Language Rights as an Integral Part of Human Rights

Fernand de Varennes

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Abstract

The rights of minorities are often thought of as constituting a distinct category of rights, different from traditional human rights. Such a view fails to recognise that the use of descriptive expressions such as “minority rights” or “language rights” may be useful, but also imprecise. Most of what are widely recognised as minority rights are in fact the direct application of basic human rights standards such as freedom of expression and non-discrimination. This means that language rights are not collective rights, nor do they constitute “third generation” or vague, unenforceable rights: by and large, the language rights of minorities are an integral part of well established, basic human rights widely recognised in international law, just as are the rights of women and children.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

De Varennes, Fernand. Language Rights as an Integral Part of Human Rights. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2001, vol. 3, no.1, pp. 15-25. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol3/issue1/art2

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