[Tagging] Mapping language borders, tagging offical languages?

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Thu Sep 20 15:16:04 UTC 2018


On Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 9:55 AM André Pirard <A.Pirard.Papou at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Belgium speaks 3 official languages and their very official borders *have
> been* mapped.
> This subject was presented several times on this list and "raised" a total
> lack of interest.
> Especially regarding the need to define a language boundary type.
> The most similar country regarding languages is Switzerland.
> But they did not care to define borders, AFAIK.
> Same for USA, Canada, etc.
>

"Did not care to define" is an odd way of putting it. USA cannot map
official language borders because USA has no official language or
languages. The majority language is, obviously, US English, but there is no
legislation making it official nor requiring government business to be
transacted in English. We also have a long and ugly history of nationalists
suppressing minority languages, but generally speaking, the laws that the
nationalists claim to be enforcing do not exist. "English as official
language" legislation has been introduced in virtually every session of the
Congress, and has never passed. The movement to make English official goes
all the way back to 1780, even before the war of American independence was
concluded.

I suppose one could tag 'official languages' of  US jurisdictions that sort
of have them. Until recently, California and Massachusetts had laws on the
books requiring public schools to teach classes only in English. (Arizona
still does, but California and Massachusetts repealed their laws in the
last couple of years and have reinstated bilingual education.) Dade County,
Florida had a well-publicized local law that forbade transportation signage
in any language but English, requiring Spanish-language signs to be taken
down. About half the states have laws requiring that the edicts of
government must be published in English (but not requiring that it be used
to the exclusion of other languages). Nebraska's legislation after the
First World War had the effect, briefly, of banning all foreign-language
instruction in the state's schools (and Heaven help those who wished to
prepare for travel abroad!).

It is true that in the US, one can expect to find street signs in English
(augmented possibly with one or more minority languages), but that is
usually a matter of practicality rather than formal policy.

I suppose that one could also, as an example, draw an official language
border around the Navajo Nation and indicate that Diné bizaad and Spanish,
as well as English, are official languages of its government, but that
again opens the whole debate about how to domestic dependent nations, and
it is accurate to state that I don't care to reopen that debate today.

Best regards / meilleurs voeux / (sorry, I don't speak Flemish)

Kevin
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