Languages and Parliaments
Heiko F. Marten
FU Berlin/Reseknes Augstskola
The central question of Marten's volume is how languages and parliaments interact, and what role a parliamentary institution can play within language policy. This question is addressed in particular in the context of minority languages and language revitalisation processes. Based on in-depth research of parliamentary documents and interviews with policy makers, scholars, and language activists from Scotland and Norway, the study investigates how the establishment of the decentralised Scottish Parliament and the parliamentary assembly for the Sámi population in Norway, the Sameting, have generated increased efforts of language maintenance of the Gaelic and Sámi languages respectively.
For this purpose, Marten on the one hand contrasts the situations before and after the establishment of these two parliaments in 1999 and 1989 respectively, and on the other hand compares the developments in the two countries in the light of the different political structures in Scotland and Norway. The study illustrates how negotiations take place between supportive and reluctant policy makers in the two parliamentary contexts and shows how they have eventually resulted in a higher level of empowerment of the two speech communities. As a result, the volume therefore shows that a decentralisation of parliaments can indeed lead to increased language maintenance efforts, albeit within certain limits. Parliamentary decentralisation is thus identified to be one piece within the large puzzle of minority language policy. As such, it is related to the theoretical literature on minority languages by suggesting an additional component in the evaluation of minority language situations.
ISBN 9783895862984. Languages of the World 37. 360pp. 2009.