Date: 19 Jun 2010

Linguistic Justice in International Law: An Evaluation of the Discursive Framework

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Claims by minority groups to use their own languages in different social contexts are often presented as claims for “linguistic justice”, that is, justice as between speakers of different languages. This article considers how the language of international law can be used to advance such claims, by exploring how international law, as a discourse, approaches questions of language policy. This analysis reveals that international legal texts structure their engagement with “linguistic justice” around two key concepts: equality and culture. Through a close examination of the way in which these concepts function within international legal discourse, the article suggests that this conceptual framework may sometimes constrain, as well as enlarge, the possibilities for justice for minority language speakers. Thus while international law may provide a language for challenging injustices in the linguistic sphere, limitations inherent in this discourse may also restrict its emancipatory potential.