because it indicates lack of effort.
”Foreign” language skills – earn more! Graduates with foreign language skills earn more than those who only know English (reported in the British newspaper The Independent 31.5.2001).
“English is not enough. We are fortunate to speak a global language but, in a smart and competitive world, exclusive reliance on English leaves the UK VULNERABLE and dependent on the linguistic competence and the goodwill of others … Young people from the UK are at a growing disadvantage in the recruitment market” (emphasis added) (Nuffield Languages Enquiry, 2000).
Alienated snobs? (Tariq Rahman, Pakistan, personal communication, 2002; see also other references to Rahman): ”English-medium schools tend to produce snobs completely alienated from their culture and languages”. “We are mentally colonialized and alienated from our cultures if all we know is in English”.
3. Biocultural/biolinguistic diversity
A very short version of one of the important related reasons for why linguistic diversities should be maintained is as follows: Linguistic diversity and biodiversity are correlationally and probably also causally related. Knowledge about how to maintain biodiversity is encoded in small languages because it is their speakers who live in the world's biologically (and linguistically) most diverse areas. Through killing these languages (or letting them die), we kill many of the prerequisites for maintaining biodiversity.
There are incredibly many misunderstandings about what we mean when presenting this type of claim. "We" here refers to many different researchers, with diverse interests and opinions, who have written about ecolinguistics, and who are often by others bunched together under various labels . Some of the accusations and misconceptions refer to both the biodiversity - linguistic diversity connection and to work with linguistic human rights. We are accused of making use of the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (e.g. Kibbee 2003: 47), of Social Darwinism (e.g. Anonymous 2001, Kibbee 2003: 47), of neo-colonialism (Kibbee 2003: 55), paternalism (Kibbee 2003: 55), idealism (Kibbee 2003: 56), of wanting to artificially preserve languages against the will of their speakers (Kibbee 2003: 53), of advising people not to learn international languages like English (Kibbee 2003: 55), and so on. Therefore, several clarifications of the claims and definitions of the concepts used, and also caveats, are in order here.
3.1. Definitions: Global 2000 Ecoregions, biodiversity hotspots, megadiversity countries, ethnolinguistic groups
First some definitions which are used to describe and also evaluate the distribution of diversities. I have already defined linguistic diversity, biological diversity and biocultural diversity. Biolinguistic diversity is a more narrow concept than biocultural diversity; language is included in culture. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) defines an ecoregion as follows:
A relatively large unit of land or water containing a geographically distinct assemblage of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions (here from Oviedo & Maffi 2000: 1).
The definition might seem fairly vague, but this is a necessary result of trying to capture the fact that for conservation work (and in general too) species and their living conditions have to be seen not as isolated but as mutual relations, in a similar way as a mother tongue, or ethnicity, are not characteristics of individuals or groups, but relations, including power relations, between them and other people. WWF has identified nearly 900 ecoregions, and of these 238 have been found "to be of the utmost importance for biological diversity" (ibid.). These are termed the "Global 200 Ecoregions". Most of them are in the tropical regions.
Other global measures of ecological diversity that have been used are megadiversity countries ("Countries likely to contain the highest percentage of the global species richness" (see http://www.af-info.or.jp/eng/honor/essays/1997_2.html for an essay about them by Russell Mittermeier (et al.), the originator of the concept; see also Conservation International at http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/publications/videos/index.xml; here from Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003: 56), and biodiversity hotspots: "relatively small regions with especially high concentrations of endemic species", a concept created by Norman Myers; see Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/Hotspots, here from Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003: 55).
If we want to see what the correlation is between biodiversity on the one hand and linguistic and cultural diversity on the other hand, some measures of linguistic and cultural diversity have to be found. Just like the number of species has been used as a proxy for biodiversity, the number of languages can be used as a crude proxy for linguistic diversity (see David Harmon's discussion about the caveats in both proxies, 2002). The whole concept of "language" is extremely vague, as we know (see my discussion of what a language is, in Skutnabb-Kangas 2000, Chapter 1). An example is that the latest edition of the Ethnologue (http://www.sil.org/ethnologue/), the best global source for languages, lists 6.800 languages, but some 41,000 names or labels for various languages. Even if we knew what a language is, we certainly have extremely unreliable figures about the number of speakers for most of them, including the largest ones where the differences of estimates of the speakers of the same language may be tens of millions (see Skutnabb-Kangas 2002). Likewise, if we want to distinguish mother tongue speakers or native speakers from those who have learned some language only later and for whom it is not their primary means of communication in childhood (or one of them, in case of childhood bilinguals or multilinguals), we are using contested concepts. And when discussing the relative linguistic diversity of geographical units, for instance countries, doing this through the number of languages has also been contested. Clinton Robinson thinks, for instance, that the most diverse country is not the one which has the largest number of languages, but the one where the largest linguistic group represents the lowest percentage of all linguistic groups (Robinson 1993). We get a very big difference in the list of the world's most diverse languages depending on which measure we use (see Tables 1.2 and 1.3 in Skutnabb-Kangas 2000, pp. 36-37). Measuring cultural diversity is even more difficult, regardless of how culture is defined. And putting languages and cultures together is even more risky, since there are many examples of non-convergence both ways - several cultural groups using the same language, or one cultural group using two or three different 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 vague. All the concepts used, language and mother tongue, culture, and ethnicity, are social constructs, not inherited givens; they are dynamic and changing, not static; people may claim several of them 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). All of them play ever-changing roles for people's multiple identities, and are variously focussed and emphasized in various situations and at various times; their salience is always variable. ALL identities are 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 social constructions, not innate.
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 know what their mother tongues are, they know which ethnic or ethnolinguistic or ethnocultural group or groups they belong to. 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) 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.
There is in reality a very high degree of convergence between ethnicity, culture and mother tongue, regardless of how much liberal political scientists or post-post-modern sociolinguists want to denounce this, and the concepts. 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 them, 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 exceptions to rules in recent debates in an eagerness not to be accused of essentialising (e.g. May 2000, 2002, Pennycook 2002). 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 always repeated and then used as proofs 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), attested in several articles to the fact that most cultures in fact do not last many generations after the language has disappeared. This implies for me that if we really mean it when we call for respect for people's sef-identification, these claims should be respected; people's own self-identification should be more important than outside researchers' exo-categorisations of people. 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 have been learned in early childhood, 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. 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 concept. 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. Critical analysis also means being open and not accepting vogue tabus.
All this knowledge, then, can be used to relativise the definition of ethnolinguistic group, used by WWF and Terralingua:
A human social unit that shares the same language and culture and uses the same criteria to differentiate itself from other social groups.
With this definition, WWF and Terralingua use the figure of an approximate total of 6,867 ethnolinguistic groups in the world. 4,635 of these, some 67% of all, were found in the Global 200 Ecoregions (ibid., 1-2). With many more detailed measures counted, the Terralingua and WWF conclusion in the Executive Summary of Oviedo & Maffi 2000 (p. 2) is as follows:
Correlations between Global 200 ecoregions as reservoirs of high biodiversity and areas of concentration of human diversity are clearly very significant, and unequivocally stress the need to involve indigenous and traditional peoples in ecoregional conservation work. Furthermore, there is evidence from many parts of the world that healthy, non-degraded ecosystems - such as dense, little disturbed tropical rainforests in places like the Amazon, Borneo or Papua New Guinea - are often inhabited only by indigenous and traditional peoples (emphasis added).
This also means that where we others have settled, we have been a disaster to the world's biodiversity. We would obviously also have colonised and inhabited those areas which are still relatively less degraded, had we been able to. Jarred Diamond shows convincingly that what has kept us out is the fact that we westerners have not been able to manage the climate (Diamond 1991, 1998).
3.2. More biolinguistic correlations
What about other more detailed types of correlation between biodiversity and linguistic diversity? Conservationist David Harmon investigated more than a decade ago correlations between biological and linguistic diversity. He compared endemism of languages and higher vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians), with the top 25 countries for each type (1995: 14) (Table 1). I have BOLDED AND CAPITALISED those countries which are on both lists. 16 of the 25 countries are on both lists, a coincidence of 64%. According to Harmon (1995: 6) 'it is very unlikely that this would only be accidental.'
Table 1. Endemism in languages and higher vertebrates: a comparison of the top 25 countries
Endemic languages Number Endemic higher vertebrates Number 1. PAPUA NEW GUINEA 847 1. AUSTRALIA 1.346 2. INDONESIA 655 2. MEXICO 761 3. Nigeria 376 3. BRAZIL 725 4. INDIA 309 4. INDONESIA 673 5. AUSTRALIA 261 5. Madagascar 537 6. MEXICO 230 6. PHILIPPINES 437 7. CAMEROON 201 7. INDIA 373 8. BRAZIL 185 8. PERU 332 9. ZAIRE 158 9. COLOMBIA 330 10. PHILIPPINES 153 10. Ecuador 294 11. USA 143 11. USA 284 12. Vanuatu 105 12. CHINA 256 13. TANZANIA 101 13. PAPUA NEW GUINEA 203 14. Sudan 97 14. Venezuela 186 15. Malaysia 92 15. Argentina 168 16. ETHIOPIA 90 16. Cuba 152 17. CHINA 77 17. South Africa 146 18. PERU 75 18. ZAIRE 134 19. Chad 74 19. Sri Lanka 126 20. Russia 71 20. New Zealand 120 21. SOLOMON ISLANDS 69 21. TANZANIA 113 22. Nepal 68 22. Japan 112 23. COLOMBIA 55 23. CAMEROON 105 24. Côte d'Ivoire 51 24. SOLOMON ISLANDS 101 25. Canada 47 25. ETHIOPIA26. Somalia 88 88
Harmon got similar results with flowering plants and languages, butterflies and languages, birds and languages, etc. - a high correlation between countries with biological and linguistic megadiversity (see also Harmon 2002, Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003). The figures for languages are derived by Harmon from the Ethnologue, 12th edition, and for vertebrates from Groombridge 1992; the countries which are on the top lists for endemism for both vertebrates and languages are still bolded and capitalized. The list ranks countries not in terms of all languages but according to the number of endemic languages. Remember that endemic languages represent the vast majority (some 83-84 percent) of the world’s languages. As can be seen, Papua New Guinea, which ranks first in terms of endemic languages, is country number 13 in terms of endemic vertebrates. The USA is number 11 on both the languages and the vertebrates list. On the other hand, Nigeria is number 3 on the languages list but is not among the 25 top countries for any of the biological species diversity indicators used here. Still, the correlations are very high indeed.
In Table 2 (from Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003: 41), we have the same Endemic languages and Endemic vertebrates but the other biodiversity indicators have been added, the rankings on the flowering plants and endemic bird areas lists. In addition, there is a Yes if the country belongs to the megadiversity countries defined above.
Table 2. Endemism in Languages Compared with Rankings of Biodiversity
Rank, Total Number of… On mega-diversity list? Country Endemic LanguagesRank Number Endemic VertebratesRank Number Flowering Plants Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) PAPUA NEW GUINEA 1 847 13 203 18t 6 yes INDONESIA 2 655 4 673 7t 1 yes Nigeria 3 376 INDIA 4 309 7 373 12 11 yes AUSTRALIA 5 261 1 1,346 11 9 yes MEXICO 6 230 2 761 4 2 yes CAMEROON 7 201 23 105 24 BRAZIL 8 185 3 725 1 4 yes DEM REP OF CONGO 9 158 18 134 17 yes PHILIPPINES 10 153 6 437 25 11 yes USA 11 143 11 284 9 15 yes Vanuatu 12 105 TANZANIA 13 101 21 113 19 14 Sudan 14 97 Malaysia 15 92 14 yes ETHIOPIA 16 90 25 88 CHINA 17 77 12 256 3 6 yes PERU 18 75 8 332 13 3 yes Chad 19 74 Russia 20 71 6 SOLOMON ISLANDS 21 69 24 101 Nepal 22 68 22 COLOMBIA 23 55 9 330 2 5 yes CoÏte d’Ivoire 24 51 Canada 25 47 (source: Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003: 41).
As we can see, there is also a high correlation between languages and flowering plants; a region often has many of both, or few of both (David Harmon). Where there are many languages there are also often many butterflies (Skutnabb-Kangas). My Tables (Skutnabb-Kangas, forthcoming, show more of the correlations .
A Draft Framework for an Index of Biocultural Diversity(October 2002) which is being prepared by David Harmon and Jonathan Loh, shows all the detailed correlations even more clearly. But even if we now can ascertain that there is a correlational relationship between biodiversity and linguistic and cultural diversity, this still does not prove anything about a causal relationship, and this is also what some of the critics claim. I agree. For a causal relationship to exist, one of the proofs could be to be able to show that it is likely that the knowledge about how to maintain aspects of biodiversity (and thus the practice of doing it) disappears if a language disappears.
3.3. Causality in biocultural relationships – TEK
As already shown, we know that the least biodiversity-wise degraded areas tend to be areas inhabited by indigenous peoples only. Since the degradation is mainly created by humans, a conclusion is that those indigenous peoples who have not been colonised by others, have been and are important agents in the maintenance of biodiversity. The knowledge they have when interacting with nature in non-degrading ways is part of what has been called "traditional ecological knowledge" (TEK), "indigenous and other local peoples' knowledge and beliefs about and use of the natural world, their ecological concepts, and their natural resource management institutions and practices" (Oviedo & Maffi 2000: 6), or "a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationships of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment" (Berkes 1999: 8, quoted in Oviedo & Maffi 2000: 6), or "in-depth knowledge of plant and animal species, their mutual relationships, and local ecosystems held by indigenous or traditional communities, developed and handed down through generations" (Skutnabb-Kangas, Maffi & Harmon 2003: 56).
Recent research shows mounting evidence for the hypothesis that the correlational relationship may also be causal: the two types of diversities seem to mutually enforce and support each other (see Maffi 2000a). UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program), one of the organisers of the world summit on biodiversity in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (see its summary of our knowledge on biodiversity, Heywood, ed., 1995), published in December 1999 a mega-volume called Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. A Complementary Contribution to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, edited by Darrell Posey (1999) summarising some of this evidence of causality. Likewise, articles in Luisa Maffi's (2001) edited volume On Biocultural Diversity. Linking Language, Knowledge and the Environment illustrates it. The strong correlation need in my view not indicate a direct causal relationship, in the sense that neither type of diversity should probably be seen directly as an independent variable in relation to the other. But linguistic and cultural diversity may be decisive mediating variables in sustaining biodiversity itself, and vice versa, as long as humans are on the earth. As soon as humans came into existence, we started to influence the rest of nature (see Diamond 1998 for a fascinating account on how). Today it is safe to say that there is no 'pristine nature' left - all landscapes have been and are influenced by human action, even those where untrained observers might not notice it immediately. All landscapes are cultural landscapes. It is interesting that even UNESCO now accepts this - that means that the concept of Terra nullius ( = empty land) has finally been invalidated. Likewise, local nature and people's detailed knowledge about it and use of it have influenced the cultures, languages and cosmo-visions of the people who have been dependent on it for their sustenance. This relationship and mutual influence between all kinds of diversities is of course what most indigenous peoples have always known, and they describe their knowledge in several articles in the UNEP volume.
We in Terralingua suggest that if the long-lasting co-evolution which people have had with their environments from time immemorial is abruptly disrupted, without nature (and people) getting enough time to adjust and adapt (see Mühlhäusler, 1996), we can expect a catastrophe. The adjustment needed takes hundreds of years, not only decades (see Mühlhäusler, 1996). Two examples from different parts of the world: nuances in the knowledge about medicinal plants and their use disappear when indigenous youth in Mexico become bilingual without teaching in and through the medium of their own languages - the knowledge is not transferred to Spanish which does not have the vocabulary for these nuances or the discourses needed (see Luisa Maffi's doctoral dissertation, 1994; see also Nabhan 2001).
I was told a recent example by Pekka Aikio, the President of the Saami Parliament in Finland (29 November 2001). Finnish fish biologists had just "discovered" that salmon can use even extremely small rivulets leading to the river Teno, as spawning ground - earlier this was thought impossible. Pekka said that the Saami have always known this - the traditional Saami names of several of those rivulets often include the Saami word for "salmon spawning-bed". This is ecological knowledge inscribed in indigenous languages.
Some critics also accuse us for wanting to preserve/conserve indigenous and minority languages and knowledges in some kind of museal conditions; we are preventing indigenous peoples from becoming modern, this implying that they want to assimilate into larger, mostly western, languages and cultures, at the cost of their own. "Traditional" to these researchers still seems to mean backward, static, non-scientific, foreclosing all economic and social mobility and opportunities . In fact, in many cases, as Oviedo and Maffi state (ibid.), TEK "is found to be more complete and accurate than Western scientific knowledge of local environments" (ibid., 6-7). Several articles in Maffi (ed., 2001) and Posey (ed., 1999) also testify to this. Few people seem to know, for instance, that the Linnean categories were based on ancient Saami categorisation of nature (Gutierrez-Vazquez 1989: 77). This knowledge is by no way static either, as Four Directions Council in Canada (1996, quoted from Posey 1999: 4) describes:
What is "traditional" about traditional knowledge is not its antiquity, but the way it is acquired and used. In other words, the social process of learning and sharing knowledge, which is unique to each indigenous culture, lies at the very heart of its "traditionality". Much of this knowledge is actually quite new, but it has a social meaning, and legal character, entirely unlike the knowledge indigenous people acquire from settlers and industrialized societies.
And it is exactly this transmission process that is at grave risk as soon as indigenous children attend schools where their languages are not the main teaching languages and where their cultural practices do not permeate the learning processes. The International Council for Science (ICSU - see www.icsu.org) organised a full-day symposium 29 August 2002 at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) on "Linking Traditional and Scientific Knowledge for Sustainable Development", together with UNESCO's Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Project (LINKS) and Tebtebba Foundation, in co-operation with International Chamber of Commerce (odd bedfellows but typical for how governments, through partnerships with businesses, want to escape responsibility…). Both the ICSU representatives at the conference and ICSU's 2002 report. Science, Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Development showed very clearly that TEK is seen as containing a great deal of knowledge unknown to and of utmost importance to (western) science, and that scientists are worried about the diminishing transmission of it. ICSU's stance agrees fully with the importance of linguistic and cultural human rights in education even if they do not formulate their worries in human rights terms:
Universal education programs provide important tools for human development, but they may also compromise the transmission of indigenous language and knowledge. Inadvertently, they may contribute to the erosion of cultural diversity, a loss of social cohesion and the alienation and disorientation of youth. […] In short, when indigenous children are taught in science class that the natural world is ordered as scientists believe it functions, then the validity and authority of their parents’ and grandparents’ knowledge is denied. While their parents may posses an extensive and sophisticated understanding of the local environment, classroom instruction implicitly informs that science is the ultimate authority for interpreting “reality” and by extension local indigenous knowledge is second rate and obsolete. […] Actions are urgently needed to enhance the intergenerational transmission of local and indigenous knowledge. […] Traditional knowledge conservation therefore must pass through the pathways of conserving language (as language is an essential tool for culturally-appropriate encoding of knowledge).. (from various pages in ICSU 24).
And here we come to the main point; TEK is necessarily encoded into the local languages of the peoples whose knowledge it is. This means that if these local languages disappear, without the knowledge being transferred to other, bigger languages, the knowledge is lost. We then have to ask the two questions which I have started asking here: Is the knowledge transferred to other languages? The answer is No. Are languages disappearing? The answer is Yes.
Today, linguistic diversity disappears much faster than biodiversity. I will present a very simple comparison, based on numbers and extinction rates. The number of biological species on earth has been estimated to something between 5 and 15-30 million, with a "working figure" of about 12,5 million. Only some 1,5 million different species (from plants and animals to fungi, algae, bacteria and viruses) have so far been identified by natural scientists. According to conservative (i.e. optimistic) assessments, more than 5,000 species disappear every year; pessimistic evaluations claim that the figure may be up to 150,000. Using the most 'optimistic' estimate of both the number of species (30 million) and the killing of species (5,000/year), the extinction rate is 0.017% per year. With the opposite, the most 'pessimistic' estimates (5 million species; 150,000/year disappear), the yearly extinction rate is 3%.
On the other hand, researchers who use the high extinction rates, often also use higher estimates for numbers of species. If the number of species is estimated at 30 million and 150,000 disappear yearly, the rate would be 0.5% per year. Many researchers seem to use yearly extinction rates which vary between 0.2% ('pessimistic realistic') and 0.02% ('optimistic realistic' - these are my labels).
If we disregard the cumulative effect and do a simplified calculation, according to the 'pessimistic realistic' prognosis, then, 20% of the biological species we have today might be dead in the year 2100, in hundred years' time. According to the 'optimistic realistic' prognosis the figure would be 2%. ). Optimistic estimates, then, state that 2% of biological species but 50% of languages may be dead (or moribund) in a 100 years' time. Pessimistic estimates are that 20% of biological species but 90% of languages may be dead (or moribund) in a 100 years' time (Table 3).
Table 3. Prognoses for 'dead' or 'moribund' species and languages Percentage estimated to be dead or moribund around the year 2100 PROGNOSES Biological species Languages 'Optimistic realistic' 2% 50% 'Pessimistic realistic' 20% 90%
Colin Baker sums up the importance of ecological diversity in his review of Skutnabb-Kangas 2000 (Baker 2001: 281).
Ecological diversity is essential for long-term planetary survival. Diversity contains the potential for adaptation. Uniformity can endanger a species by providing inflexibility and unadaptability. As languages and cultures die, the testimony of human intellectual achievement is lessened. Strongest ecosystems are most diverse. In the language of ecology, the strongest ecosystems are those that are the most diverse. Diversity is directly related to stability; variety is important for long-term survival. Our success on this planet has been due to an ability to adapt to different kinds of environment over thousands of years. Such ability is born out of diversity. Thus language and cultural diversity maximises chances of human success and adaptability.
Biocultural diversity is thus essential for long-term planetary survival because it enhances creativity and adaptability and thus stability. Today we are killing biocultural diversity faster than ever before in human history Finally, a few more words about the accusations, in light of what has been presented above. First, those of us who discuss these links between biodiversity and linguistic diversity are accused of both making use of the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (something I have addressed already), and of Social Darwinism (e.g. Kibbee 2003: 47). In fact, even if, for instance researchers like Daniel Weinstock, use the mantra "one should avoid lapsing into a crude 'survival of the fittest' model of linguistic change…" (2003: 258), this is exactly what many of them still do . Weinstock is himself a good example as the following quotes show:
"it is of the nature of such phenomena that, as environment changes, so will particular languages' suitability to the environment […] according to some accounts only a few hundred of the thousands of languages that exist today are viable in the circumstances of modernity" (ibid.); "… languages might disappear simply because they are ill-equipped to deal with the requirements which modernity places on them" (ibid., 257; all emphases added).
Below is another representative sample of these attacks . It claims that
relying on biomorphic metaphors implies that dominant languages are fitter than others and that "primitive" languages, unable to adapt to the modern world, deserve their fate.
Much of the accusations have to do with lack of interdisciplinary knowledge, something lamented by François Grin earlier. Most linguists, sociologists, philosophers, etc., do not know enough about present-day biology to be able to see what the biological metaphors and the claims of a causal relationship stand for. I have deconstructed the attacking claim a bit, with arguments from David Harmon, in another paper (Skutnabb-Kangas 2003b) and will here only say that much of the misunderstanding has to do with these researchers not being able ‘to distinguish Social Darwinism (which of course has long since been discredited […] from neo-Darwinism as it is now understood by evolutionary biologists’ (Harmon, email in March 2001). Evolution is undirected, it ‘does not, cannot, aim to produce anything’. Evolutionary ‘fitness’ has nothing to do with hierarchies; biologists do not and cannot claim that any species is more ’primitive’ or more worth than another.
A biological organism is “fit” simply if it fits into its ecological community and functions therein. If conditions change radically, and it no longer fits into the community, it will probably go extinct (note that there is no hint of “should” or predestination) (Harmon, email, March 2001).
Harmon's conclusion is:
Now the crŭ of the question as [the attacker] applies it in [his/her] quote above, is: what does it mean to say that "primitive" languages are "unable to adapt to the modern world"? We know that it DOES NOT mean that they couldn't adapt linguistically; it is the consensus among linguists, is it not, that any language has the internal resources to cope with extralinguistic change and innovation, of whatever scope, IF there were no (extrinsic, non-linguistic) sociopolitical pressures on it. That condition is perfect "fitness" in the strict Darwinian sense. [The attacker], like so many others, is not distinguishing between this un-teleological, evolutionary condition and the radically different, non-evolutionary, volitional processes of socio-political change that are the real causes rendering languages "unable to adapt to the modern world". A giveaway: note the tag phrase "deserve their fate": from fitness we have segued to a declaration of (1) morality, as in just desserts, and (2) fate, as in predestination. An impermissible leap, if the two distinct senses are left undistinguished (ibid.)
Harmon gives a book-length treatment of the philosophical background of the biodiversity - linguistic diversity connection in his 2002 book. In my view, evolutionary biologists' arguments are extremely useful when debating the ‘fitness’ of the world's small languages as languages of teaching and learning, or languages of administration. In addition to clarifying the major argument about the need to maintain biodiversity and thus indirectly the need to maintain linguistic diversity, they also give us support for the creativity argument. What in the discipline of biology is discussed in terms of ‘fitness’, can be discussed in terms of human creativity and adaptability and their relationship to language (Table 4).
Table 4. Definitions of fitness: applying evolutionary biologists’ definitions An organism is fit if it is able to fit into its ecological community, function therein, and has the internal resources to cope with change;
A language is fit if it has the internal resources to cope with linguistic change and innovation;
A (language) community is fit if it has the creativity and adaptability to cope with change and innovation.
Homogenisation harms ’fitness’, in both non-human and human biological communities while diversity is a prerequisite for it and enhances it. And diversity enhances creativity, as we already saw. A positively healthy ecosystem is diverse, therefore fit.
3.4. 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 give you 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. 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. Instead, I shall discuss a few specific aspects of LHRs and also reflect on recent criticisms of the LHRs approach.
4. The role of linguistic human rights in supporting the protection of linguistic and cultural diversities?
4.1. LHRs as part of supply-increasing and demand-increasing language policies
I shall start by introducing some concepts 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). 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, sometimes 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 will be discussed at a Council of Europe Conference 30-31 October 2003; see Duncan Wilson 2003 and Skutnabb-Kangas 2003d). 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, 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, MTM 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 1999, 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 they restrict supply (e.g. MTM 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 even 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. 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.
4.2. 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 MTM 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 using 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.
4.3.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); these correspond fairly closely to what we (Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson, e.g. 1994) have called "necessary" and "enrichment-oriented" rights. 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 2003 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 for the more expressive-intrinsic values. Ecofeminism (e.g. Reichel 1997) and deep ecology (e.g. Naes 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).
Now with these divisions presented, we can look at the role of linguistic human rights. What can they do - what have they done, what could or should they do?
4.4. Has the Linguistic Human Rights approach "delivered"?
Those people who are today starting to claim that what they call "the linguistic human rights movement" has "not delivered" (e.g. Stroud 2001, Stroud & Heugh 2003), seem to be on the very fringes of both this 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 - see, e.g. Janina Brutt-Griffler's writings). It is unclear what the "LHRs movement" should have delivered and hasn't. 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 where 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 philosophy and sociology of law, and also in the linguistic human rights discourse. 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, also a linguistic human rights approach 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 http://www.unesco.org/most/ln2int.htm for a list),the fact that they are now linguistic human rights, is a major achievement. This now gives recourse to the whole human rights apparatus where next to nothing had happened with, for instance, educational language rights since the famous decades old "Belgian linguistic case" (1968) where parents were judged as not having any right to choose the medium of education for their children (www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/MINELRES/coe/court/Belglin.htm; 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 (http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/EN/cadreprincipal.htm; their treaty numbers are 148 and 158).
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 with listing these demands from various parts of the world). The awareness that (historical and present-day) non-supply or restricted supply has raised, has found expression in channelling the anger into demands for various aspects of LHRs, most importantly educational LHRs where 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. As an example, I quote from a very recent "English as a Global Language Working Party" from the Eighth IFTE Conference, "Transforming Literacies, Changing English - The Elsewheres of Potential, in Melbourne, Australia, July 5-8.2003 . First there is a Core Statement:
"English is not enough, because:
· it is only a language of power currently
· there are many Englishes
· students bring resources from their: o multiple languages o multiple identities o multiple realities
· multilingualism offers more ways of understanding and connecting to the world, while monolingualism limits possibilities
· access to English needs to be counterbalanced with the rights of other languages
· alone, it excludes
· English is not just a language, is just not a language, and is not a just language."
The Core Statement is followed by an Action Plan, where I have picked out those items most relevant for the discussion here:
· DISCUSS the Core Statement above, and also the question: Why is English language dominance achieved at the expense of other languages?
· AUDIT procedures, publications, practices and journals to ensure they both promote multilingualism and oppose monolingual dominance
· Engage in DIALOGUE with other professional language organizations to articulate the advantages and disadvantages of dividing the professional field in the way that it is currently divided; to preserve language diversity; and to create international guidelines for the teaching, learning and preservation of languages.
· ADOPT into the constitution of IFTE, as an aim, that Every student has a right of access, without barriers, both to the language of power (currently English) and to his or her language of culture and identity.
· CURRICULUM & PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE: IFTE’s constituent Professional Associations develop an outline for curriculum design, professional development and classroom practices using Janks’ (2003) work on the Access Paradox as a catalyst
Access to and mastery of mainstream English, articulated with a theory of domination
Access with diversity
Access with design/redesign
Professional Associations should promote pedagogical practices that take account of student “resistance” and critically analyse the ways in which students and/or disadvantaged/marginalised groups oppose the imposition of the dominant language.
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) 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 in 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.
5. Concluding remarks
We face a host of academic challenges, if we want to accomplish some of the necessary tasks for biocultural maintenance. In addition to the many substantive issues I have reflected on, we also need to analyse the arguments used when institutions and ideologies function so as to prevent most indigenous peoples and many minorities from enjoying basic LHRs. It is necessary to analyse why the often false arguments are used, and why they are 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. But we have powerful foes. I have often quoted the guidelines for USA foreign policy from 1948 Bretton Woods negotiations, in the aftermath of the passing of the first parts of United Nations Bill of Rights. At this meeting the overt agenda was to create institutions that would secure peace and prosperity globally. George Kennan, the main US negotiator, wrote in 1948:
We have 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality [...] we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratisation' (quoted in Pilger 1998: 59).
There are clear parallels between the covert and overt agendas from this meeting where the World Bank & IMF, the Bretton Woods instruments, were put in place; they were the first economic instruments for maintaining the disparity between the US and the rest of the world and for developing today's modern globalisation, leading directly to GATT to WTO, and the time after September 11th. He describes today's globalisation as
… a pseudo-concept that is both descriptive and prescriptive, which has replaced ‘modernisation’, that was long used in the social sciences in the USA as a euphemistic way of imposing a naively ethnocentric evolutionary model by means of which different societies were classified according to their distance from the economically most advanced society, i.e. American society. […] The word (and the model it expresses) incarnates the most accomplished form of the imperialism of the universal, which consists of one society universalising its own particularity covertly as a universal model (Bourdieu 2001, 96-97, translation Robert Phillipson).
It is this universalising of the specifically American, meaning USA, model that the whole era after the second “World” War has been about. And that model is disastrous to the planet. If we do not know, as researchers, where we stand, and if we do not also shoulder our political responsibility for what happens in the world, there is a risk that some of our work directly or indirectly contributes to "the imperialism of the universal", and to "[devising] a pattern of relationships which permit [the elites of the world, including us] to maintain this position of disparity”.
Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen (1995) says, in analyzing these disparities, the following:
Too often, policies of national integration, of national cultural development, actually imply a policy of ethnocide, that is, the wilful destruction of cultural groups. The cultural development of peoples, whether minorities or majorities, must be considered within the framework of the right of peoples to self-determination, which by accepted international standards is the fundamental human right, in the absence of which all other human rights cannot really be enjoyed. Governments fear that if minority peoples hold the right to self-determination in the sense of a right to full political independence, then existing States might break up. State interests thus are still more powerful at the present time than the human rights of peoples.
Jacques Maurais and Michael A. Morris end their edited volume Languages in a Globalising World with a claim that I fully agree with: "A global linguistic strategy is needed which balances the ongoing spread of English with maintenance of linguistic diversity" (2003: 9).
In a paper in press, called "On the costs of cultural diversity", François Grin gives an overview of findings about language policy costs for maintaining diversity through measures protecting or promoting smaller languages. His overview suggests that "the costs involved are not massive". Looking at the figures that he provides, one can conclude that this is a real understatement. In addition, he suggests that "if such costs must be borne in order to ensure the diversity of our linguistic and cultural environment, this may be money well spent, just like devoting resources to environmental quality is widely recognised as a sensible choice."
Summing up, then, we could create a parallel to Galtung's distinction between negative and positive peace and call the results negative, defensive, democracy (which is what the lack of LHRs in education, one sign of lack of democracy, is initially trying to achieve) and positive, pro-active, democracy (which is what this article advocates). For minorities, to be able to defend and promote their linguistic human rights, including the right to mother tongue medium education, which is one of the main prerequisites for the minority to be able to reproduce itself as a minority, certain prerequisites are needed. These can be analysed in terms of what kind of sticks, carrots and ideas minorities need for both types of democracy:
Figure 1. Prerequisites for negative or positive democracy: what does a minority need?
STICKS CARROTS IDEAS Negative democracy - DEFENSIVE Enough political power not to need to be afraid of physical abuse from the outside Enough material resources not to be dependent on carrots from the outside Enough knowledge to analyse & deconstruct ideas from the outside SECURITY (MATERIAL) RESOURCES KNOWLEDGE Leads toEquality of prerequisites
Positive democracy - PRO-ACTIVE Enough political power to use sticks if needed (and wanted) Enough material resources to be able to bargain as an equal partner Enough own innovative ideas to be able to convince others; access to all discourses where decisions for the whole society are made POLITICAL POWER ECONOMIC POWER LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL (incl. identity) CAPITAL; SYMBOLIC POWER Leads toEquity of outcome
Non-discrimination prescriptions, negative rights, are not enough even for entering negative democracy. Without negative democracy, minority demands cannot even start being voiced, and maximum state supply is needed for this. Without positive democracy their demands will not be heard, and minorities cannot even become their own suppliers but are dependent of state hand-outs. With positive democracy minorities may also start supplying dominant populations, because they then become the guardians of the multicompetencies that information societies need. This includes the new ideas that the divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility, enhanced by high levels of multilingualism, foster. And new ideas and knowledges, instead of commodities, are the main product on the markets in information societies. In addition, both the traditional and the new, constantly changing ideas, knowledges and beliefs of indigenous peoples, part of TEK (traditional ecological knowledge), including the knowledge about how to maintain biodiversity, would fare better with positive democracy. Thus, our planet might even have a future… As we can see, LHRs have to be understood within a very broad multidisciplinary framework where we have hardly started. Positive ecosystem health requires that we act NOW.
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