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

By Thomas Ricento; Barbara Burnaby | Go to book overview

I
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This book is about language policy. The various authors who have contributed chapters have taken language policy to mean everything from interpretations of national constitutions, through legislation, official statements by governing bodies, government funding of language related activities, and court rulings, to the implications of lack of government action. This book is also a comparison between Canada and the United States. Because the policy focus mainly implies government action or lack of it, this book might have become a forum for discussion of the differences between the structure of governments of the two countries. However, this has not been the result. Language being the pivotal element in human thought and relationships that it is, discussion in this book has turned on intergroup relations in the two countries -- in symbolism and communication, in rivalry and cooperation, in rhetoric and action. Of course, the official policies of governments are central to these chapters because they are overarching statements about linguistic relations within the political units, but the real meat lies in analysis of the rich and complex, historical and contemporary networks of human interests that have become associated with language. Yes, these two countries have different histories, population configurations, pressures, and governance, but comparisons between the two are fruitful for both sides because fundamental human dynamics related to identity, power, and justice are common to both. Therefore, this book is about language policies, but it is about much more besides, and the comparison makes new and relevant issues and insights available.

Because the context of language policy dominates discussion in this book, policy is analyzed in terms of its symbolic value to those who make it and those who are affected by its provisions. In Part I, Schmidt (chapter

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