On the concepts of indigenous people and indigenous language in Estonia and in international context


Keywords: indigenous peoples, terms, language planning

In recent years, opinions have been divided over the meaning of the term põlis­rahvas ’indigenous people’. The article compares some foreign counterparts of the term, particularly those used in the UN official languages. As it turns out, the Estonian word has two meanings in the least, while international law interprets the word differently from general Estonian. In order to avoid future misunderstandings, Estonia should adopt a special term for use in international law. In my opinion the hitherto synonymous pärisrahvas could do nicely. Also, the term päriskeel could be introduced to replace põliskeel in the sense of indigenous language. After all, the year 2022 has introduced the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.


Sven-Erik Soosaar (b. 1973), PhD, Institute of the Estonian Language, Senior Researcher (Roosikrantsi 6, 10119 Tallinn), svenerik@eki.ee