Language in Turkey

Language Rights and Linguistic Pluralism in Turkey

Published by Bülent Bilmez

This book is based on the papers presented by specialists from different countries at a workshop series titled “Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights” that took place on 18, 19, 25-26 July 2020. The workshop series was organized by The Study Group on the Cultures of Turkey at Istanbul Bilgi University with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Istanbul and the contribution of the Network on Language Rights Monitoring, Documentation and Reporting (Dil Hakları İzleme Belgeleme ve Raporlama Ağı, DHİBRA). During the first three sessions of the workshop series, the issues of linguistic diversity and language rights were discussed in their various dimensions. During the last session of the workshop series, human rights monitoring and reporting with respect to linguistic rights were discussed by experts in the field. The three papers presented at the last session, mostly focused on experience and observation sharing, compose the last part of the book. All papers were revised by the authors after the presentations, and most were re-written in the form of developed articles. The comments and recommendations of the discussants at the end of the sessions have contributed enormously to this revision and rewriting process.

The issues of linguistic diversity and linguistic rights discussed in the 14 articles in this book are, unfortunately, neglected subjects in Turkey. The first part of this edited volume, “Various Dimensions of Linguistic Pluralism, Language Politics and Linguistic Rights” is composed of seven chapters and aims to comprehensively examine an issue on which there is insufficient literature written in Turkish or translated from other languages. Opening with a contribution by Bülent Bilmez presenting a general panorama and theoretical-conceptual framework for discussions on linguistic plurality in Turkey, the first part contains the following articles: Christoph Schroederdiscussing social multilingualism in Turkey’s case;İnci Dirim presenting her study on teaching German as a second language in Germany and Austria with reference to obstacles in Turkey; Ingrid Gogolin & Irina Usanova outlining the results of their fieldwork on multilingual education in Germany; and Şerif Derince also focusing on multilingualism in education through a discussion of the issue of Kurdish language elective courses in Germany with a comparative discussion on Turkey. Among the other two papers in the first section, Cuma Çiçek resumes the topic of ‘revitalization of languages’ through a comprehensive and critical analysis of the relevant classic literature on the subject. Anu Leinonen discusses the matter of ‘language shift’ between Kurdish and Turkish languages and the reversion of this process within the context of sociolinguistics and politics. Most of the papers in the first part were radically revised or rewritten after the workshop presentations. Taken together they provide a competent ground for further discussions and studies on the rather neglected subjects in the Turkish context of linguistic plurality and especially ‘multilingual education’ and ‘multilingualism in education’.

The second part of the book, titled “Legal Framework,” consists of four papers dealing with the national and international legal dimension of language rights and linguistic plurality. In the first paper dealing with the international legal framework, Olgun Akbulut offers a critical short summary on the place of linguistic rights in international law. Ruth Bartholomä critically analyzes, on the other hand, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages within the framework of sociolinguistics. Derya Bayırmakes a comprehensive evaluation of linguistic rights in the jurisdiction in the framework of international law while also taken into account the situation in Turkey. In the last paper of this part, Salim Orhan outlines the legal framework of linguistic rights in Turkey without neglecting the socio-political context.

In the third and final part dedicated to “General Observations and Experiences” about monitoring and reporting human rights in general, leading figures in the field discuss “The Process of Monitoring, Reporting and Defending Human Rights” with respect to their three fields of specialization. Feray Salman, a senior expert on human rights in Turkey, provides a brief methodological framework and discusses some challenges experienced in conducting fieldwork. Mine Yıldırım, a pioneering expert of freedom of belief and religious rights in Turkey, focuses on methodology and practical challenges in her fieldwork. Her references to linguistic rights reveal the intersectional nature of human rights and prove the inevitability of a holistic approach for future work. The author of the last paper of the book, Adem Arkadaş-Thibert, focuses on the most sensitive issue of children rights from a perspective of linguistic rights. Deriving from his experience-based competence, he draws attention to specific problems in conducting monitoring and puts forward suggestions on how to overcome them.

This edited volume proposes to fill a substantial gap in Turkey about linguistic rights as an essential part of cultural plurality. We hope that it will be a useful source for academic and non-academic researchers along with the language activists, who conduct or plan to conduct research on languages of Turkey, linguistic plurality and linguistic rights.