To launch our new series on sociolinguistics, David Karlander examines what happens when concepts developed by scholars of language circulate and become embedded in policies and law. In exploring how the distinction between a “language” and a “dialect” became encoded in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), Karlander examines the consequences when applied to the status and state support of minority languages in Sweden. What counts as a language, he demonstrates, is not simply an “academic” matter. When sociolinguistics enters the public arena, it has the potential to affect the political and social standing of real communities.
David Karlander is a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, the University of Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD at Stockholm University in 2017. His research covers topics in intellectual history, sociolinguistics, semiology, and the philosophy of language. He currently investigates utopian visions of auxiliary languages in political thought, mainly during the first half of the twentieth century. He has previously published on minority language politics, the history of Scandinavian dialectology, graffiti, and the idea of deficit in theories of bilingualism.