English Isn't So Simple...

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Driving around town recently, it has been tempting to pass judgment on the intelligence of the drivers of cars with a bumper sticker that says something to the effect of 'speak American!' English, I'm tempted to say. Speak 'English.' Yet, as illustrated by Geoffrey Nunberg in 'The Persistence of English', what constitutes English isn't as simple as 'well….you speak English or you don't.' In fact, that ostensibly patriotic-as-Apple-pie attitude, as evidenced in the essay, can be traced back to America gaining it's independence. ''…when the United States first declared its independence from Britain, there was a strong sentiment for declaring that 'American,' too, should be recognized as a separate language.'' One might assume our effort to understand what makes up the English language is a simple issue of education. A lack of education is what a British person assumes is going on when he comes to America and hears the word 'normalcy' in place of 'normality.' The person would be wrong, though, as the attitude that 'American' is separate from 'British' in language is a political issue. "Since the eighteenth century, it has been widely believed that every nation deserved to have its own language, and declarations of political independence have often been followed by declarations of linguistic independence, as well. " p. 2, Nunberg Before reading the above essay, I assumed that languages were developed strictly in a Tower of Babel fashion - adaptation for survival. (To be sure, this was an aspect of developing language.) To ignore the role of politics in the development of language would be negligent, however. "By Shakespeare's time, English was displacing the Celtic languages in Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland, and then in... ... middle of paper ... ... this as an invasion and possibly a loss. As English gets rooted in not-English-speaking countries with colonization, religious indoctrination and violence quite successfully, I don't think we have much to worry about in terms of being overthrown, but it would pay to take heed to the ways different languages blending with our own start to make small changes in language that will eventually turn into big ones. Bibliography Nunberg, Geoffrey. "The Persistence of English- Introductory Essay to the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition." The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition. New York: Norton, 1987. Print. "Rupert Grint - Driving Lessons Unscripted with Jeremy Brock - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. RupertGrintTVChannel, 12 Dec. 2010. Web. 28 Aug. 2011. . The cited quote is at 4.00.
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