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Conflict Over Language Rights

Conflict Over Language Rights: The case of Kurds and Circassians in Turkey

By Burcu Toksabay

ABSTRACT
Language policy is used as a tool for regulating the status of languages and allocating benefits and resources in the society among different language groups. Therefore, language policy has both an instrumental and symbolic value for the ethnic groups and is a source of conflict between language groups and the state in many countries.

The positions of language groups towards the language policy are shaped by their perceptions towards language policy, and their relations with the state. Therefore, different language groups tend to perceive language policy in different ways and have differing demands.

This study aimed to analyze the perceptions and positions of two language groups in Turkey, Kurds and Circassians, regarding language rights. During the analysis, the differences between the perceptions and positions of these groups were also investigated. The data for the analysis was obtained out of the texts that are published by some groups in these communities, and interviews with the representatives of these groups.

Overall, language policy is percieved as a matter of recognition by the Kurdish groups, while for the Circassians the primary problem is to increase language use of the community and to develop the language. Therefore, while Kurdish groups demand their language to be treated equally in status with the Turkish language, the Circassian groups demand support for the education and development of the language. In order to accomodate the needs and interests of each particular language group, language policies should take these differences into consideration.

Submitted to the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, SabancÛ University, Spring 2005, © Burcu Toksabay 2005

 

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