Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities

Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities

Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities

Language and Politics in the United States and Canada: Myths and Realities

Synopsis

This volume critically analyzes and explains the goals, processes, and effects of language policies in the United States and Canada from historical and contemporary perspectives. The focus of this book is to explore parallel and divergent developments in language policy and language rights in the two countries, especially in the past four decades, as a basis for reflection on what can be learned from one country's experience by the other. Effects of language policies and practices on majority and minority individuals and groups are evaluated. Differences in national and regional language situations in the U. S. and Canada are traced to historical and sociological, demographic, and legal factors which have sometimes been inappropriately generalized or ignored by ideologues. The point is to show that certain general principles of economics and sociology apply to the situations in both countries, but that differing notions of sovereignty, state and nation, ethnicity, pluralism, and multiculturalism have shaped attitudes and policies in significant ways. Understanding the bases for these varying attitudes and policies provides a clearer understanding of the idiosyncratic as well as more universal factors that contribute to tensions between groups and to outcomes, many of which are unintended. The volume makes clear that language matters always involve issues of culture, economics, politics, individual and group identities, and local and national histories.

The chapters provide detailed analyses on a wide range of issues at the national, state/provincial, and local levels in both countries. The chapter authors come from a variety of academic disciplines (education, geography, journalism, law, linguistics, political science, and sociology), and the findings, taken together, contribute to an evolving, interdisciplinary theory of language policy.

Excerpt

Although we usually take our language environment for granted, it becomes a visceral issue when we feel that it is being tampered with. in recent years in Canada and the United States, language policy issues of various sorts have gained considerable profile, and the resulting public and academic discussion has generated at least as much heat as light. Oceans of ink have been spilled in both countries; we have peered across our common border to see if responses to domestic language problems in our neighbor's yard might be relevant to our own situations. Because we are neighbors, we have much in common, but we are different as well. Therefore, we have both profited from and been misled by the examples found in each other's situations.

The aim of this book is to explore parallel and divergent developments in language policy and language rights in the United States and Canada, especially in the past four decades, as a basis for reflection on what can be learned from one country's experience by the other. Effects of language policies and practices on majority and minority individuals and groups are evaluated. Differences in national and regional language situations in the United States and Canada are traced to historical, sociological, demographic, and legal factors that have sometimes been inappropriately generalized or ignored by ideologues. the point of the volume is to show that certain general principles of economics and sociology apply to the situations in both countries, but that differing notions of sovereignty, state and nation, ethnicity, pluralism, and multiculturalism have shaped attitudes and policies in significant ways. Understanding the bases for these varying attitudes and policies provides a clearer understanding of the idiosyncratic, as well as more universal factors that contribute to tensions between groups and to outcomes, many of which are unintended.

This volume is directed toward the attention not only of academics and graduate and undergraduate students, but also of policymakers and those with a general interest in the role of languages in these two countries.

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