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LG474 Language Rights

Prof. Peter L. Patrick

Dept. of Language & Linguistics

Human Rights Centre

University of Essex

Course Aims and Coverage




Course aims and objectives:

            This course explores language issues in human rights and linguistic approaches to them, using sociolinguistics as an empirical, comparative core discipline. It considers


·                Which human rights (HRs) are linguistic in nature (whole or part)

·                Whether and how language rights qualify as basic HRs

·                What sorts of conflicts occur around language, and why

·                How scholars from different disciplines approach conflicts over language

·                How language rights are negotiated in institutional contexts such as the courts, government policy, legislation, schools, healthcare organisations, and language planning/ policymaking contexts of national and international bodies and organisations.


Language is often viewed as manifesting a close relationship with social categories such as nationality, race, ethnicity, class, regional origin, and gender. These associations are problematic – both practically for speakers (and signers) asserting or negotiating their social identity, access to services and human rights; and theoretically for scholars investigating areas such as citizenship and political participation, (im)migration, indigenous peoples and cultures, language extinction, globalization, maintenance/crossing of ethnic boundaries, mass media discourse, the construction of gender ideologies, literacy and development, equal opportunity in the workplace, etc.

            The course introduces a broad human rights framework, and a sociolinguistic approach to language use and speaker identity. It surveys important topics in language rights, focusing on the types of conflicts which occur around language, considering the principles upon which they can be understood and investigated, and examining efforts at solutions, as well as locating attempts to identify and make language rights manifest within a broad context of national and international agreements.


Learning Outcomes:

·                To introduce Linguistic & other students to basic concepts and resources in studying Human Rights, as far as they interact with language issues

·                To give Human Rights & other students a basic understanding of socio-linguistic perspectives and principles, as far as they interact with language rights

·                To identify, document and explore common types of language conflicts that potentially involve human rights violations

·                To investigate language policy, planning and other attempts at resolving language issues which impinge on individual and group human rights

·                To familiarise students with basic documents and resources concerning the nature of language rights vis-ŕ-vis other human rights




Coursepage for LG474

Human Rights Centre

Peter L Patrick’s homepage


Last updated on 12 January 2018