The Policy of Unilingualism

Countries that practise unilingualism generally promote or support only one language in political, social, economic and legal terms. In these cases, the term official language applies. And when the policy involves the language spoken by the country's majority, one refers to the national language if it has indeed reached official-language status. However, official languages don't always qualify as national languages; for instance, official languages can be colonial languages of international scope-the African continent and its history provide a striking example.

Official unilingualism is applied by 80% of the world's interventionist (and sovereign) states: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Cambodia, Cyprus, Colombia, North Korea, South Korea, Croatia, Egypt, Spain (State), Estonia, United States, Greece, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iran, Iceland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait City, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Morocco, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nepal, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Peru, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, and the list goes on.

Though unilingualism generally means that countries recognize only one language, nothing prevents these countries from either granting certain language rights to their minorities or suppressing any such rights. Indeed, many countries proclaim their uniligual status while taking special measures to protect their minorities. Examples are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Moldova and Romania. In Canada, for example, Ontario and Quebec, though officially unilingual provinces, provide their respective French-language and English-language minority with rights that almost match those of the majority. And in contrast, despite being officially bilingual, the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, provide much less extensive rights to their Francophone minority than do Ontario and Quebec to their respective minorities; that's because the tiny minority numbers in the territories simply do not warrant the same recognition on a practical level. Provinces such as Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have also started to introduce fairly broad and specific rights for their Francophone minorities.

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