Linguistic Justice vs. Linguistic Diversity

In: Philological Encounters
Jürgen Trabant Freie Universitat Berlin

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The linguistic uniformity of Europe (or the globe) is currently enforced not only by powerful economic and political forces but also by sociologists and social philosophers. At first, the learning of global English was only considered to be a necessary professional skill, then, the positive connotations of “plurilingualism” were evoked for fostering its universal adoption. Now, the acquisition of “globalese” is promoted as a means to achieve social justice. The rhetoric of justice immunises this discourse against any criticism (what can you say against justice?). Its political aims and measures are reminiscent of the aims and measures of the linguistic Jacobinism in the French Revolution. The propagandistic moves of the social sciences are accompanied by a polemic against linguistic diversity and the connection of language to culture. They are based on a reductive conception of language that underestimates their cognitive and, hence, cultural potential.

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