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An essay on the relationship between linguistic differences and inequalities
There are many cases in which language seems to have an important role to play in the problem of political, economic, social and/or cultural inequalities between various social groups. A great number of cases are reported and discussed in diverse disciplines, ranging from linguistics to political science. For example, there are language conflicts, minority groups who are not permitted to use their mother tongues in education, foreign or esoteric languages symbolizing the prestige of the dominant group, accents or dialects stigmatized by the majority group, and many others. In spite of the importance of the problems involved, however, there has been no serious attempt to explore the relationships between language and inequality in a unified perspective. The present essay is a preliminary attempt to explore the role of language in the problems of social inequalities. Assuming that the relationships between language and inequalities should be treated in a unified theoretical perspective, it first proposes a tentative theoretical framework to treat them, and then, on the examination of various concrete examples, shows that linguistic differences at all levels of language can reflect, maintain, and/or reinforce ineqauqlities. In addition, it shows that linguistic differences performing this fucntion range from those of a single linguistic item like a word or a pronunciation of a particular sound to those between languages or language groups. Finally it proposes the notion of language form, as a concept to capture the full range of the diffrences, and argues that all linguistic differences can theoretically be seen in a unifed way as those of the language form.