Language Rights and The Council of Europe: A Failed Response to a Multilingual Continent?

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Debates on language rights as integral elements of human rights have gathered momentum since the early 1990s. International organisations such as the Council of Europe (CoE) and the United Nations (UN) have advocated linguistic rights through various charters and conventions, albeit with wavering levels of success. This article focuses specifically on the European context and the manner in which the CoE has dealt with language rights in the continent. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the European Charter for Regional and Minority languages (ECRML) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM) are discussed in light of the region’s contemporary linguistic makeup. Current inequalities in the application of language recognition provide an area of special concern. For example, while speakers of ‘indigenous’ (or autochthonous) minority languages have apparently enjoyed an improving status in recent decades, the position of immigrant (or allochthonous) languages is less clear and current approaches largely ignore linguistic diversity which has been brought by recent mass migration patterns, leading to a somewhat exclusionary system. Through the discussion possible pathways for better inclusion of immigrant languages within current international frameworks, especially those of the CoE, are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-626
Number of pages24
Issue number5
Early online date30 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017



  • Language Rights
  • Europe
  • Council of Europe
  • Immigration
  • Multiculturalism
  • Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
  • European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages

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