Ling A: Language in the political life of nations

AJ Murphy (University of South Carolina) Stanley Dubinsky (University of South Carolina)

Linguistic oppression can arise as the result of conquest, colonization, immigration, enslavement, or the creation of political states that ignore ethnolinguistic territories, and the creation of linguistically disadvantaged groups often leads to ethnolinguistic conflict. These conflicts often involve assaults on language rights and privileges, and while they account for a good portion of global conflict, they tend to attract less attention and be less acknowledged as a “class”, than ideological, religious, environmental, or economically based conflicts. The publication of Language Conflict and Language Rights: Ethnolinguistic Perspectives on Human Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2018) opened the door to a closer examination of ethnolinguistic conflicts and language rights violations around the world. This course will address the ways in which language plays a vital role in the political life of a nation-state, with special attention to the status and conditions of non-dominant language groups. Each class will begin with a short lecture on a question or theoretical conundrum on the topic of ethnolinguistic conflict and will follow with a class discussion on the topic (informed by short, assigned readings and responses).

Topics will include:
  1. Language and personal/group identity: What role does language play in the formation and preservation of personal and group identity?
  2. Language and national identity: What role does language play in the life of a nation? Are national languages important, and why?
  3. Language rights and accommodations by the state: To what extent are speakers of non-national/non-state languages entitled to preserve and use their languages? To what extent should they be accommodated (in education, government services, health care, and media)?
  4. Language standardization and centralization: How does one distinguish (objectively and subjectively) between dialects and languages? How can these differences be fairly adjudicated and who gets to do that?
  5. Types of intrastate language conflict: How can a typology of intrastate language conflicts improve our understanding and analysis of them?
  6. Language preservation and revitalization: How can endangered languages be protected, preserved, or revitalized? Whose job is it to do so?