The Lesser Used Languages in the European Union: A Study in Political Geography

  • André-Louis Sanguin
Living reference work entry


The speakers of the lesser used languages are living in the European Union within different scales of fragility. Some theoretical considerations emphasize two paradigms at work with the lesser used languages: center-periphery and dominating majority-dominated minority. The EU small languages are used in very different contexts according to the nature of the State (unitary, decentralized, federal). Emigration, bilingualism, mixed marriages, and globalization are frequently acting against the lesser used languages. Between resistance and surrender, the native speakers of the endangered languages in the EU have their own future in their hands. It is a matter of money but above all a matter of collective will. Many native speakers are passive. They no longer want to speak their small language and to fight against the linguistic majority. In the middle of the twenty-first century, some lesser used languages will have disappeared, while others will resist due to new forms of communication. In most cases, the linguistic minorities moved from a stage of resistance to a stage of tolerance and indifference. Those communities suffer a crisis of identity and a process of hybridization. They speak the language of the majority. They imitate the national, international, and globalized models. The lesser used languages come up against a double wall. First, they are not exportable and they are not learnt by other speakers. Second, the small number of their speakers and the absence of mass effect have a negative weight upon them.


Assimilation Bilingualism Hybridization Lesser used languages Linguistic identity Stateless linguistic groups 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Paris-SorbonneParisFrance

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