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Freedom from Discrimination in Choice of Language and International Human Rights (with Lung-chu Chen and Harold D. Lasswell), 1976 Southern Illinois University Law Review 151 (1976)


The conception of human dignity is fundamentally linked to the life of the mind which in tum is closely linked to language as a basic means of communication. Language is a rudiment of consciousness and close to the core of personality; deprivations in relation to language deeply affect identity. At this point we are concerned with the deprivations imposed upon an individual because he is a member of a group with a special language. Language is broadly understood to include all the means (signs and symbols), phonetic and phonemic, by which people communicate with each other. So conceived, language is a most important instrument of enlightenment and skill and also a significant base value for the performance of many different social roles. Further, language is commonly taken as a prime indicator of an individual's group identifications. In the words of Dr. Joshua A. Fishman,

[L]anguage is not merely a means of interpersonal communication and influence. It is not merely a carrier of content, whether latent or manifest. Language itself is content, a referent for loyalties and animosities, an indicator of social statuses and personal relationships, a marker of situations and topics as well as of the societal goals and the large-scale value-laden arenas of interaction that typify every speech community.

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