Multilingualism in Finland: A Legal Perspective

Paulina Tallroth


Multilingualism is an increasingly frequent societal phenomenon. More and more societies and individuals are, or have become, multilingual. Legislation is an important tool for language policy and, ultimately, language environment. Yet, it seems that little research has been dedicated to multilingualism from a legal framework perspective. The law is, generally speaking, blind to language. This means that the legal framework rarely takes into account the co-existence of several languages in a society other than national languages. In addition, there are altogether relatively few provisions regarding what language shall be used in which contexts. The article focuses on multilingualism in Finland where the cornerstone for the Finnish language policy of the country is laid down in the Constitution. Multilingualism is particularly interesting in a bilingual country Finland that has a long and solid history of language legislation. The country has over a few decades undergone change and rapidly developed into a multilingual country. This article examines whether the Finnish current legislation enables and supports the societal multilingualism or poses restrictions on the parallel use of several languages. Another more fundamental question discussed in this article is if societal multilingualism sets new demands on the national legislation.

Cite as: Tallroth, JLL 1 (2012), 33–49, DOI: 10.14762/jll.2012.033

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Copyright (c) 2012 Paulina Tallroth

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