Thursday, 18 August 2016

Why does the USA not have an official language?


58 countries have English as an official language - but not the USA. 
This was a conscious decision of the Founding Fathers who decided that an official language would be divisive and undemocratic in a multi-lingual country. 

Around 30% of the 18th century population was German or Dutch speaking and there many other linguistic minorities:  
18 languages were spoken on Manhattan Island [now part of New York City] as early as 1646. The Dutch, Flemish, Walloons, French, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Portuguese, and Italians were among the settlement’s early inhabitants. (Vincent N. Parrillo, Diversity in America, 2008, p. 45; see: Page on sagepub.com)


British Influence

Not having an 'official' language is typical of majority English-speaking countries - including the UK. British legal, and political institutions tend towards adaptation and evolution rather than centralised control. This contrasts with other models like the French, for example.

Does the increase in Spanish speakers challenge English dominance of English?


Multi-lingual societies tend to function more effectively when there is an accepted lingua franca. Majority Spanish-speaking populations in some US cities has now made language a more politically polarising issue. Moves towards bilingualism in some states (e.g. California) has lead to laws formalising English as the official language in others. 


Nonetheless, English is the primary language in the USA and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

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