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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Special Invited Talk | John Edwards (St Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University)

11 June 2018

Time: 4:30 - 6:00pm
Venue: Queens E303

Language Claims and Language Rights

John Edwards

St Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University


Discussions of multilingualism within and across settings – particularly where minority groups are involved – generally touch upon issues of ethics, justice and rights in the most cursory way (if, indeed, at all). More frequent is a rather glib invocation of ‘rights’, accompanied perhaps by a mention of some linguistics declaration or other. Arguments then proceed, apparently on the basis that the existence of, and the consequent force behind, language rights can be assumed as real. There is no doubt that language rights are important, as are the principles from which they emerge, but matters of such centrality, matters that underpin multilingual perceptions and procedures, cannot simply rest upon the view that their existence is obvious and therefore need not be investigated. To be more specific: a right that is claimed but is not enforceable is not a strong pillar for either social or linguistic action.  So, this talk is built around the clarification of a simple point: claims are not the same thing as rights.


Speaker Bio

John Edwards was born in England, educated there and in Canada, and received a PhD from McGill University in 1974. After working as a Research Fellow at the Educational Research Centre in Dublin (now part of Dublin City University), he moved to Nova Scotia, where he became Professor of Psychology at St Francis Xavier University. He is a member of several psychological and linguistic societies, as well as scholarly organisations for the study of ethnicity and nationalism. He is a fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the Royal Society of Canada.

Edwards is now a Senior Research Professor at St Francis Xavier University (Antigonish),Adjunct Professor, Graduate Studies, at Dalhousie University (Halifax), andVisiting Professor at Minzu University (Beijing).

His main research interest is with the establishment, maintenance and continuity of group identity, with particular reference to language in both its communicative and symbolic aspects. He has lectured and presented papers on this topic in some thirty countries, and his work has been translated into half a dozen languages. Edwards is on the editorial boards of a dozen international language journals, and is the editor of the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (published by Routledge). He is also the editor of the Multilingual Matters book series for the Bristol publisher of the same name, a series that now comprises more than 150 titles. 

Edwards’s books include The Irish Language (Garland, 1983), Language, Society and Identity (Blackwell, 1985), Multilingualism (Penguin, 1995), Language in Canada (Cambridge, 1998), Language and Identity (Cambridge, 2009), Language Diversity in the Classroom (Multilingual Matters, 2010), Minority Languages and Group Identity (Benjamins, 2010), Challenges in the Social Life of Language (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011), Multilingualism: Understanding Linguistic Diversity(Continuum / Bloomsbury, 2012) and Sociolinguistics: A Very Short Introduction(Oxford, 2013).  He is also the author of some 300 articles, chapters and reviews. 

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