Linguistic minorities, migration and the nation state



Publication Details

Jeanjean, H. A., Bilbatua, L., Rando, G. and Simoes da Silva, A. J. (2011). Linguistic minorities, migration and the nation state. La Questione Meridionale, (2), 11-26.


The last thirty or so years have seen the influx of millions of people from Africa, the former Soviet Union, the Indian sub-continent, middle and far east into EU countries leading to the formation of new culturally, linguistic and religiously diverse minorities in the areas where they have settled. This paper proposes to address the question of how established minorities react to this inflow of other minorities, and specifically how linguistic minorities face this new situation by taking as a specific case study the centuries- old Occitan, Catalan and Corsican minorities in their diverse sociohistorical and political contexts that range from cultural and linguistic repression in France to liberal recognition and a degree of relative autonomy in post-Franco Spain. While in Spain the Catalan parliament could legislate that Occitan be the preferred language used in the Aran valley and resist pressure from the central government for the reversal of such legislation, in France linguistic minorities do not have a say in the school programmes which are centralised and are still fighting to include the teaching of their languages in the curriculum. The impact of immigration too is different in the three cases examined. The relative autonomy of the Catalan minority in Spain has meant that it has been possible to make the immigration of new minorities work in a cohesive way allowing diverse ethnicities to live together through the recognition and acceptance of differences and the positive evaluation of diversity. Conversely, the situations imposed by the centralist French government on Occitan and Corsican communities through policies that forced the local populations to emigrate and be replaced by outsiders, has meant that the new waves of immigrants have further exacerbated, albeit differently in each case, the precarious position of the languages and cultures of these long-established minorities.

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