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Houston Law Review





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There is no clearly defined “right to language” in the United States. Yet, there do exist sources of such a right. For example, a constitutionally protected right to express oneself or receive communications in a language other than English is supported by a number of federal court decisions. Further, there may be a first amendment right to receive broadcast programming in languages other than English, and some federal statutes even provide a guarantee of the exercise of language rights in a number of public and civic contexts.

In spite of these sources for a right to language, it is an unfortunate reality that many monolingual persons in the United States feel threatened by the use of a language they do not understand, and exhibit hostility toward the concept of legal recognition of the right to use any language other than English. But while no one would seriously challenge the fact that English is the predominant language in this country, it does not follow that the native speaker of a language other than English should be officially stripped of his or her tongue in order to obtain English proficiency and socio-economic success.

Instead, it is time to recognize a human right to language in the United States. By analyzing the existing sources of a right to language and the many reasons to be willing to accommodate more than one language, an analytical framework for the recognition of the human right to language can be developed. Only through such a framework can a clearly defined right to language can be established, and a right to language is necessary if the United States is to avoid the disenfranchisement of countless voters and the imposition of second-class status and feelings of inferiority upon countless children.

Recommended Citation

Bill Piatt, Toward Domestic Recognition of a Human Right to Language, 23 Hous. L. Rev. 885 (1986).

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