WP189 Categorizing languages and speakers: Why linguists should mistrust census data and statistics

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This article concentrates on how census data are processed by statistical offices. It first investigates how the language categories displayed in language statistics are actually formed. After that, it considers the mechanisms by which speakers are assigned to specific language categories. With both processes, it addresses the underlying language ideologies, and the ways in which a certain view of the world is thus transported and reinforced. Finally, it discusses how these practices are linked with the paradigms of statehood and territoriality, and how they have been developed historically in the contexts of colonization and of ethno-national conflict. The paper draws on censuses and statistics in Austria to explore these questions, but the procedures used correspond to those in other countries that follow the guidelines set by the Conference of European Statisticians (United Nations 2006).