Maxi-Min Language Use A Critical Remark on a Concept by Philippe van Parijs

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Abstract

Philippe van Parijs explains in Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World the concept of maxi-min language use as a process of language choice. He suggests that the language chosen as a common language should maximize the minimal competence of a community. Within a multilingual group of people, the chosen language is the language known best by a participant who knows it least. For obvious reasons, only English would qualify for having that status. This article argues that maxi-min is rather a normative concept, not only because the process itself remains empirically unfounded. Moreover, language choice is the result of complex social and psychological structures. As a descriptive process, the maxi-min choice happens in the reality fairly seldom, whereas the max-min use of languages seen as a normative process could be a very effective tool to measure linguistic justice.

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