|This article proposes a panorama of European languages and Nation-States
at the dawn of the year 2000. It follows a book (Baggioni, 1997) that attempts to offer a
sociolinguistic contribution to the political and cultural history of Europe, from 1450
The European continent is seen as spreading from the Atlantic to the Ural, with Russia and Turkey serving as interfaces with Asia.
The article rests on the proposition that the concept of « language as national emblem » is not rigourous enough to describe European States although the vast majority of these States now have their own national language and although the after-Gorbachev period is caracterized by an irresistible movement towards momolingual territorialism in Eastern and Central Europe.
In Western Europe, multilingual States are only exceptions and serve as counter examples. Which raises the question if we are, perhaps, not witnessing the last demands of national minorities who have gained some rights in Spain, France and Italy? In fact, the recognition of plurilingualism at the regional level where a language other than the national language is officialized in public domains represents, for the modern Nation-State, an acceptable compromise between the affirmation of a unique national language and the linguistic/identity mobilization of minorities.
Is there hope for « small languages » and verculars in this new world of communication? It is obvious that the languages of « wider communication » have the double advantage of benefiting form a larger number of speakers and from more producers of cultural products than « small languages ». These languages of wider communication also attract speakers who fell restrained in vernacular languages. As for the popular idioms, those mainly of oral usage (dialects, minoritized languages within a Nation-State), the processus of death by suffocation are well known.
Can we, for all that, predict the disappearance of « minoritized languages » in this Europe that affirms its liberalism in linguistic and cultural matters? The answer lies in the double meaning of the word « liberalism ». If, on the one hand, its economic meaning dominates, the market of linguistic exchanges condemns to a short-term death these witnesses of a time when the economies were not unified. If, on the other hand, the political and cultural meaning takes precedence, one can only wish a « cultural exception » for these symbolic goods that are in need of important public assistance in order to survive.
For the ecolinguistic organisation of its communicational space, Europe has to face the challenge of the intensification of inter-national exchanges and of the consequent needs for standardisation. The most hopeful scenario would be one of progress in multilingualism, in the increase in the number of bilingual European with different linguistic combinations to insure intercomprehension between different peoples