DP4875 | Disenfranchisement in Linguistically Diverse Societies: The Case of the European Union

Publication Date

23/01/2005

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Abstract

We consider a linguistically diversified society that has to select a set of official languages. We examine the notion of language disenfranchisement that is created when one or more languages fail to be included in the list of the official ones, implying that some individuals are denied full access to the documents and to the political process in their native tongues. To derive the first of our indices, we use the dichotomous approach that does not take into account a linguistic proximity between languages. To develop a more refined disenfranchisement index, we utilize the Dyen percentage cognate distance matrix that takes into account a linguistic proximity or remoteness of any pair of two languages. We then apply survey and population data on language proficiency in the European Union, calculate disenfranchisement indices and determine optimal sets of official languages that depend on two parameters, society's sensitivity against disenfranchisement and comprehensiveness of the language regime adopted. We also discuss the language challenges faced by the European Union after its enlargement in May 2004.