Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Language wars

Interesting post today on linguistic politics at The Economist's language blog:

There's not much to say about this, except to observe that one of the side-effects of English being the global language is that it performs a wide range of political and cultural tasks. Here it's a marker of either anti-immigrant sentiment or national pride, depending on your viewpoint (Oklahoma, Illinois); a proxy for a perceived threat to minority rights (Canada); and a statement of independence from a former hegemon (Georgia). Elsewhere, of course, it's become a symbol of cultural decline (France) or a mechanism of unity (India). I can't think of another language that plays such varied roles across so much of the globe. If politics is war by other means, linguistic politics is war by yet other means again. At least it's the most benign form of war there is.

I have to disagree with Johnson's assertion that this is "the most benign form of war there is." I think, say, persons indigenous to North America or Australia and whose histories include a war on their languages might agree.

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