The Longest Now

Language Choice and National Communication
Saturday May 31st 2003, 9:37 am
Filed under: international

I was discussing modern Hebrew and its kinship with Arabic with John and Anita last night, and mentioned that Arabic is a more richly descriptive language, for having so many centuries to thrive and flesh out its vocabulary, whereas before this century Hebrew long lay dormant as an everyday language.  It turns out that this story of Hebrew’s death is slightly exaggerated (search for “British Consul Young”); it was in common use in Jerusalem, if nowhere else, two hundred years ago.

We also mentioned revolution-era America’s national language debates.  I have often heard of the Continental Congress discussing this matter — with footnotes that German and Hebrew were on the list, and German much favored.  This is true, though one might better say the CC discussed whether we should declare a national language.  The prevailing sentiment was that language choice should be left up to the people.

In 1780, John Adams proposed to the Continental Congress that official language academy be created to “purify, develop, and dictate the usage of English.” He idea was rejected for being undemocratic. (R.Reese, referencing the ACLU)

The story that there was a vote for our national language, and that English won out over German by a single vote, is a popular legend… (read more)

Language Choice and National Communication …

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A most interesting read about languages.

Comment by pinsp 10.13.12 @ 6:31 am

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