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11 JEMIE 88 (2012)
The End of Minority Languages - Europe's Regional Languages in Perspective

handle is hein.journals/jemie2012 and id is 88 raw text is: S g                  Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
aS JtMIE Vol ll, Nol, 2012, 88-116
Journalhn Enpotics and
Mority sse     p     Copyright © ECMI 24 April 2012
This article is located at:
The End of Minority Languages?
Europe's Regional Languages in Perspective
Michael Homsby and Timofey Agarin*
John Paul I Catholic University, Lublin and Queen's University Belfast
The European Union (EU) today counts 23 national languages with as many as 65
regional and minority languages, only a few of which enjoy recognition in the EU.
We assess the perspectives of regional and, particularly, endangered languages in
Europe in three steps. First, we argue that current approach of nation-states, defining
both national and regional/minority languages from the top down, is increasingly at
odds with the idea of cross-border migration and communications. We illustrate this
with the examples of Estonian and Latvian, official languages of EU member-states
with around one million native speakers each. Second, we attest the end of
traditional forms of minority language, contending that if they are to survive they
cannot do so as mirror copies of majority languages. To make our point clear, we
discuss regional efforts to increase the use of the Breton and the Welsh languages.
We outline a research agenda that takes into account the nation-state dominated
linguistic regulations and the future of an increasingly borderless Europe, and suggest
how both can be accommodated.
Key words: EU; regional languages; minority languages; Welsh; Breton; Latvian;
Estonian; multilingualism; language policy
Today the official languages of the European Union (EU) member-states enjoy de
jure equality across the union, even outside the territory of the state that recognizes
them as official. In a context where speakers of diverse official languages share a
common European public space, there is a growing need to revisit our understanding
of languages bound to particular territories and defined as state, regional, official,
majority or minority languages. Increasing mobility of citizens across the EU has led
to a stronger emphasis by the European Commission (BC) on the promotion of
multilingualism across the European citizenry to ensure the effective communication
between EU citizens, either in their native or their vehicular languages. Ultimately,
*Dr Michael Homnsby, Department of Celtic Institute of English Studies, John Paul II Catholic
University, Al. Raciawickie 14, 20-950 Lublin, Poland, Email: mhornsby@zoho.com; Dr Timofey

Agarin (Corresponding author), School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen's
University Belfast, 21 University Square, BT7 INN Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. Email:

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