Volume 45, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0272-2690
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9889



This article revisits a well-known dichotomy (the ‘territorial’ and ‘personal’ principles) and develops a four-element classification of state approaches (from the most generous to the most menacing, from the perspective of speakers of minority languages). The article examines the implications for language policy of geographically dispersed or spatially concentrated patterns of distribution of speakers of particular languages. We begin by exploring the general literature on language policy, focusing in particular on the territorial and personal principles, the use of ‘threshold rules’ at municipal and other subnational levels, and the hybrid language regimes that are often a consequence of sociolinguistic complexity. We consider the extent to which responses to linguistic diversity across Europe may be understood by reference to these principles and categories. We explain why we have selected particular case studies (the Baltic republics, Transylvania, Switzerland, Belgium and Ireland) for further exploration. We conclude that, notwithstanding the value of the typologies we consider, real-life cases are almost invariably more complex, with states implementing policies that defy categorisation, that may change over time, and that may treat different language minorities by reference to different principles.

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