Indigenous Languages, and Past and Present Language Policies in the Americas: The Case of Canada, Bolivia, Mexico, and French Guyana

Reference work entry


In the last decades, a global change of attitudes has occurred regarding the autochthonous population, which is clearly expressed by adoption of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention in 1989 and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. As a result, there is a worldwide tendency toward taking into greater consideration the issue of autochthonous peoples and languages in legal systems of different countries, even though this process is far from being completed. The purpose of this chapter is to investigate and compare changes made throughout history in language policies on national and regional levels in the Americas in the context of indigenous languages. The chapter begins with an overview of the situation of autochthonous peoples in the Americas in different countries, including, among others, their total population, governments’ attitude toward international accords, as well as current statuses of indigenous peoples and languages according to respective constitutions. In the second part, the study more closely examines four cases: Canada, Bolivia, Mexico, and French Guiana in order to identify and compare changes in language policies throughout history and thus show the possible impact of different factors on their development. Lastly, the chapter tries to evaluate different legal approaches to indigenous languages and their possible effects in the future.


Language policy Linguistic rights Indigenous languages The Americas 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Geography and Regional StudiesUniversity of WarsawWarszawaPoland

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