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Title: Autonomy, neutrality, and justice
Author: Watson, William Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 073X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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My thesis aims to contribute to the development of a distinctively liberal theory of language rights. To this end, I seek to identify the philosophical foundations of language rights by asking which objectives and principles ought to guide the formulation of language policy in multilingual states. I ask whether language policy ought to seek to achieve convergence on a common public language, or to secure the preservation of endangered languages. I also examine whether a normatively satisfying theory of language rights can be constructed around the ideal of liberal neutrality. I argue that achieving linguistic convergence in the public realm will tend to promote administrative efficiency, economic development, social mobility, social and economic solidarity, and democratic participation. I further contend that in most real-world cases, it will either be the case that language maintenance is not necessary to secure the particular benefits that linguistic preservation is alleged to give rise to, or else, if preservation is necessary in order to secure those benefits, such preservation will nonetheless be unjustifiable in light of the interference with individual freedom of choice that it would entail. Drawing on the work of Alan Patten, I claim that language policy should strive to ensure that all citizens enjoy a fair opportunity for self-determination. I argue that while it is practically impossible for the state to remain neutral in all matters of language and culture, extending neutral treatment to language communities will generally (although not always) promote the value of fair opportunity for self-determination for all. I insist, however, that the state may rightly implement language policies (be they neutral or non-neutral) that undermine rather than advance fair opportunity for self-determination for all, provided that such policies are aimed at securing sufficiently weighty liberal goods, and impair fair opportunity for self-determination no more than is necessary to that end.
Supervisor: Green, Leslie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available