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Multilingualism in the United States

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2009


The scope of this paper is limited to an overview of mutilingualism in the U.S. from 1980 to the present. During this period, discussions of language diversity in the U.S. have been largely dominated by an effort to exert the hegemony of English. This effort has been brought on by changes in the demographic makeup of the U.S. population and supported by a commonly held belief that the economic strength of the U.S. in the international sphere is declining. A dramatic increase in the number of immigrants from Central and South America and the Pacific Rim, coupled with increasing economic competition from industrialized European and Asian nations, has resulted in widespread support for the exclusive use of English in the U.S. This emphasis on English is seen as a way to minimize the threat of the “foreign” influences that are believed to be undermining both the internal unity of the U.S., and its economic world dominance. Whereas nativism is nothing new in the U.S., its current intensity has been fueled by global aspects of migration and economic trade.

Country and Regional Surveys
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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