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Language Policy and Politics in the U.S.A: A Comparative History

Free «Language Policy and Politics in the U.S.A: A Comparative History» Essay Sample

Language Policy and Language Politics

Language policy is a set of rules that define favor or discourage the use of certain languages within a country while language politics is about determining how the differences in languages between people manifest on the political arena. In the US, the aim of the language policy and language politics is to allow integrity and effective communication given the diverse nature of the US regarding its ethnic background (McCarty 544). Linguistic assimilation unifies many groups with languages other than English (Marcia 26).

Language Strategist

They are people who consciously deploy actions to help in learning and speaking language effectively or executing multiplicity of tasks to advance learning performance to the highest level. In 1990, three individuals strongly influencing language in the way mentioned above emerged. They were O’Malley and Chamot who coined a classification mechanism for 3 forms of language learning strategies (Heath 15). In the same year, Rebecca Oxford formulated a framework for classifying them in six headings.

(Language) Policy Configuration

The goal of the policy configuration is to guarantee meaningful communication despite the multilingual nature of the nation. America consists of several ethnic groups that speak different languages. If the languages are configured, the data about them is stored in a business desk where everyone can access it. This information includes culture name and code as well as the display name for ease of communication (Macias 205).

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Status Planning and Corpus Planning

Status planning aims at developing a new writing system. It can be reached through the elevation of one of the languages to the state of preference and, at times, to the level of the official one (Lepore 69). On the other hand, the goal of corpus planning is the advancement of the existing language in order to make it the efficient medium of communication (Lepore 69). It involves creation of new words and modification of the old ones according to certain standards.

Ideology and Hegemony

Ideologies exist as sets of beliefs and ideas that define notions of power, status, and authority within a society. In the U.S., different characters have been propagating them explaining why things are the way they are. On the other hand, the hegemony occurs when schools, media, and other institutions reflect a particular ideology to the point that it becomes common. Ideological hegemony in the USA aims at building a strong socioeconomic system (Kloss 222).

Orientation of Language Policies and Their Definitions

Official language: English remains the main language adopted in the country for official use for the sake of unity and identity

Bilingualism: This orientation means simultaneous fostering two different languages during growth and development of a child (Mackey 17).

Multilingualism: It entails nurturing of more than two languages to give American citizens an opportunity to speak several languages as their native ones.

Internal working language: It is the variant of language to be used within work premises and institutions and must be a standard (Tollefson 17).

Linguistic purism: It is a practice, through which a nation can prevent the use of non-native languages in case they pose a threat to a country.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)

This treaty ended the war between America and Mexico. According to it, the first was added an additional territory of 525,000 square miles, from which were crafted such states as California, Arizona, and New Mexico among others. It was a treaty of peace and resettlement (Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma et al. 6).


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Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

The purpose of this act was to regulate the immigration of the Chinese citizens into the US (Kloss 27). It concerned both skilled and unskilled laborers while at the same time imposing requirements on the Chinese already being in the country. When returning after leaving the country, they had to refresh their registrations.

Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan (1907)

This agreement was signed to regulate tension between two countries. The conflict had intensified due to the immigration of the Japanese workers into the United States. An agreement was reached by United States lifting the ban on immigration, and Japan not allowing further emigration (Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma et al. 8).

The Treaty Period in the US

The Treaty period in the US began in 1846 when the country signed the treaty with Great Britain, which ended a long period of disagreement due to the resettlement of Oregon Country (Heath 80). The Oregon territory and Washington accommodated the Nez Perce in 1848 and 1853 respectively. The treaty of 1863 or the “steal treaty” eventually led to the war between the US army and Nez Perce people in 1877.

Doctrine of Discovery, Requerimiento, and Encomenderos

It was a colonization law that stipulated guidelines regarding discovery of new lands by the European Christians on non-European territories (Marcia and Wiley 83). If those lands already had occupants, new laws and rights would be drawn with the European country given priority. They dictated the manner, in which those territories would be utilized. A discoverer held property rights, power of governance, and land title. It was done without the consent of the native country. Even the independence of its citizens was violated since their political rights and activities were limited.

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Requerimiento was a declaration by the Spanish monarchy meant to stop the seizure of territories (Kloss 220). It was aimed at demonstrating the fact that the native inhabitants were exploited, subjugated, and even fought. The document was read in Spanish to the Native Americans in order to let them know of the Spain’s rights on the conquest of the territories. Those who resisted it were considered to have evil intentions and defy the God’s plan. The Spanish, therefore, used Catholic theology to justify their actions. Encomenderos, on the other hand, was a labor system that gave rewards to the conquerors participating in wars. They received the groups of natives who, in turn, were protected from further violation of their rights in line with the Christian faith (Health 48).

Muhlenberg Legend and the US National Language Academy

The aftermath of the American Revolution provoked a debate about the languages of those who had been oppressed the US (Macias 35). Among the languages suggested for the adoption as the official one, there were Greek, German, Hebrew, and French (McCarty 544). The issue was brought to the Congress for discussion and voting for official languages. During voting, there was a tie, and the question could not have been resolved. At the time when the events took place, Fredrick A. C Muhlenberg was the speaker of the U.S. Congress. He left his seat to break the tie, in which the view to adopt a new official language, German specifically, failed. Being a German, he was labelled a traitor and, eventually, lost an election in 1796. What followed was the founding of the National Language Academy that focused on learning and promoting the preferred official language, English (Macias 30). It was done under the guidelines of the language policies whereby the reasons for the English language were clearly stated.

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Compulsory Ignorance Laws, the Common School Movement, and US Boarding Schools for AmerIndians

Compulsory ignorance laws limited the access of the natives to the knowledge sector while the American citizens received high-quality education (Kloss 19). These regulations were aimed at the restriction of intellectual capacity of the slaves so that they would not be aware of their plight (Del Valle 275). On the other hand, the Common School Movement sought to divert the Native Americans from their cultural, political, and social structures by assimilating them into the larger white policies. Despite the efforts of the parents to prevent their children from visiting such schools, threats and detentions made them concede. The boarding schools allowed the white policy to spread on the US territory since children were kept away from their families and, therefore, could not learn the native way of life.

The Aztec Empire’s Language Policies and the Colonial Language Policies

The Aztec Empire’s language policies were developed in the New Spain, currently known as Mexico. With Americas domineering in several areas, the Spaniards preferred low profile regarding language for most times. It always led to the Spaniards’ use of different native languages to exercise power. On the other hand, the colonial language policies of England were structured in the way, which could provide English with the dominance over the other languages (Tollefson 29). This essay outlines common and distinctive features of the colonialists’ strategies.

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England was very active in propagating its official language showing it as a superior one as compared to the others whereas Spaniards were not so open in demonstrating their strategy. It was believed that the ideal teacher was an English one. In this aspect, English was best taught by a native, which was a bias. What is more, the earlier it was taught, the better were the results. It, therefore, meant that the learning of English started at very tender age leaving no space for the others. It seemed like the legalization of the only one language as and, at the same time, limitation of mastering of any other (Lepore 112). In England, the policies propagated that the intensified teaching of English brought the better results. It created an opportunity to promote the language whenever it was possible. It was believed that if other languages were used quite frequently, the result would be a drastic fall of standards of English. Such low criteria would not be accepted by the colonial power, which meant that English was taught much frequently (Leibowitz 21).

On the other hand, even though originally, more than 70 native languages dominated the Aztec Empire, the Spaniards promoted the adoption of the Castilian one, which was more unifying than the others. In England, the policies outlined that English was best taught as a singled language, what they referred to as the “monolingual fallacy”; this policy enhanced the spread of English and, at the same time, limited the development of other languages. Any other language was termed pollutant and, therefore, was not given an opportunity to be taught.

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Nevertheless, the two language policies shared commonality. The colonial language policies of England and Spain concerning Americas both had the goal of gaining eventual dominance but they used different strategies to propel their agendas (Perea 269). The existence of diverse languages was always viewed as an enemy to political stability. Another reason was the fact that it could intervene in administration and commerce. Basically, both strategies sought domination over the natives. They, thus, regarded their languages as superior, interesting, and rich ones. Both parties understood that championing for a means of unity would be vital in the ultimate conquest.

Unlike the British, the colonialists were not aimed at spreading the Spanish language; yet, the Spaniards knew that an effective use of their language would enable them to gain influence in military, moral, and historical contexts. The Aztec Empire’s language policies also sought spiritual conquest. Pope Alexander II had given the Spaniards the authority, right, and responsibility of converting the non-Christians to Christians (McCarty 25). The monarchs, therefore, had both the goodwill and strategy to realize their intentions knowing well that religion had the power of uniting people. In addition, there was a warrant of arrest and subjugation of those who declined the spiritual conquest. Owing to the fact that culture and language were inseparable, the Spaniards found it easy to assimilate others in their own culture by controlling the language used in communication (Parodi 15). They would always gather people in one place to be taught. It provided a platform for propagating other cultural aspects.

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What is more, the Spaniards used the language as a unifying factor. As a way of exercising military conquest, having a common language would be useful in organizing troops and communication for war (Parodi 17). It is important to note that such strategies had not existed before; that is why the Spaniards were labeled opportunists. In the strategy of England, the language was applied to the division of the society. English was presented as a language for noble and, at the same time, rich. It was well-established, propagated to have the best teachers and high-quality resources for learning. Consequently, other languages were denied in receiving the chance of advancing since English was associated with both modernity and technology. It became the language for use in every sector of life, and, eventually, achieved the goal of commonality and unity provision (Parrillo 28).

In conclusion, eventually, Spain gained military conquest that covered the whole world. The same case applied to Great Britain that colonized most of the existing countries and had English spoken in several of them. Though separated by time in history, these two nations have achieved the status of one of the most developed countries in the world.

Language Diversity, Activities, and Advocacy of Webster, Ai-Rahman, and Sequoyah

Language plays a central role in communication and identity interpreting. Each of them, therefore, operates under certain structures that aid in the understanding of the language and propagation of which it seeks to promote. Without language, even the other aspects of life skills would be paralyzed; it is true since language has informed poetry, music, and other important spheres of everyday routine (Kloss 151). Though their works occurred at various times in literature, they have had certain similarities and differences regarding policy, advocacy, and diversity.


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In their linguistic researches, Webster, Sequoya, and Ai-Rahman have immensely contributed to the language notion through its inception, development, and publication (Lepore, 44). The approaches as well as zones of interest of the scholars, however, differed. Webster contributed to the spelling construction while Sequoya concentrated on syllables of various characters in words. Ai Rahman, in turned, influenced Arabic literature through the new poetic structure.

Webster is widely known for having released spelling publication with an aim of educating the American citizens. His contribution has made him one of the most celebrated American scholars of all times and earned him respect. Not only did he make the improvement of this sector possible but also assisted in developing poetry in the USA through his wordings that have been used to coin meaning in it. His ancient writings date from the period before the independence and even afterwards; they have remained relevant across the history of American politics and, specifically, democracy (Lepore 66). He possessed wide range of knowledge having studied and mastered 28 different native languages. It provided him with enormous help in advancing the world of literature. Through this, he was able not only to introduce more than 12 thousand words that had not existed in any other dictionary before but also relate words to specific meanings (Lepore 67). Webster preferred the spelling that matched specific pronunciation. His impact on the language development is still noticeable in the contemporary English.

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On the contrary, Sequoya majored in syllabary and invented the eighty-five-character one (Macias 102). It was instrumental for the Cherokee people to whom he was believed to have been belonged. Those who interacted with him closely termed him a genius for his works in arts. He strongly promoted his people independence while continued performing in the field of linguistics. He began his work by assigning symbols for every word before moving to syllables and eventual decoding syllables for universal use. Being not educated enough, he experienced a series of learning courses, which the whites provided, and eventually became well-known for his works in literature. It adds to the fact that “his contributions were important in his country’s quest for independence…” (Macias 20). It was a great achievement for both him and the nation.

Ai-Rahman had been a slave for most part of his life and began his linguistic works by molding clay symbols and letters (Macke 21). He composed what is known today as “saj.” It was rhymed prose built on Arabic accent that mainly featured in Arabic poetry. Due to its poetic attractiveness, it often considered the “beauty of the Quran.” Unlike Sequoya and Webster who emphasized the structures of words, Ai-Rahman was concerned about flow of those words in sentences.

In conclusion, these characters have immensely contributed to the world of literature through their individual hard work. They undermined the existing myths about tough upbringing and managed to improve the area of literature. The Webster dictionary, famous Muslim theme song, and the great syllabary development to mention but a few represent just a part of their achievement.

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