[lg policy] book notice: Europe and the politics of language: Citizens, migrants and outsiders. By M áiréad Nic Craith.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 8 16:03:52 UTC 2010

Europe and the politics of language: Citizens, migrants and outsiders.
By Máiréad Nic Craith.

(Palgrave studies in minority languages and communities.) New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Pp. xii, 217. ISBN 9781403918338. $100 (Hb).
Reviewed by Madeleine Adkins, University of California, Santa Barbara

Those interested in language and politics in Europe would be wise to
start with Máiréad Nic Craith’s book, Europe and the politics of
language. From the historical origins of Europe, to the transnational
linguistic communities of nomads, to the vagaries of the European
Union’s (EU) policies and practices, this volume provides an overview
of language and politics in Europe that covers a generous swath of
territory in a relatively slim tome. In its range of chapter topics
and its detailed case studies, this book provides a multifaceted
overview of the issues, perspectives, and realities of the politics of
language in Europe today, in particular, the policy challenges faced
by the growing EU.

A whirlwind tour of European history, Ch. 1 (1–19) provides the
historical context for the issues, exploring the conceptual
perspectives and the political realities of Europe in addition to
defining the key issues of inclusion, exclusion, and citizenship. Ch.
2 (20–39) examines the ideologies implicit in the concepts of language
and statehood and how these ideas play into the politics of national
identity and citizenship.

Ch. 3 (40–56) turns the focus to the EU, examining its official
languages and the privileges these languages are accorded as well as
the day-to-day realities that often trump their official status. Ch. 4
(57–80) discusses the complex range of linguistic and political
situations that lead to a language receiving the inferior status of a
minority language within its own country. This chapter also discusses
the status of such languages within the EU as well as the various
studies, proposals, and efforts of support that the EU and other
European agencies have made on the behalf of minority languages.

In Ch. 5 (81–105), the author explores the issues unique to languages
that are spoken in two or more nation states and provides examples of
the challenges and accomplishments of cross-national efforts to
support language groups. The challenges and realities of language
varieties that have not been accorded recognition as languages are
explored in Ch. 6 (106–25). Ch. 7 (126–46) rounds out the discussion
of language within Europe, examining the unique challenges of people
who have lived on the continent as nomads of one sort or another and
are therefore lacking historic ties between their languages and
specific territories.

Ch. 8 (147–67) lays out globalization as an issue in modern Europe by
exploring the linguistic status, within Europe and the EU, of the
languages of non-European immigrants. Ch. 9 (168–87) concludes the
book with an evaluation of EU language policy, a discussion of the
underlying challenges of the conflicting definitions of linguistic
equality, and recommendations for future directions in language policy
for Europe.

One of the highlights of the book is the author’s use of case studies
and examples to illustrate the key issues. By focusing on specific
linguistic cases, she illustrates her points and provides in-depth
examples. However, given the length of the book, the author does not
(and cannot) provide an exhaustive coverage of the topic; those
readers who are seeking information on a particular language and its
community within Europe, or on a particular language issue, may or may
not find what they are looking for. This book should be viewed as an
introduction to the broader issues, with occasional detailed analyses.
It should also be used as a point of departure for more detailed study
of specific language issues, and its generous bibliography is a useful
reference for this purpose.

Given the book’s breadth, linguists may find that some statements
about particular languages or linguistic analyses seem to be either
misleading or simplifications. This is perhaps inevitable, in light of
the fact that the book covers a wide range of topics and that its
target audience is quite diverse. For those new to the sizeable
collection of abbreviations used to refer to European governmental
bodies and their documents and declarations, the free usage of such
abbreviations in the text can be disconcerting and confusing at times;
however, the author provides a website list that will be an invaluable
reference for those seeking clarification.

The author positions her book as a call to academic institutions for a
greater focus on the issues of language policy as a means to improve
the status of minority and immigrant languages and their communities.
By laying out the many complex language policy issues faced by the EU,
the author succeeds in demonstrating the varied—and extremely
difficult—challenges for language communities and political leadership
in Europe.

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