Should the United States declare English its official language? The "English-only" question, which has plagued American citizens since the founding of the country, has once again become the focus of heated debate, with an English Language Amendment to the Constitution pending in Congress since 1981. In this lively and engrossing book, an often-quoted authority on the English language provides the first comprehensive, historically based discussion of this troubling issue. Dennis Baron dispassionately explores the philosophical, legal, political, educational, and sociological implications of the official-English movement, tracing the history of American attitudes toward English and minority languages during the past two centuries.
Baron describes how battles to save English or minority languages have been fought in the press, the schools, the courts, and the legislatures of the country. According to Baron, the impulse to impose English and limit other languages has repeatedly arisen during periods of political or economic ferment, when non-English speakers have been targeted as subversive, unemployable, or otherwise resistant to assimilation. However, says Baron, many supporters of the English Language Amendment are not xenophobic but are people who believe in the ideal of one language for one nation and who argue that mastery of English is the only way to succeed in America. Baron discusses the recent background of the English Language Amendment, explains the arguments on each side, and assesses its future. His book will enable policymakers, voters, legislators, and educators to better understand the complex issues that surround the question of an official language for America.