Why is English the main language of the U.S.?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by science man, May 2, 2010.

  1. Omega133 Aus der Dunkelheit Valued Senior Member

    True. I was just wondering as to what is to be defined as North American in this thread.
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  3. soullust Registered Senior Member

    The USA really doesn't have an official national language, at the federal level.
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  5. soullust Registered Senior Member

    yes i agree, and the northern most north America was mostly descendent's, of British rule, as The British and the English language controlled more of this Planet then any other culture, still amazes me how a little island did that.

    There was a large mount of French as well but they lost, whats new?

    as there was a lot of spanish in the USA , but guess what they lost to the english as well.
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  7. TBodillia Registered Senior Member

    Considering that a Miranada Warning given in English to a non-English speaking person in the USA is not valid, I'd say you are wrong.

    USA has no official language. We have a predominant language. Many local & state governments are using English & Spanish. There was even one small city government that used only Spanish.
  8. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    They wait til the perp's in court before a Miranda is given? Wow!
  9. TBodillia Registered Senior Member

    It's all part of the same system. If the cops can't advise a non-English speaker of his/her rights in English, then the court can't try them using only English. A translator has to be provided at taxpayer expense.

    allow me to add this: 2010 is also a census year. The forms, official government forms, used to count our population are available in English, English/Spanish, Spanish, and several other languages.
  10. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    And if a translator is required that tends to suggest the court proceedings were by default in English. No?
    If English wasn't the normal language then a translator wouldn't be required for everyone else (judge, jury, lawyers) to understand the accused.
  11. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Why not Norwegian?
    Or, more obviously, some Native American language?

    Columbus was certainly not the discoverer of the US. In fact I don't think he ever came to land on any part of what is now the US. Apart from the issue of his late stage arrival in the New World.
  12. TBodillia Registered Senior Member

    "English Only" Rules May Violate Law

    2 cases where the courts ruled that employers could not implement English Only rules for the workplace. There are many more like that out there.

    Constitutional Topic: Official Language

    "Almost every session of Congress, an amendment to the Constitution is proposed in Congress to adopt English as the official language of the United States. Other efforts have attempted to take the easier route of changing the U.S. Code to make English the official language. As of this writing, the efforts have not been successful."

    "The ACLU believes that English-only laws can violate the U.S. Constitution's protection of due process (especially in courts where no translation service would be offered) and equal protection (for example, where English-only ballots would be used where bilingual ones were available in the past)."

    "English-only proponents like U.S. English counter that English-only laws generally have exceptions for public safety and health needs. They note that English-only laws help governments save money by allowing publication of official documents in a single language, saving on translation and printing costs, and that English-only laws promote the learning of English by non-English speakers."

    States with Official English laws: a map

    wiki: English-only movement

    2006: The U.S. Senate voted on two separate changes to an immigration bill in May, 2006. The amended bill recognized English as a "common and unifying language" and gave contradictory instructions to government agencies on their obligations for non-English publications.

    2007: In what was essentially a replay of the 2006 actions, on June 6, 2007 the U.S. Senate again voted on two separate amendments to a subsequent immigration reform bill that closely resembled the amendments to the 2006 Senate bill. Ultimately, neither the 2006 nor 2007 immigration reform bill has become law.

    2009: On January 22, voters in Nashville, Tennessee rejected a proposal under a referendum election to make "Nashville the largest city in the United States to prohibit the government from using languages other than English, with exceptions allowed for issues of health and safety." The initiative failed by a vote of 57% to 43%.

    State after state, even the "Official English" states, have driver's manuals (the manuals you study to obtain a driver's license) and the written driving test in English & Spanish.

    English is our predominant language. I find it odd that a non-American would argue about what is our official language.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    • In geology, North and South America are a single continent because there is no body of water separating them. The same is true of Afro-Eurasia.
    • In geography, North and South America are usually considered separate continents because their only connection is the Isthmus of Panama, which is only 30 miles wide at its narrowest. Nonetheless, that isthmus is a bridge between the two biological zones: armadillos, opossums and porcupines migrated to North America, and bears, cats, raccoons and the ancestors of the llamas migrated south. The isthmus formed only three million years ago, from sedimentation, but by separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific, it had an enormous effect on the world's weather patterns, which may have caused the formation of the Arctic ice cap and triggered the current ice age. (An ice age is defined as an era during which the polar ice caps and alpine glaciers never melt. This tremendous quantity of trapped water lowers sea levels by hundreds of feet. The current ice age began about 2.5 million years ago.)
    • In anthropology, North America is distinguished from Central America, which is more often called Mesoamerica in scholarly writing. The Olmec civilization arose in what is now Mexico and as it was taken over by the Mayans it spread into what are now El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. This region, which had attained the Bronze Age, was culturally distinct from the lands north of the Rio Grande. In what is now the eastern USA the Agricultural Revolution had occurred, and many of the Indian tribes there lived in permanent villages which traded with each other, but Stone Age technology was the state of the art and cities with their elaborately organized life had not yet been built.
    So anthropologically, Mexico belongs in Central America. Nonetheless, modern political concerns have redefined it as part of North America. The signatories to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are Canada, the United States and Mexico.
  14. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    You have clearly never heard of Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd.
    North America was discovered by a Welshman, so by rights Americans should all be speaking British, which is the native language of the Welsh, and quite unlike English.
    Iechyd da!

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  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Welsh, Cornish and Breton are descended from the Celtic language that was spoken in southern Britannia before the Angles and Saxons invaded. But linguists call that ancestral language Brythonic, not "British."

    The native Celtic languages of Britannia are called the Brythonic group, to distinguish them from Goidelic, the other insular Celtic language group spoken on Ireland, of which Gaelic and Manx are attested. (Gaelic is now also spoken in Scotland but it is not native to Britannia.)

    The Celts were once the only Indo-European tribes in Europe and there were many continental Celtic languages. But the faint, tantalizing fragments of writing that survive are not sufficient to reconstruct any of them.
  16. ( ͡° ͜ʖ͡°) Registered Member


    Allow me to show you the fault of your logic this way:

    A.) Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon.

    B.) Neil Armstrong spoke 20th century American English.

    C.) Therefore, the first people in the future to colonize the moon ought to speak 20th century American English.

    Hmm. . . .
  17. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

    I'd suggest any attempt to colonise a planet (or moon) in the future would likely be international, while they might use English as a common go between language they would likely keep their own languages alive.

    People can argue about the semantics, however English is known to have an extensive vocabulary which is constantly increasing, while this means being "wordy" it has the capacity to therefore be descriptive where other languages might lack a suitable term. It's ones of the main reason that it's the choice of multinational collaborating Scientists.
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's been said that language follows the coin, not the flag and not the holy book. The USA has the world's largest economy and trades billions of dollars every year with many other nations. So English is the de facto international language. Before that it was French, before that Latin, and before Europe became fully civilized it was Aramaic--which is ironic since the Aramaean people had already been swallowed up by the Melting Pot in Mesopotamia, leaving only their language as evidence of their existence.

    Today is not much different: We call our language "English" rather than "American."

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    Chinese has a vocabulary to match ours, and Chinese has a much better word-building engine that doesn't require borrowing three-syllable roots from Latin and Greek. As a result Chinese compound words are much shorter than ours, allowing the language to be spoken much more slowly, facilitating both learning and understanding for people for whom it is not a first language. These compound words are also much more intuitively understandable at first reading--without having to know Greek and Latin.

    In addition, Chinese grammar and syntax are much simpler than English: no inflections for singular/plural, present/past/future, masculine/feminine, etc. If you want to stress the fact that a certain event will take place tomorrow, you just say (duh!) "tomorrow" (which has only two syllables in Chinese). If you want to stress the fact that the person serving your meal is female, you just say (duh!) "female (which has only one syllable in Chinese) server."

    English is the language of science because science got a head start in England and the USA long before the Chinese adopted it, much less began doing important original research.

    If the U.S. Congress continues with its campaign to destroy our economy, the Chinese will be there to take up the slack... in their language. That's when they'll finally mandate use of the phonetic alphabet that has been ready for decades.
  19. Anew Life isn't a question. Banned


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  20. ( ͡° ͜ʖ͡°) Registered Member

    When the Japanese government tried to force their people to only use Romanji, there was protest.

    When you look at the many problems of Chinese society (and the fact that their economy depends on exploiting these problems), then China no longer seems the threat we're led to believe it is.

    And it's not just the low wages, long hours, and poor living conditions. It's more fundamental:


    The Chinese media reported to the world that her motivation was "jealousy," but the fact is that Chinese people often don't call ambulances when they need to. In China, if you cause a person to go to the ER, you foot the bill. For many people, it's cheaper and less consequential to simply allow the person to die.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The Japanese must be the most tradition-loving large nation on earth. China isn't quite so bad.

    The main reason that they haven't been able to switch to a phonetic writing system is that "Chinese" is not a single language, or even a set of dialects. Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghai, Fujian, etc., are not at all mutually comprehensible. The use of logograms resulted in the use of the same written language in every province (well about 95% the same, which is good enough), so they all write the same words in the same sequence, but they pronounce them completely differently. "Five," for example, is wu in Mandarin but ng in Cantonese.

    So there is currently no way to develop a phonetic transcription system that would be readable by the entire population. This is one of the major reasons for the campaign to teach Mandarin to all children in the country. When the elders die off and everyone speaks (or at least understands) the same language, they'll be able to convert to phonetic writing.

    The Pinyin system is quite serviceable, and does a good job of using the Roman alphabet without adding any special characters, even if Q and R are pronounced sorta like ch and zh and E is pronounced uh.

    Off the topic of linguistics, but Mexico is standing in the wings to take over. They've transformed themselves into a middle-class country in one generation, and are poised to "re-shore" our manufacturing. Wages are higher than in China but shipping costs are much lower across a border than across an ocean. Not to mention, Mexicans won't sell us poisonous dog food. The Chinese just want our money; the Mexicans want our hearts--they've loved us since we freed them from the French in the 19th century. Without those shipping costs, Mexican products can use a lot more American components, helping put our own people back to work. The average Chinese product contains 5% American content; the average Mexican product contains 40%.
  22. Gorlitz Iron Man Registered Senior Member

    American English, this is what at least many British people refer to as what most Americans actually speak, is now considerably different to the language actually spoken in most of England and indeed the whole of the UK. This is because over the centuries and decades America has sort to subtly change the way it's people speak the English language. Whilst it's true that many of the words being used are still indeed English words, the choice of using these words in context and also quite often the actual pronunciation is significantly different from those used and pronounced by actual English people. It's been an ongoing divergence that means if current trends keep up then it's quite conceivable that in the not to distant future English and American English really might actually start to be being viewed as seperate languages. This process seems part of a conscious desire on the part of the American media in particular to try and distance itself from British English and to stamp it's own identity on the language that most Americans are using.

    If we go out of England but still within the UK to say places such as Scotland or Wales we can really begin to see some real differences in the way English can be spoken, it's perhaps most noticable from an American perspective that the portrail of the way English is spoken in such places that some American broadcasters have even felt the need to provide it's audience with subtitles to make the dialogue more comprehensible to viewers. Possibly quite suprising when you consider that the people's of such countries are supposed to be speaking the same language as Americans, or perhaps possibly more indicative of the way the English language has changed in the way it's spoken in different parts of the world.

    Perhaps with this constant process of evolution of language taking place it wouldn't be all that much of a stretch for Americans to start to think about their language more in terms of being their language, "American", rather than merely it's original routes in English. This would perhaps help give a more appropriate sense of identity to the language of a country that has long since shed it's links to it's colonial past.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Four dialects of English are generally recognized by linguists and other scholars:
    • British English. Received Pronunciation or "RP" is the more-or-less official standard; we Americans refer to it as "Oxford English" or "BBC English." British English has the widest variations of all dialects, with vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation varying both by geography and by social/economic status.
    • American English. This includes Canadian. We used to have considerable regional differences, but after WWI the influence of radio, and after WWII television, have greatly leveled them. Children heard the same Hollywood-Manhattan hybrid accent everywhere in the country, and this mitigated the regional accents of their parents. The postwar mobility also contributed to this; the average family now moves to a different city about every ten years. The South used to have a distinct dialect that was not easy for the rest of us to understand, but today it's only an accent (differences in pronunciation but almost none in vocabulary and grammar) which we all easily understand due to the now-international popularity of country music.
    • Australia-New Zealand English. We Americans think they talk like Brits, but the Brits probably think they sound more like us.
    • Indian English. Virtually all educated Indians learn English almost from birth and speak it fluently. Since Hindi is the language of the New Delhi region, rather than give it an exalted status by making it their lingua franca, Indians from different provinces speak English to each other. It has vestiges of both British and American influence, but also a flavor of its own due to the substrates of the Indic and Dravidian languages.
    By definition, dialects are intercomprehensible, perhaps requiring only a few days of familiarization. Languages are not. And as I noted above, accents differ only in pronunciation and are generally intercomprehensible at first hearing.

    This definition does lead to some problems. The Estonians can understand Finnish because during the Soviet era there were no Estonian-language TV broadcasts. So they watched programs from Helsinki and eventually learned to understand the language. The Finns, on the other hand, can't understand Estonian. So are they dialects or separate languages?

    People who live near the border between Germany and the Netherlands speak dialects of German and Dutch that are very similar, and they can talk to each other pretty easily. But people in Berlin and Amsterdam cannot.

    A lot of Brazilians can understand Spanish because Latin America is inundated with Spanish radio, TV, movies, music and print media. But not so many native Spanish speakers can understand Portuguese.

    Most linguists, lexicographers, teachers, writers and other language professionals predict just the opposite. The same electronic revolution that leveled Boston, New York, Midwestern, Appalachian, Southern, Southwestern and West Coast American English into a single dialect has also brought American English into the theaters, concert halls and parlors of the U.K., and British English into ours. Sixty years ago it was very difficult for me to understand the dialog in a British movie (just as in Chicago I found it hard to converse with people from Alabama), but after the James Bond movies, Monty Python, Masterpiece Theatre, and the entire British Invasion of rock'n'roll stars, I now find English, Scots, Welsh and Irish people only slightly harder to talk with than other Americans. And the Brits have certainly had the same experience for the same reasons: Our original rock'n'roll became popular over there a decade before theirs came here, and our plethora of movies and TV shows inundated their theaters and airwaves.

    They picked up our slang word "chick" for "young woman" and then we absorbed their equivalent "bird." They've even begun to abandon their slang phrase "knock you up," meaning "pick you up at home," because over here it means "make you pregnant."

    All of our slang is being shared, enriching the language on both sides of the Whaleroad. (Nobody uses that name anymore but I think it's cute so I'm campaigning to bring it back.

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    Unlikely. We love England. Until the sun becomes a red giant and this planet can no longer support life, Americans will always be willing to die to defend Mother England. We'll never rename our language.

    I'd guess that the average American thinks that Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, Frodo Baggins and the Beatles are treasures of American culture. And they are, because we don't really draw a boundary between British and American culture.

    Even those of us whose ancestors came from Prague, Budapest, Tehran or Mexico City. When a person becomes American he also becomes a little bit English.

    As I've noted before, I can foresee a day, perhaps fifty years from now, perhaps one hundred, when British people will bring their children to America and show them the signs in miles, pounds, acres, gallons and degrees Fahrenheit, and say with a tear in their eye, "Bless these Yanks for preserving our culture."

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