Language Policy: European Criteria and Ukraine

Bohdan Azhniuk, Oleksandr Potebnia Institute of Linguistics, NAS of Ukraine



The article discusses a much debated in Ukraine issue: what are the principles of language policy that can be labelled European, what are the major sources for the deduction of these principles and to what extant they could be implemented in Ukraine’s current language policy. It is argued that these principles can be deduced from the following major sources: national constitutions and legislative acts on language issues, international legal instruments (The European Charter of regional or Minority Languages), international declarations (The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights) that are not legal instruments at the moment, expert opinions of international committees and other bodies like the Venice Commission, OSCE, etc, scientific publications on language policy and language planning. The analysis of these sources gives justification to the following principles as reflecting the mainstream European conception of language policy and language planning: 1) maintaining the leading role of the official state language as the backbone of national unity, 2) protection of endangered languages and preservation of language diversity, 3) promotion of the bilingualism with sufficient competence in the state language, 4) effective management of the enforcement mechanism. The ratification by Ukraine of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages called attention to its implementation in Ukraine. The comparison of Ukraine with most European countries shows that in terms of linguistic rights the country’s main language (Ukrainian) is in a rather underprivileged position. There is growing awareness in the society that the idea of official or semi- official Ukrainian-Russian bilingualism was designed as an instrument of Russian foreign policy and became one of the key factors that provoked political instability in the country. Nowadays Russian is associated with the annexation of Crimea and justification of further aggression and the official upgrading of its status is perceived as a jeopardy for the Ukrainian national identity and statehood. The change of the popular attitude to the idea of the official bilingualism has modified the positions of the major political players.

Key words

language policy, state language, regional language, minority language, language rights, endangered language, language diversity, ecology of language.

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