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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

7 - Does the US have a language policy or just civil rights?

Summary

LANGUAGE IN THE US CONSTITUTION

Although the evidence shows that the spread of English is not the direct result of a successful policy for language diffusion, there remains the question of whether the UK and the United States actually have language policies? If so, in the absence of explicit constitutional statements of language policy, where does it reside and how can it be discovered?

Discussion of language policy has been rare in the UK; only recently have there been signs of a developing acceptance of the responsibility of the educational system to assure the maintenance of desired linguistic norms on the one hand and the granting of language independence to Wales and Scotland as part of devolution.

In the United States, in contrast, while there is a similar absence of an explicitly organized and implemented language policy, and while there was also traditional opposition to the notion of establishing a language academy or any other administrative body charged with its development and implementation, the issue of national language policy has arisen historically on a number of occasions. During and after the war of independence, the issue of a national language did come up but was left without any formal decision. Independence from British rule did not lead to seeking a new national language, although there were later moves to mark formally the distinctions of an American language (Weinstein 1982).