English, brought to you tonight by the Republican Party

Dennis Baron debaron at illinois.edu
Sat Sep 6 19:22:21 UTC 2008


There's a new post on the Web of Language:

English, brought to you tonight by the Republican Party

The 2008 Republican Party Platform supports English as the official  
language of the United States.

That fact may have gone unnoticed this week as speakers at the  
Republican National Convention spent most of their time celebrating  
war, teen pregnancy, creationism, subprime mortgages, and the  
constitutional right of Americans to ignore any inconvenient truth  
they like.

Now the Republicans, who have already gone on record favoring an  
employer's right to choose English in the workplace, want big  
government to intrude even further into the lives of Americans by  
making English official. If more Americans spoke English, they argue,  
Americans could demonstrate their patriotism while at the same time  
making it easier for the government to read our emails and tap our  
cell phones.

But official English is a move that the founders never thought  
necessary. America in the 18th century was multilingual, a land  
permeated by speakers of English, German, French, Swedish, Dutch and  
Spanish, not to mention the many African languages brought here by  
slaves, and the even greater number of native languages spoken by the  
residents of the new world long before the Europeans declared it to be  
new (the term "native American" referring instead those American Anglo- 
Protestants who thought that Indians, Africans, Catholics, Jews, the  
Irish, and just about anybody else who wasn't like them should go back  
where they came from).

However, that was then and this is now. Today the United States is a  
different kind of multilingual land, one permeated by speakers of  
English, Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian,  
Polish, Arabic, Japanese, French Creole, Hindi, Persian, Urdu,  
Gujarati and Armenian, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

...  today's America displays the kind of linguistic diversity that  
strikes fear in the hearts of red-meat, small-town nativists, and the  
Republicans are justifying their official English plank because for  
them English not only symbolizes national unity, it is also "the  
fastest route to prosperity in America."

Ignoring for the moment the inconvenient truth (it's not a theory)  
that English-speakers brought us the current financial crisis, surely  
a threat to prosperity, English, as delegates to the convention might  
have put it, serves as a convenient shibboleth allowing the real  
Americans to spot the illegal ones.. .

angry? sympathetic? whatever your political leanings or your feelings  
about language, read the rest on the Web of Language
____________________
Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

http://illinois.edu/goto/debaron

read the Web of Language:
http://illinois.edu/goto/weboflanguage







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