Minority Language Groups in the State System

Reference work entry


Minority language groups exist in almost every state in the modern system. Most of these language groups are in constant negotiation for rights and status within the framework of their given state government. The extensive body of literature on minority languages tends to concentrate on individual cases, leaving the complex task of comparison largely unsatisfied. Each minority group has elements that give them more or less power within the state. These power elements include group history, speakership, territoriality, and economic sway in the form of elite speakers. The degree to which language groups are able to effectively lobby for rights and receive concessions from the state has a great deal to do with the relative power of a given minority language group. This chapter introduces a model for the comparative study of minority language groups within the state system. By considering minority group power and state concessions along different axis within the same plane, a clearer picture begins to emerge of how groups are able to consolidate power and appeal to the state system. The chapter begins with an overview of language and national identity, after which the model is introduced with a variety of cases plotted. These cases are then further explored in the remainder of the chapter. As the model shows and the cases explain, the distribution trend shows minority language groups with more power are able to achieve greater concessions, and those with less power tend to receive little recognition within the state system.


Minority languages Nationality Language rights Language prestige 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kent State UniversityKentUSA

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