Re: US English

Subject: Re: US English
From: Sue Lindner <sjl -at- PARCPLACE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 1994 15:54:31 -0600

It all depends on what is meant by "official language." If it means that
everyone is stigmatized who speaks a language other than the official one, then
I agree there should be no official language.

On the other hand, it would be nice to adopt the European model of culturally
accepting that most citizens are bilingual -- they speak their local regional
dialect plus the standard dialect. The regional dialects often approach
mutually unintelligible, so everyone sees the need for a standard language for
commerce, education, etc. But no one is taught that their mother tongue is
unacceptable or wrong. Instead, standard dialect is taught in school, often as
a second language. My impression is that the standard dialect is regarded as
"more useful" for social and economic advancement, not "better."

Of course, the US situation is somewhat more complicated -- whereas most
regional dialects in Europe are written the same as the standard dialect, the
multiple languages in the US are not, so some serious language teaching would
have to take place.

But that's part of my point - to make any kind of standard or official language
really work (without destroying cultures), you need a broader cultural attitude
about language than we normally have in the US. We would need to actually value
multilingualism, regard it as normal, and then provide opportunities for people
to become multilingual. I'd rather invest up front with education dollars than
pay the price of isolated and antagonistic subcultures.

My $0.02 (deriving from my former life as a linguist)

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