Language and Human Rights

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
18 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module articulates empirical, comparative sociolinguistic views of language use and conflicts within speech communities, contextualizing them within a human rights perspective.
We problematize the ways in which broad social categories (including ethnicity, class, nationality, gender, race, indigenous and regional origin) intersect with ways in which language is used to claim statuses and negotiate conflicts. Such associations are problematic – both practically for speakers (and signers) asserting or negotiating their social identity, access to services, and human rights (political, civil, social, cultural and economic); and theoretically for scholars investigating areas such as citizenship and political participation, (im)migration, indigenous peoples and cultures, language extinction, globalization, maintenance/crossing of ethnic boundaries, mass media discourse, the construction of gender ideologies, literacy and development, equal opportunity in the workplace, etc.
This module surveys important topics in human rights, focusing on the types of conflicts which occur around language, considering the principles upon which they can be understood and investigated, and examining efforts at solutions, as well as locating attempts to identify and make language rights manifest within a broad context of national and international agreements.

Module aims

Students will learn:
* Which human rights are linguistic in nature (whole or part)
* Whether and how language rights qualify as basic HR
* What sorts of conflicts occur around language, and why
* How scholars from different disciplines approach conflicts over language
* How language rights are negotiated in institutional contexts such as the courts, government policy, legislation, schools, healthcare organisations, also language planning through national and international bodies and organisations.

Module learning outcomes

1. For Linguistic & other students: control basic concepts and resources in studying Human Rights, as far as they interact with language issues
2. For Human Rights & other students: basic understanding of socio-linguistic perspectives and principles, as far as they interact with language rights
3. Identify, document and explore common types of language conflicts that potentially involve human rights violations
4. Investigate language policy, planning and other attempts at resolving language issues which impinge on individual and group human rights
5. Familiarise students with basic documents and resources concerning the nature of language rights vis-à-vis other human rights

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

One 2-hr lecture per week x 10 weeks


  • Ricento, Thomas. (2006) An introduction to language policy: theory and method, Malden, MA: Blackwell. vol. 1
  • Shohamy, Elana Goldberg. (2006) Language policy: hidden agendas and new approaches, London: Routledge.
  • McCarty, Teresa; Romero-Little, Mary Eunice; Zepeda, Ofelia. (c2008) 'Indigenous language policies in social practice: The case of Navajo', in Sustaining linguistic diversity: endangered and minority languages and language varieties, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press., pp.159-172
  • Guidelines for the use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases, https://www.tinyurl.com/ladoguidelines
  • (2007) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - FAQ.
  • Darnell, Regna. (2004) 'Revitalization and retention of First Nations languages in Southwestern Ontario', in Language rights and language survival: sociolinguistic and sociocultural perspectives, Manchester: St. Jerome. vol. Encounters, pp.87-102
  • (2007) UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • The Girona Manifesto (UDLR), https://pen-international.org/news/the-girona-manifesto-encapsulating-the-universal-declaration-of-linguistic-rights
  • Freeland, Jane. (2004) 'Linguistic rights and language survival in a Creole space', in Language rights and language survival: sociolinguistic and sociocultural perspectives, Manchester: St. Jerome. vol. Encounters
  • Grin, François. (1995) 'Combining immigrant and autochthonous language rights: A territorial approach to multilingualism', in Linguistic human rights: overcoming linguistic discrimination, Berlin: de Gruyter., pp.31-48

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Assignment 1 (3000 words)   23/04/2021  100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Peter Patrick, email: patrickp@essex.ac.uk.
Professor Peter Patrick
Peter L Patrick, 4.328, 872088, patrickp@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Maciej Baranowski
University of Manchester
Senior Lecturer in English Sociolinguistics
Available via Moodle
Of 706 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
706 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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