Language Loyalties Essay - Critical Essays

Language Loyalties

LANGUAGE LOYALTIES will be an invaluable resource for anyone studying the isssues raised by the Official English movement. Included here are historical documents, reprints of recent articles, and material prepared expressly for this volume; a detailed chronology traces the development of the Official English movement from 1980 to 1990.

The volume is divided into six sections. Part 1 provides historical background concerning language policy in the United States. Part 2 focuses narrowly on the Official English debate, while part 3 considers “Symbolic Implications of Language Conflict.” Parts 4 and 5 are closely interrelated, addressing the question of minority language rights and focusing particularly on bilingual education. Part 6 offers “International Perspectives on Language Politics.”

One caveat is in order. In his introduction, editor James Crawford acknowledges his bias, and that of the others who participated in the 1988 conference that was the genesis of this source book. Crawford is strongly critical of the Official English movement. (For a book-length elaboration of his views, see HOLD YOUR TONGUE: THE POLITICS OF “ENGLISH ONLY,” just published by Addison-Wesley.) While he does include a handful of pieces by supporters of the Official English movement, Crawford always frames them in such a way as to undercut their claims, sometimes adding critical editor’s notes as well. Crawford is certainly right to assert that “It is time that Americans had a constructive discussion about language policy.” The discussion in LANGUAGE LOYALTIES is a start, but it is a one-sided discussion, not a debate or a dialogue.