Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Legal concepts such as a national, official, or global language indicate a certain type of linguistic power relationship, one that defines linguistic dominance and inevitably creates minority languages and, thereby, linguistic minorities. This situation may contribute to language shift, language erosion, and, eventually, language death. Although the law can protect linguistic minorities, such attempts are a comparatively new phenomenon. National or international law does not protect most minority languages. Legal protection may take the form of group rights or individual rights. In the presence of cultural change and hybridization, it is, however, not at all clear whether law should attempt to preserve “endangered languages,” and, if so, at what cost. Tautologically speaking, minority languages are languages used by language minorities. Nevertheless, it is not clear what language and minority mean in this context. Linguists distinguish “language” from “dialect,” but sociologists and historians point out that the linguists' language is The ...