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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 18, 2021

Pluricentricity and minority languages: the difficult case of North Frisian

  • Nils Langer EMAIL logo
From the journal Sociolinguistica


Common definitions of pluricentricity rely on the notions of centre, nation, and norm, frequently without, however, offering sufficient detail on what precisely these mean. These terms are often applied to classify languages as pluricentric or not, without adequately recognising intra-linguistic variation and dynamics of power within a speaker community (language ownership). Using the example of a national minority language from North-West Germany, North Frisian, this article discusses how a narrow reading of the definition of pluricentricity would deny such a status to this language, when in fact the sociolinguistic situation of North Frisian matches that of many acknowledged pluricentric languages. Instead, the article suggests that the term nation should no longer be equated with state, that the term centre be further specified to determine what institution or which individuals have authority over language, and that the term norm be more clearly articulated to account for the variability in “correct” language use.


I am grateful to Temmo Bosse (Flensburg), Samantha Litty (Flensburg), Debbie Pinfold (Bristol) and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful criticisms and useful suggestions. I also owe the guest editors of this volume particular thanks for the invitation to submit my thoughts on North Frisian and for their suggestions for improving this contribution. Any remaining errors and infelicitous judgements are, of course, my responsibility.


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Published Online: 2021-11-18
Published in Print: 2021-11-12

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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