International law defines minoritylanguage rights in a rather general manner, see, for instance, the United Nations declaration on minority rights (UNITED NATIONS, 1992) or DUNBAR (2001). Typically, formulations like “(traditional) habitation area” or “substantial number of speakers” are used. Also the reasons for providing minority rights differ; at times one talks about “need”, at other times about “demand”. Need here signifies that people who are unable to understand or use the majority language should have the right to use their mother tongue in certain situations. This, of course, means that speakers of minority languages who are perfectly bilingual should have special no rights to use their languages in contacts with the authorities. This would then apply to the Basque or Welsh speakers in Europe among others. On the state level one finds two types of regulations: In some countries there are ad hoc regulations specifying jurisdictions and languages that have a certain official status in those jurisdictions. Usually there is no justification provided. In Europe, we find such laws in for example Austria or Slovenia. Other states give formal rules, for instance a certain proportion of the total population that minorities have to reach in order to receive some rights. Estonia, Romania, or Slovakia are European examples. In Finland there is a combination of a proportion requirement or a certain absolute number of individuals that the minority has to satisfy. We will discuss what would be an optimal rule and compare it to the existing rules; see WICKSTRÖM (2017). We will use real examples from Finland, Slovakia, and Romania to illustrate that the percentage rule can lead to absurd results. On the other hand, we will argue that the percentage rule can be an effective instrument for a policy maker wanting to discriminate the members of a minority; see WICKSTRÖM (2019).
DUNBAR, ROBERT (2001). “Minority language rights in international law”. In: The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 50.1: 90–120.
UNITED NATIONS (1992). Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. New York: United Nations.
WICKSTRÖM, BENGT‐ARNE (2017). A cost theory of language planning and policy. Research report 172.Berlin: REAL – Research group “Economics and language”.
WICKSTRÖM, BENGT‐ARNE (2019). On the political economy of minority right. Three ways to manipulate a minority: goals, rules, and border poles. Research report 197. Berlin: REAL – Research group “Economics and language”.
*Andrássy Universität Budapest Research group “Economics and language” (REAL) Email: bengtarne.wickstroem•andrassyuni.hu