>From: email@example.com (Cynthia Kandolf)
Subject: Return of the US Language UL
Date: 12 Jul 92 16:43:24 GMT
Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org (NetNews Administrator)
Those of you who have been around here for longer than you care
to admit (like me) may remember the time someone brought up a legend
about German having narrowly missed becoming the official language of
the United States. This is a common story, and the usual cap to it
is that Congress voted – by a majority of one vote – to make English
the official language of the US, this significantly altering the
course of development in the US textbook publishing industry.
The story is false. Matter of fact, the US at present does not have
an “official” language in the sense of a language declared by law to
have special status; English is merely the de facto standard.
There _was_ indeed some discussion about which language to adapt,
with some strong seperatists arguing that English was the language
of the “enemy”. However, there were no cliff-hangers as suggested
by the legend mentioned above; the strong seperatists were a minority
group, and it was pretty clear from the start that most people
considered changing from English to be too much trouble. All this
junk was discussed the last time around, but i wanted to summarize it
for those who weren’t with us then.
The reason for bringing this up is that i have found an incident that
may be the source of this UL. (Drum roll.) My source is the
_Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language_, by David Crystal, published
by the Cambridge University Press, (c)1987. In the interest of
completeness, ISBN 0 521 26438 3.
from page 365:
_A planning myth_
Probably the best-known myth in the history of language planning is
the story that German nearly became the national language of the US in
the 18th century, losing to English by only one vote in the
legislature (the “Muhlenberg” legend). In fact, all that was involved
was a request, made by a group of Virginia Germans, to have certain
laws issued in German _as well as_ in Englih. The proposal was
rejected by one vote, apparently cast by a German-speaking Lutheran
clergyman, Frederick Muhlenberg (1750-1801). But the general status
of English as the majority language was never in doubt. (After S.B.
Heath and F. Mandabach, 1983.)
Just to show that i did my homework, the paper referred to is:
Heath, S.B., and Mandabach, F. 1983. Language status decisions and
the law in the United States. In J. Cobarrubias and J.A. Fishman
(eds.), _Progress in language planning: international perspectives_
(Berlin: Mouton), 87-105.