May 29, 2007

Liberty, Equality, Hypocrisy?

Reading Mark's post about France's refusal to implement any language-rights legislation reminded me of a bit of weirdness from the discussion of the UN's 'International Year of Languages' resolution, remarked on in the Eurolang article about it:

'Meanwhile, there was refreshing news for our Breton, Basque, Occitan and Corsican readers when the representative from France said, "The right to use your own language, the capacity to communicate and, therefore, to understand and be understood, the preservation of an inheritance that dates back centuries or even millennia, should be of prime importance to the United Nations." '

So the French government is perfectly happy to have their guys spouting pro-minority-language-rights rhetoric on the floor of the UN, and endorsing symbolic gestures like the declaration of an International Year of Language, but refuses to implement any actual legislation to that effect!

The full (but short) article that the quote is from is now most accessible n the ILAT archives here.

Update: Reader Émilie Pelletier writes in to say,

Your post on Language Log today reminds me of something I read in Morvan Lebesque's Comment peut-on être Breton? I don't remember the exact words, but he was mentioning the big support France was giving, in the 1970's, to French-speaking Quebecers so that they could speak their own language. When Bretons said to the French government that their own situation was very much like that of Quebecers, the French authorities' alleged response was: "But noone is preventing you from speaking French!"
Posted by Heidi Harley at May 29, 2007 01:19 PM