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Part II Substantive Aspects, Ch.16 Language as Cultural Heritage

Bruno De Witte

From: The Oxford Handbook of International Cultural Heritage Law

Edited By: Francesco Francioni, Ana Filipa Vrdoljak

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 26 January 2021

Right to language

This chapter addresses linguistic heritage as part of cultural heritage. The use of a language not only serves as a means of functional communication but also expresses the speaker’s cultural identity as well as the cultural heritage developed by all previous users of that language. One can say that legal measures that allow for the public use of a particular language, or that impose the use of that language in certain contexts, contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage of a country. However, UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Convention includes within its scope the oral traditions and forms of expressions that use language as their tool. In other words, language is protected because, and to the extent that, it gives expression to an element of a community’s intangible cultural heritage other than the language itself. Therefore, international law plays only a limited role in protecting language-as-heritage.

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