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A Dog without a Bark: A Critical Assessment of the International Law on Language Rights

Australian International Law Journal
Volume 17 (2010)

Abstract: This article investigates the role of international law in language policy. The post-conflict, multilingual context of Sri Lanka brings out the limitations of international law in achieving linguistic justice. The current language rights regime in international law is piecemeal and tends to cover only minimal 'tolerance' rights. Sri Lanka's official language policy seems to surpass the demands of international law, yet there are significant failures of implementation. The Sri Lankan experience suggests that international law is unable to make a helpful intervention in state language policy while it is focused on encoding a single conception of linguistic justice. International law currently faces the problems of essentialism, universalism, political neutrality and the tension between linguistic diversity and nation-building. Possible alternatives include regional instruments and a case-by-case approach to language policy. International law could provide higher tolerance standards on language rights, but the onus falls on nation-states to implement promotion-oriented rights in the pursuit of linguistic justice.

To cite this article: Abayasekara, Sadhana. A Dog without a Bark: A Critical Assessment of the International Law on Language Rights [online]. Australian International Law Journal, Vol. 17, 2010: [89]-111. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=957791602733614;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 1325-5029. [cited 13 Feb 16].

Personal Author: Abayasekara, Sadhana; Source: Australian International Law Journal, Vol. 17, 2010: [89]-111 Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1325-5029 Subject: Political science; International law; Language planning; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); Language and languages--Law and legislation; Language policy; Peer Reviewed: Yes

Database: Humanities & Social Sciences Collection