Language Policy/Planning and Linguistic Rights in Sweden

Beatrice Cabau

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


As a result of immigration in recent decades and the long presence of national minorities, Sweden can be defined as a multilingual society. Numerous official documents related to language issues (government reports and bills) have recognized this linguistic diversity within Swedish society. But this recognition provoked a debate in which one of the main concerns was the possible codification of Swedish as the official language of the country in light of the encroachment of English in several domains. This debate was exacerbated with the official recognition of five minority languages in 2000. In 2009, Sweden introduced a Language Act establishing the position and status of Swedish as the “principal” but not de jure official language of the country. The same year, the Swedish Government passed the Act on National Minorities and National Minority Languages, which strengthened the rights of national minorities. This Act also contains provisions about the right to use minority languages in administrative authorities and courts. This paper will analyse the impact of these recent legislative texts on the status and use of Swedish, national minority languages and English. It will investigate complaints and criticisms related to use of language and linguistic rights addressed to the Ombudsman for Justice and the Ombudsman for Equality. It will highlight the impact of Swedish societal concerns on language issues in terms of the enhancement of linguistic rights for national minority language speakers as well as the use of Swedish in and outside the core domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-97
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Law, Language and Discourse
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

User-Defined Keywords

  • Sweden
  • national language policy
  • Swedish
  • minority languages
  • English


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