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

By Thomas Ricento; Barbara Burnaby | Go to book overview

4
National Language Policy in the United States

Thomas Ricento The University of Texas at San Antonio

Chapter 2 of this volume describes central differences between U.S. and Canadian approaches to cultural and linguistic diversity, arising from important differences in the sociopolitical histories of the two countries. There are, of course, many similarities; both countries, historically, have favored conformity to English, and, especially in the case of Canada, to British sociocultural norms. The francophone community in Quebec was able to withstand absorption into the dominant anglo culture, although the dream expressed by Pierre Elliot Trudeau of individual French/English bilingualism (the personality principle) for all Canadians is dead. In both countries, nondominant or, in the case of Canada, nonofficial (so-called allophone) languages have been in the shadows because English and French have dominated the stage. Although the survival of French in Quebec was greatly enhanced by the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, the English "fact" in North America continues to favor shift from French to English outside Quebec (see Beaujot, chapter 3; Cartwright, chapter 11; and Veltman, chapter 12, this volume), and from Spanish to English in the United States. In the United States, English achieved its unchallenged status as the national language through custom; from the earliest days of the republic, speaking English was understood to be a sine qua non for membership in the polity known as the United States. This was

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