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Keywords:

  • liberalism;
  • language policy;
  • employment;
  • equal opportunity;
  • Wales

Do policies that seek to revive the prospects of minority languages transgress important liberal principles? The article will explore this question by focusing on one controversial aspect of language policy in Wales: the steps taken to set Welsh language requirements for some jobs in the public sector. This is a practice that has generated substantial debate, with opponents claiming that it undermines equality of opportunity in the field of employment and, in particular, transgresses the principle of appointing on the basis of merit. It will be argued here that such objections do not stand up to scrutiny. Efforts to promote a language's position in the field of employment do not undermine the principle of merit, but merely expand slightly on its meaning. Therefore, liberals should, in principle, be willing to endorse policies similar to those adopted in Wales in recent years. Nevertheless, the fact that these policies can be endorsed in principle does not mean that liberals would wish to exclude them completely from criticism. Rather, as will also be argued, the background conditions against which they are implemented and the degree to which these can influence an individual's linguistic ability should also be considered, and in the Welsh context, at least, this is an issue that may call for further attention.