The discussion on language rights is affected by some confusion on the nature and status of rights. In this paper, a rigorous characterisation of language rights is proposed. It is argued that the general assimilation or equation between language rights and human rights is not only erroneous as far as it is inaccurate, but it leads to a distorted image of the relationship between law and politics. While human rights do limit (at least, ideally) state behaviour, language rights are, more often than not, an issue devolved to the political process. The point being made in this paper is that recognition of language rights (as such or as part of minority rights) is based primarily on contingent historical reasons. Some tentative explanations on the poor status or unequal recognition of language rights in international and domestic law will also be offered throughout the paper.
JEMIE 6 (2007) European Centre for Minority Issues. PDF.