IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Politics over Official Language in the United States

Listed author(s):
  • Saumyajit Ray

    (Saumyajit Ray is Lecturer in Journalism and Mass Communication at Kasturi Ram College of Higher Education, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. E-mail: He is thankful to the anonymous referee for his/her helpful comments and suggestions on the previous version of the article.)

Registered author(s):

    The founding fathers did not designate English—or any other language—as the official language of the United States (US). It would be moot to ask if they considered it necessary to lay down in law what existed in fact, or whether they desisted from granting official language status to English out of their respect for ‘language minorities’ already in the new republic. Attempts were made from the early days of the republic to standardize their English language in the US for both practical and lexicographic purposes. But no movement aimed at making English the official language of the US emerged till 1981. The ‘Official English’ (deridingly called English Only) movement has till date got twenty-seven states to adopt it as their official language. Its first national success came when the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 123 in 1996 declaring English as the official language. This success, though, was short-lived as the bill lapsed due to the Senate inaction. The second national success came when the Senate passed the English Language Amendment to the latest Immigration Reform Bill, designating English as America's ‘national language’. However, the Democratic Party's opposition to Official English and the Republican Party's reluctance to officially associate with Official English means that the movement has a long way to traverse.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by in its journal International Studies.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 3 (July)
    Pages: 235-252

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:sae:intstu:v:44:y:2007:i:3:p:235-252
    Contact details of provider:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:intstu:v:44:y:2007:i:3:p:235-252. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (SAGE Publications)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.