Does Language Matter?

Some hold that a language defines a civilization.  This is especially true of a written language, one that can endure through centuries of captivity.
Greek and Latin endured for century and provided some of the underpinnings of Western Culture.  Linguistically, Latin evolved into the Romance languages and these include Spanish.
India had a multiplicity of languages and cultures and was more of a geographical entity than a nation when foreigners began an economic incursion that turned into conquest.  Now the nation is relatively united and English is widely spoken.  The white man bore the burden well.
Poland was once a vast nation but was partitioned, reborn, conquered, and restored again, albeit not to the original borders.  Language preserved a sense of national identity.
The explorers who conquered the New World had written languages and superior technology that made the prospects for cultural survival of the Aboriginal Americans dim.  The habit of the dominant tribe in Mexico to use folks from other tribes in sacrifices involving ritual cannibalism did not make for a united front against the Conquistadores. 
Yet centuries later, English-speaking North America prospers while our neighbors to the South have done less well.  Some could blame the inability of the Aboriginal American to adapt to the new times.  However, we do have Uruguay, with a population almost totally of European ancestry.  They seemed to be a success story but seemed to go the way of too many neighbors after World War II, with the prerequisite coup.  Could it be that the Spanish language (and its Portuguese cousin) is the problem?  It may not be so much the mechanics of the tongue but the the associated culture behind it, including the literature.
English has a cultural treasure chest in the works of Shakespeare alone.  We have a study of bigotry in Merchant of Venice, leadership when it was not expected in Henry V, the folly of family feuds over forgotten wrongs in Romeo and Juliet.  He provided entertainment and guidance in linguistic tours de force. 
The related (fully) Germanic tongue offers a darker heritage with a romanticism that has seemed ready to spin out of control into some new catastrophe for mandkind.
So are we about to engage in a self-inflicted cultural genocide by opening of floodgate of immigrants who seem to want to pick and choose among the fruits of the American dream?  Is there more of a scintilla of interest in cultural assimilation that was seen in our earlier waves of (legal) immigrants?
Perhaps a leadership top-heavy with political hacks and time-serving careerists cannot comprehend such concerns.  Where are, they might muse, the port, the patronage, and the earmarks  that constitute the realm of concern of the modern legislator?
Yet we are the ones who elected them.  Can we do better?


  1. Does Language matter? Look at Canada with the English/French fiasco that is the annual bickering there. The Frog-Canadians think they are the elite. But to have a Bi-Lingual nation the size of ours would be a disaster. A Common language unifies whereas two or more offical languages is chaos.

    I’m reminded of an incident in York, PA about ten years ago. There was a fire in a house where Hispanish (A Kathleen KENNEDY Townsendism) people lived. The only person called 911 and only spoke spanish. The 911 operator didn’t understand but was able to track the number and address and dispatch emergency vehicles. In my more forgiving mind I imagined the woman had just gotten here. She had been there for 10 years already and couldn’t speak a word of English. Then I wasn’t as understanding, but figure she could have been killed for her arrogance.

  2. Pingback: appletree » Blog Archive » I’m on Vacation, so All You Get is Links

  3. appletree » Blog Archive » I’m on Vacation, so All You Get is Links Says:

    May 29th, 2006 at 7:23 am e
    […] Common Sense Political Thought trots out the “linguistic unity” argument against immigration. The problem with this arguement is that immigrants tend to have no problem assimmillating linguistically. […]
    Go to any large city to the little mexico areas and see how many english worded signs you see.

  4. The problem with this arguement is that immigrants tend to have no problem assimmillating linguistically. […]

    Assimilation was eagerly accepted by most legal immigrants. This included gaining liguistic competence. Now the demand is that we modify our society to cater to the demands of newcomers whose mode of entry violates the norms of law.

    It is also beneficial for the native born to learn another language to function in the world market. It is an affront to make it necessary to do so to conduct everyday business.

    Language does seem to define the nature of a society and the English speaking portion of the hemisphere is the magnet for immigrants.

  5. Then explain why the Gummint in the LA, CA area prints solicitations in English and Spanish? And some solicitations are Spanish only.

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