The official English debate in the United States Congress: a critical analysis
In this dissertation I critically examine the movement in the United States Congress to make English the official language of the United States. The analysis is performed using group pluralist and elite competition models (see Brass 1985 and Sonntag, 1995) and Schmidt's (1998) language policy conflict typology as frameworks through which to view a critical analysis of the language of the Official English proposals, and speeches in support of those proposals, made between April 27, 1981 and August 1, 1996, in the United States Congress. The analysis of the language is performed following the basic principles of critical discourse analysis.In this dissertation I ask three research questions: what do Congressional Official English (OE) proponents intend OE legislation to accomplish? How do Congressional OE proponents argue for, or rationalize, an OE policy? Can we determine what motivates Congressional OE proponents to pursue this legislation? I argue that there are large discrepancies between what an OE policy would likely accomplish and what OE proponents explicitly claim they are tying to accomplish. In addition, I argue that the primary strategy used by OE proponents centers around constructing Latinos in the United States as causing major social problems. These problems, OE proponents claim, would be resolved by an OE policy. Finally, I conclude that while it is difficult to ascribe motivations to a group of people, the historical context of the Congressional OE movement and the analysis of the Congressional OE discourse strongly suggests that the OE issue was primarily used by conservatives in the United States Congress for political gain.
- English