Language Education Policy Studies
An International Network
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Language Marginalization and Linguicide 

Despite the preponderance of multilingualism and the notion of linguistic repertoire that defies claims of monolingualism as a norm, we live in a “multilingual world of vanishing languages” (Skutnabb-Kangas 2009), most of which are Indigenous languages. Many languages have faced extreme marginalization. In “Key Concepts of Bilingual Education” by Skutnabb-Kangas and McCarty, linguicide, or linguistic genocide, is defined as

The deliberate elimination of a language, without killing its speakers; forcing speakers to give up a mother tongue through “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”; “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” (United Nations International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948, E 793, Articles 2e and 2b); or “prohibiting the use of the [mother tongue] in daily intercourse, or in schools, or the printing and circulation of publications in the language of the group” (from the 1948 Final Draft of the above, not part of the Convention)” (2006).

Schooling and educational policies historically are why, for example, out of 900 Amerindian languages that were spoken in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century, only 300 survived, and linguists anticipate that in about 20 years only 30 of these languages will still be spoken. The United States, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Canada is in the block of the world most responsible for linguistic and cultural genocide (Bear Nicolas, 2009) largely through education.

National frameworks and policies for multiculturalism or linguistic hegemony play a role as well. Immigrants and linguistic minorities in European and U.S. face language shift through schooling and work. In some cases, the ‘minorities’ are becoming the numerical majority- for example Spanish speakers in the U.S. and Arabic speakers in Europe. Besides the loss of entire languages there is language attrition: the loss of structures, vocabulary, knowledge; as well as the loss of language ability and literacies (See Semi-lingualism).

Our hope is that this website illuminates these crucial issues and further research is undertaken related to the use of education for genocide through cultural and linguistic assimilation, both theoretically- to uncover the ideology, and practically- to find solutions. Furthermore, the goal is to not simply explain it or explain it away, but to take some concrete action.

See Language Discrimination, Education vs. Institutionalized Schooling, LEP and Indian-Americans, LEP and Minorities, Language Evolution. For solutions please see Multilingual Education, Deep Education, Importance of LEPs.




Corsican genocide (interesting history): 

A few references:

Adams, D. W. (1995). Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928. Lawrence, KS: Universitiy Press of Kansas.


Harrison, K. David (2007). When Languages Die. Chapter 1 In A World of (Many)

Fewer Voices (pp. 3-21). Oxford University Press.


Hill, J. H. (2001). Dimensions of Attrition in Language Death. In L. Maffi (Ed.), On Biocultural Diversity: linking language, knowledge, and the environment (pp. 175-189). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press


Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Dunbar, R. (2010). Indigenous Children’s Education as Linguistic Genocide and a Crime Against Humanity? A Global View. Galdu Cala. Journal of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, 1.


Skutnabb-Kangas, T., & McCarty, T. L. (2006). Key concepts in bilingual education: ideological, historical, epistemological, and empirical foundations (Encyclopedia of Language and Education ed., Vol. 5). (J. C. Hornberger, Ed.) New York.


UNESCO. (2012). UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from UNESCO:


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. (2013). Language Marginalization and Linguicide. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).