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Sylva Reznik

Sylva Reznik holds a PhD in law and linguistics from Lancaster University, United Kingdom. She was supervised by prof Ruth Wodak in linguistics and prof Sigrun Skogly in Law. Her thesis was focused on linguistic human rights and her research was funded by a grant for interdisciplinary research of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Lancaster University. Previously, she had earned an MA from the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom) in international relations – research track, and she also received degrees in Law and Linguistics from Charles University in Prague. Her research interests include critical discourse analysis, language in politics, language planning and minority rights. Currently, she is a lecturer of Law in English study programmes at Czech University of Life Sciences and she convenes a course on ‘Nationality and Minority – Critical Discourse Analysis’ at Charles University.

Migrant Languages in Czechia and Poland: Legal Dichotomies

This paper compares the laws regulating minority languages in Czechia and Poland. According to Czech legislation (Act No. 273/2001 Coll.), the official use of minority languages in contact with state authorities is reserved for national minorities who reside in the territory of Czechia ‘traditionally and for a long time’ (§§ 8-11). However, Czech law does not mention any criteria for determining which groups belong under this privileged category and there is no explicit enumeration of such groups. Polish law (Act of 6 January, 2005, Journal of Laws No. 17, item 141), does not make such differentiation. Article 2 explicitly enumerates national and ethnic minorities in Poland and lists the criteria a group has to meet to be regarded as such. One of the conditions a group must meet is that ‘its ancestors have been living in the present territory of the Republic of Poland for at least 100 years’ (Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3).

The two particular legal systems have been chosen for comparison in this paper, because the two countries have similar modern histories and legal cultures. The aim is to respond to the following research question: Does the language of the above-mentioned laws work as a source of nationalist policy and anti-immigration discourse? The methodology and the theoretical framework employed is critical discourse analysis (CDA), and, in particular, the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA). According to the principle of ‘triangulation’ in DHA (Reisigl and Wodak, 2009: 89), the analysed data include texts of legal documents, official information released by the Czech central government and Czech public media releases. The discursive strategies thereof are analysed: the referential strategies, by which social actors are constructed and represented as ‘in-groups and out-groups’ (Wodak, 2009: 319) and predicational strategies which ‘label these social actors’ (Wodak and Reisigl, 2003: 386).