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



Language policy debates regularly refer to the principles of personality and territoriality. Yet the precise meaning of these principles remains unclear. In this contribution, I conceptualize these principles as poles of a continuum between official bilingualism (instantiating the personality principle) and official unilingualism (exemplifying the territoriality principle), with a mixed regime in between (which grants a certain territorial primacy to a language, but allows exceptions based on linguistic affiliation). The question of the determination of particular points on the continuum cannot be separated from the metaterritorial question of the boundaries of the units within which those principles apply. Application of this ‘continuum model’ to Belgium draws attention to three language-political regimes. The first invokes a strict personality principle (Brussels). The second follows the strict territoriality principle (almost all municipalities in Flanders and Wallonia). The third is a mixed regime (a total of 27 ‘municipalities with facilities’ where one language enjoys primacy but speakers of another language enjoy certain linguistic ‘facilities’). The article also analyses the manner in which these regimes were historically established in Belgium in combination with a delineation of the language border and the division of the country into four language areas.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Belgium; Brussels; language policy; linguistic justice; territoriality principle
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