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147944.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:03 am Reply with quote

“Last May, the American Senate declared English to be the country’s official language to prevent Spanish assuming this role.”
- Sunday Telegraph, 8 Oct 06.

If true, prompts an obvious Gen Ig question.

147957.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:44 am Reply with quote

This came up in the outside forums only yesterday, and for sure if true it would provide a nice double bluff - "everyone knows" that it's English, except those who know that there isn't one, except those who that there now is.

Only thing is, it's not quite true.

Senate voted on 18 May 2006 to declare English to be the national (not "official") language of the United States.

This formed part of a debate on an immigration bill, but the bill hasn't passed the House of Representatives and hasn't been signed into law.

Even if it had been, it would be entirely possible to argue that a national language isn't an official language.

147962.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 11:49 am Reply with quote

Thanks, suze - so what is a national language?

147986.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:46 pm Reply with quote

Different countries use the term in different ways - for instance Ireland considers Irish its national language, while both it and the alien invader English are official languages.

Conversely, a people may call their language a "national language" even though it has no official status. Diné (Navajo) is for instance a national language of their nation, but their official business is done in English.

Quite what Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) meant by "national language", only he can know. His first draft of the bill alluded to above used "official language", but he changed it at the last moment. Conjecture at this stage, but perhaps the introduction of an official language was felt to be a Constutional matter and so beyond the scope of a mere Senate bill.

148067.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:24 pm Reply with quote

Yes, that makes sense - but even so, an officially legislated national language, it seems to me, is either an official language by another name ... or it's nothing.

Presumably, the latter is the case here; merely a race/culture-centred political gesture, with no actual effect at all?

148075.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:39 pm Reply with quote

Maybe the distinction is that Official Languages have to be used in legislation & what-not in order for the laws to be valid whereas National Language is a term which recognises a cultural or historical practice which isn't necessarily reflected in official circles, ie it's a sort of de jure vs de facto thing.

In India, English is an Official language (laws are written in it), but I suppose it wouldn't be regarded as a National language. And the EU has 23 Official languages, but not Turkish (spoken in some of Cyprus) or Luxembourgeois (spoken in Portugal, no, I'm joking, Luxembourg - by middle-class people).

149154.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:50 am Reply with quote

“Jafaikan or Jafaican is a blend of Jamaican and African ...It’s not a word you’ll find in any dictionary, but it can be heard on the streets of London. A number of newspaper articles last week used it to describe a new multicultural dialect that is appearing among young Londoners, whether their parents are of Bengali, West Indian, Arab, Brazilian, or English stock. ... A team of linguists are investigating this emerging speech form, as a three-year project led by Professor Paul Kerswill at Lancaster University. They prefer the neutral term Multicultural London English (MLE).”

Full neng story at

163725.  Fri Apr 06, 2007 2:01 pm Reply with quote

Possibly a Gen Ig thing related to English - it was news to me anyway. The Bodleian Library has just published a new copy of the first dictionary of the English language, which was not written by Dr Johnson (as I had thought) but by a chap named Robert Cowdray in 1604, and published under the title A Table Alphabeticall.

See and for further details.

I like the suggestion that the concept of alphabetical order was possibly not common before this time.

Cawdrey also found himself in the position of needing to explain his operating system. “To profit by this Table,” as he informed the “gentle Reader” in a note, “thou must learn the Alphabet, to wit, the order of the Letters as they stand....and where every Letter standeth.” Furthermore, you really needed to have it down cold. A word beginning with the letters “ca,” he noted, would appear earlier than one starting with “cu.” After using the “Table” for a while, you probably got the hang of it.

I'm also very taken by this:

“Some men seek so far for outlandish English,” the old Puritan divine complains, “that they forget altogether their mothers language, so that if some of their mothers were alive, they were not able to tell, or understand what they say.”

163732.  Fri Apr 06, 2007 2:24 pm Reply with quote

That would have been great for the Dictionaries show, a show which was distinguished in the end by having almost nothing about dictionaries in it, in the broadcast version. It might still make a Gen Ig question in the form

Who wrote the first English dictionary?

except that questions with the effective answer "someone you've never heard of" are always problematic.

163734.  Fri Apr 06, 2007 2:32 pm Reply with quote

I wonder whether there's any mileage in the alphabetical order thing, or the moan about the youth of 1604.

163739.  Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:24 pm Reply with quote

Yes, could easily be.


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