Beyond an Anxiety Logic: A Critical Examination of Language Rights Cases before the European Court of Human Rights

Abstract

Language rights have traditionally been codified and discussed in the context of minority protection. The identification of language rights with questions of national minorities can, however, confound the analysis. This article explores the freedom of using a language and argues that the individual dimension of language rights must not be ignored beside the group dimension. The argument proceeds along a reading of three recent cases from the European Court of Human Rights, which concerned the use of Kurdish in Turkey. The Court’s reasoning illustrates the risk of an ‘anxiety logic’, which sees any language rights in connection with political claims of groups, thereby introducing additional conditions for the right and disregarding the significance a specific language can have for an individual, being more than a medium of conveying and receiving information. Conceptualising language use as an individual freedom is necessary also to account for situations other than national minorities, most importantly for the language rights of immigrants.