Minority language

From ArticleWorld

A minority language is one spoken by a minority in a country. The minority could be an ethnic, religious, racial, or even a linguistic minority. There are many different names for minority languages, depending on how politically acceptable or harmless they are considered by the majority linguistic group. Sometimes minority languages become extinct because few people speak them, or are endangered because of the spread of the national language. The accommodation of minority languages in national education and legal systems, or mass media and communication, is contentious because of tacit or official rules of privilege and belonging. Increases in immigration and threats of separatism or demands for greater autonomy among linguistic minorities are some factors that cause minority languages to be tagged as subversive or anti-national. Often languages are classed as minority languages because those who speak them are on the margins of national society, not because of the number of speakers.

Language and identity politics

Minority languages are often accorded special dispensation and legal status, such as French in Canada's Quebec province. Welsh in the United Kingdom is undergoing a revival in Wales, and is often linked to demands for more autonomy. In the Republic of Ireland, Irish, though a minority language (in terms of number of speakers, not ethnicity), is the national language.

Majority groups, 'minority' languages

In Pakistan in 1952 and India and 1964, there were the so-called 'language riots'. In Pakistan the violent protests against the imposition of Urdu and the national language prompted the inclusion of languages such as Punjabi and Pushtu to be recognized as official languages. In India it led to the abandonment of plans to eliminate English and expand the reach of Hindi, as well as the reorganization of states on linguistic lines.

Sometimes a minority language, if it is the tongue of a colonial power, can be a national language, and debates can arise when the native speakers of other languages wish to reduce the public space allowed to minority official languages. In parts of South America, for example Spanish in Peru and Brazilian Portuguese in Brazil, the national language is a minority language and strongly associated with the ruling European or mestizo elite. There are hundreds indigenous languages, such as variants of Quechua and GuaranĂ­, as well as immigrant languages like Italian, German, and Japanese but the languages of privilege and social advancement remain the colonial ones. Although in Peru a variety of Quechua is a second official language, Spanish is the language of authority and business.

Impact of national languages

In Asia, Bahasa Indonesia has affected the transmission of local minority languages, as the use of the Mandarin dialect in China has reduced the use of others Chinese dialects and languages like Manchu and to a lesser extent Tibetan. In Nepal, where there are over 90 languages and every second valley has a different dialect, the official Nepali language is the first language of less than a quarter of the population, but the official alternative is English.