The concepts and metaphors of contemporary linguistic theory play a significant role in shaping conceptions of linguistic human rights. In particular, this article considers the concept of 'linguistic communities' and the metaphor of language as a system. Linguistic human rights are presented as protections for minority linguistic communities against absorption into the majority linguistic community. For minority linguistic communities to define themselves, they must create a model of their language that becomes a standard of linguistic purity, rejecting linguistic variation and thus impinging on the linguistic human rights of some portions of their group. The history of the linguistic community of francophones in modern-day France will be considered with in this perspective, concentrating on the 'internal linguistic imperialism' of a particular variety of Northern Gallo-Romance. The notion of language and linguistic community in France is thus shown to be the result of the interaction between the everyday metaphors of linguistic science, the linguistic mythology of the nation, and the language policies of the state.The same metaphors necessary for the creation of linguistic uniformity arethose embraced by defenders of the right to linguistic difference – notably the concept of language as a closed system which reflects a specific world view. Thus to keep the movement for linguistic human rights from repeatingthe drive for linguistic uniformity that it claims to oppose, a new concept of language and linguistic community is needed.