Language Preservation Policies

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Dec 26 16:26:15 UTC 2008

Language Preservation Policies
Friday, December 19th, 2008

Public policies aiming to preserve a national language are most
commonly associated with small nations, whether they be small
nation-states (i.e., Iceland, Ireland, and Estonia) or minority
nations within a larger nation-state (i.e., Quebecois French, Basque,
Catalan, and countless indigenous languages). Nevertheless, now many
larger countries are taking action to preserve their majority

The most well-known case (and least surprising to anyone familiar with
stereotypes of the French) is that of France, with the Toubon Law of
1994 which mandates the use of French in all government documents,
commercial contracts, commercial communications and advertising. In
2006, Malaysia began fining those who mix English words into Malay –
so-called Manglish – in advertising and Iran it was decreed that all
adopted foreign words be replaced with Persian equivalents (with the
exception of Arabic, since it is the language of the Koran).

This week I've read that the ruling Christian Democrats of Germany are
trying to enshrine the German language in their federal constitution
as the country's official language in order to protect the national
language. Again, the main concern is the increasing use of English
words. According to a study by Hanover University, cited by the
December 16th The Independent article, "23 of the 100 currently
most-used words in German were in fact English".

There must be many other examples, but will any of them successfully
ward of the apparent forces of language change and anglicization? Only
time will tell.

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