Contested identities and the quest for legitimacy

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This paper focuses on the quest of contested speech forms for legitimacy as languages rather than dialects, the distinction being explored solely in a political context. Since the French Revolution the nation-statehas played a primary role in affirmingthe status of language (Ager, 1999). State boundaries have frequently determined the official choice of language. In this essay the relationship between language and nation as invented concepts is briefly reviewed. Theoretically the European Union endorses the role of nation-states in the legitimisation of languages, but the regular informal use of English and French has enhanced the status of these particular languages, thereby devaluing official working languages of other participating nation-states. Increasing globalisation has not necessarily generated greater homogeneity. In that context, the role of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in the attestation of linguistic diversity at the regional level of Europe is examined. articular attention is paid to the impact of this Charter on the legitimisationof contested speech-forms. It is contended that the authority of nation-states in this process of affirmation has been weakened, although not severed. These changing forces in the legitimisation of specific cultural concepts reflect variations in definitional factors in other political spheres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-413
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2000


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