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Reasons Why English Is Not the US's Official Language

The United States is somewhat of an outlier, with about 180 countries having official languages.

By Francis DamiPublished 5 months ago 4 min read

English is not the official language of the United States, despite popular perception. It is, in reality, one of the unique nations on Earth that does not recognize any official language. We need to go back to the US's founding and the lofty goals of the Founding Fathers to comprehend why.

There are about 180 official languages in the world, and over 100 have more than one official language. Bolivia now maintains the record for having the most official languages, with 37, including Spanish and other Indigenous languages.

Adopting official languages allows nations to have a common language for communication throughout their governance, which facilitates the defining and outlining of concepts like rights, regulations, and other things. It can also be employed as a weapon to maintain cultural identity and promote national solidarity.

The principles of equality and individual liberty, on the other hand, were at the forefront of American thought when the country was founded in the 18th century.

Throughout the 1700s, German, Dutch, Flemish, French, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, Gaelic, Portuguese, Italian, and other languages were spoken by sizable segments of the population in the American colonies, even though English was gradually becoming the most common language.

It was thought unjust to favor one language over another in this multilingual nation of immigrants who spoke a wide variety of tongues. John Adams suggested to the Continental Congress in 1780 that English be declared the official language of the United States, but his proposal was rejected because it was seen as "undemocratic and a threat to individual liberty."

There is an urban tale that Congress was on the verge of making German the official language, but Frederick Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the US House of Representatives, cast the lone vote that prevented it from passing. But this tale is a complete fabrication.

Although there isn't an official language in the US at the federal level, English is recognized as an official language at the local level in 32 of the 50 US states and all five US territories.

In addition, there have been persistent efforts in recent decades to establish English as the official language of the United States. Republican senators JD Vance of Ohio and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota even introduced a bill to designate English as the official language of the country in 2023.

The idea that the English language is disappearing has motivated many of these endeavors, although that is a rather hyperbolic and baseless notion.

According to the most recent census data, 78.3 percent of the population speaks English exclusively at home. Even though that is a small decline from the prior dataset (78.7 percent from 2013 to 2017), English continues to be the most popular language. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the US, although 61% of Spanish speakers can also speak English "very well."

For once, the US is not an exception to the rule that languages change regularly. According to linguists, there have been several changes in American speech patterns over the previous several decades. For example, experts have seen the disappearance of the traditional Southern accent. On the other hand, as Spanish and English speakers mix culturally, new accents are emerging in other regions.

In the US, some parts of the English language may be changing, but they won't disappear anytime soon.

According to a recent study that examined pronunciation changes in the state of Georgia, the traditional Southern accent is disappearing in some regions of the United States.

The accents of older members of the baby boomer generation, who were born between 1943 and 1964, and members of Generation X, who were born between 1965 and 1982, have significantly changed, according to linguists from Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

The characteristic Southern accent's prolonged vowel sounds quickly vanished among Gen X speakers in Georgia, replacing them with a vowel system more widely spoken throughout the country.

"Our findings indicate that, in Georgia, white English speakers' accents have been moving away from the conventional Southern pronunciation for the past few generations," lead study author Margaret Renwick, an associate professor at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Georgia, said in a statement.

"College students nowadays sound nothing like their parents, who didn't sound anything like their own parents."

The researchers examined the transcripts of 135 white Georgians born between the late 19th and the early 2000s to arrive at their conclusions. They discovered that the traditional Southern drawl "fell off a cliff" with Generation X, who quickly abandoned it after the boomers, who were the ones who brought it to its pinnacle.

Renwick continued, "We had been listening to hundreds of hours of speech recorded in Georgia and we noticed that current college students didn't often have a thick Southern drawl, whereas older speakers did." "We began speculating as to which Georgian generation has the most distinctively Southern accent. We guessed that those were baby boomers, those born in the middle of the 20th century. We were shocked to observe how quickly the Southern accent vanishes beginning with Gen X."

Although the exact cause of this drastic change is unknown, the researchers surmise that it may have something to do with the local population changes.

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Francis Dami

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    Francis DamiWritten by Francis Dami

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