Language Rights in French Canada

By Pierre A. Coulombe | Go to book overview

4 The Language-Identity Link

Trying to discern the importance of language in people's lives inevitably leads to the deeper problem of identity. If we believe in the value of identity to human flourishing, we can articulate strong reasons for language to be considered a fundamental communal good and, as it will become clear, for saying that it should give rise to rights. To do so, we must interpret how language relates to identity. One difficulty lies in the fact there are many different manifestations of these ties, and those selected here, although they bear upon particular circumstances, may not enable us to reach an overall judgment. My aim here is to identify answers that can be given to this question: Why is language so important?

While it is somewhat of a truism to state that language can influence the shaping of identity, it remains useful to see more precisely what meanings can be given to this assertion. We must put into different perspectives the various claims about the relationship between language and identity. In particular, we must consider how language plays on perceptions of who we think we are. Also, at the basis of the language- identity link is the contentious assertion that language patterns impose a specific structuring of reality and determine the way we look at the world. This is a difficult question, but it remains relevant to sketch its main elements. Moreover, the problem of translation is sometimes invoked as an additional reason for identifying mainly with one's language; we shall see if there is evidence to support this claim. Finally, the question of language in the context of nationalism is of particular interest here and merits some attention, for it often hinges on the notion of national identity.

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Language Rights in French Canada
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the Paperback Edition vi
  • Preface to the First Edition vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Part I Community in Liberalism 9
  • Competing Communities 11
  • 2: What's Wrong with Liberal Society? 25
  • 3: Making Sense of Community Rights 41
  • 4: The Language-Identity Link 55
  • Part II French Canadians and Their Rights 73
  • 5: The French-Canadian Identity 75
  • 6: Justifying Strong Language Rights 89
  • 7: Québec and Bill 101 111
  • 8: Citizenship and Modernity 135
  • Conclusion 153
  • Notes 158
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 177
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