LINGUIST List 2.154

Monday, 22 Apr 1991

Disc: Banned Languages

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Daniel Radzinski, banned languages
  2. Geoffrey Nunberg, re banned languages
  3. Helge Dyvik, Banned languages: non-standard dialects
  4. , Banned Languages
  5. "Lynn Nichols", banned languages
  6. , Re: Responses
  7. "Hi, 'lo", Re: Banned Languages
  8. Karen Christie, Re: Banned Languages

Message 1: banned languages

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 91 12:27:27 -0400
From: Daniel Radzinski <>
Subject: banned languages
I heard on the BBC world service news (April 17, 1991) a report on
Sakhalin et al. (due to Gorbachov's visit to Japan). They pointed out
that there was a time when Ainu was banned in Hokaido (and, I assume
but cannot recall if this was explicitly indicated, other Japanese
controlled lands.) No mention was made if the ban was explicitly against
Ainu or any language other than Japanese, but Ainu was clearly the main

Daniel Radzinski
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Message 2: re banned languages

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1991 22:36:52 PDT
From: Geoffrey Nunberg <>
Subject: re banned languages
1. On the banning of "languages not the official language of some other
country," which Kjetil R. Hauge cites as the rationale for the Turkish
interdiction on the use of Kurdish (and, one presumes, on Armenian and so
forth): This maneuver has been used elsewhere. In Italy, the policy that
gives a measure of local autonomy to certain linguistic minorities defines
a "language" as a variety that counts as an offical language in some other
state, thereby granting recognition to French, German, and Slovenian, while
withholding it from Sardinian, Sicilian, and the like.

2. On the general topic of "language bans": I think it is useful to
distinguish several varieties. In a few cases, states have actually tried
to eradicate the use of a particular lge for all purposes. This was the
intended effect of the boarding schools program adopted by the Bureau of
Indian Affairs in the 1870s, which forcibly removed children from their
families in order to disrupt the role of the family in socialization. It
was also the policy that the Nazis adopted with respect to the Sorbs, by
insisting that all Sorbian children should have German-speaking nursemaids.
More often, however, lge bans are restricted to the public uses of lge or
to its use as a medium of education. Thus the wave of linguistic
restrictionism that took place in America in the second and third decades
of this century included laws in more than 30 states prohibiting the use of
foreign language as a medium for public and private education, restrictions
on the use of foreign languages in public meetings, requirements that
foreign-lge newspapers publish facing translations, and so forth. In recent
years, it is true, the notion of "public" uses of lge has become more
nebulous; modern advocates of an "official English" policy have also wanted
to restrict the uses of lges other than English in billboards, radio and
television, restaurant menus, and so forth. Finally, there is the kind of
"ban" that John Goldsmith described in terms of ASL, which is purely the
result of official or educational neglect. Historically, this has doubtless
been the most common form of "ban" imposed on vernacular languages, though
whether such policies are in fact "repressive" depends on the social and
political setting. Before the late 19th century, language was less dominant
an element in nationalist movements. A Welsh nationalist could write in
1847 that the Welsh lge should be allowed "to die fairly, peacefully, and
reputably"; the Czech nationalist Karl Kautsky could write a few decades
later that "National languages will be increasingly confined to domestic
use, and even there they will tend to be treated like an old piece of
inherited family furniture, something that we treat with veneration though
it has not much practical use." As linguists well know, the importance of
vernaular education has more often been stressed by indigenista
intellectuals than by the speakers themselves. 
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Message 3: Banned languages: non-standard dialects

Date: Fri, 19 Apr 91 16:37:51 EMT
Subject: Banned languages: non-standard dialects

I refer to Dick Hudson*s query about "any school system where children are not
only allowed to use local dialect, and perhaps even encouraged to do so in some
 situations, but where they learn some of the rules of the local dialect even (
perhaps especially) when these depart from the standard language".
 In Norway there have been some experimental attempts to base the early teachi
ng of writing to children on their local dialects. The idea is to facilitate th
e transition from sound to letter by teaching them to spell a phonemicized vers
ion of their own speech. A book (in Norwegian, unfortunately) was written about
 this by Tove Bull in 1985: "Lesing og barns talemaal" (= "Reading and the
ch of Children"), Oslo, Novus. The topic is (as one would expect) highly contro
versial. My own opinion (for what it is worth) is that it is a singularly bad i
 Apart from this, there are many examples in this country of interested teache
rs who teach their pupils ABOUT the grammar and phonology of their dialects (wh
ich I think is a singularly GOOD idea).
 Finally it might be of interest to note that by official regulation teachers
in Norway are required to adapt their speech to that of their pupils, rather th
an vice versa.

Helge Dyvik
Department of Linguistics and Phonetics
University of Bergen
Sydnesplass 9, N-5007 Bergen
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Message 4: Banned Languages

Date: Fri, 19 Apr 91 12:51:10 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Banned Languages
 I know for a fact that *all* sign language usage is banned in 
some schools for the deaf in the U.S. These scholls believe that
by allowing the children to use sign, you are condoning the sole
use of sign, and denying them access to real society because 
outside of the deaf community, so few people use sign. These schools
have as their goal teaching deaf children to get along in the hearing
world, but by doing so and forbidding the use of sign, they are 
denying the children's past and ties to their home community.
 While it is true that deaf children will not be able to get along
(well, in "real" jobs), without at ;east knowing the basics of 
lipreading and some speech skills, it is also true that if denied access
to developing their signing skills, they will be cut off from the 
deaf community in the future as well. In the end, this can leave them
with the feeling that they don;t really "fit" anywhere -- neither 
in the hearing community they could never fully "ape", nor in the 
deaf community where the majority not only doesn't speak, but also 
infers from another deaf person's insistence on using the spoken 
(i.e., hearing people's) language, that the deaf person is trying 
to create a distance between herself and the rest of the deaf 
 If it sounds like a no-win sitaution, it could be because it is 
the way it is currently set up. While I have some deaf friends who
refuse to try to speak, I have others who do not know sign and are 
insulted when you try to use it with them. The majority of the 
formally educated deaf people I know, have opinions on the matter 
covering a more middle ground: they believe you must learn to 
read lips/faces/gestures to get along, but that you should also 
learn sign to keep your contacts with your first true community.
 of course, many deaf people in the U.S. never get a chance to make these
kinds of choices, because they are not allowed access to educational
programs which allow them such choices. Only 10% of deaf children 
have deaf parents. 80% of deaf adults are *unemployed*, and in the
entire United States, there are only about 3 deaf doctors and about
14 deaf lawyers. These are just statistics and are supposed to surprise
you or I wouldn't share them. but they say something much deeper about
the system in place now for helping those with severe hearing problems,
and why it doesn't work.
 These statistics come from talks with Joan E. Smith (interpreter
Coordinator for the Services for Students with Disabilities Providing
Sign Language and Oral Interpreting) here at the University of 
Michigan. The obviously strng feelings I have on the matter 
some from many discussions (some of them mostly written, because my
own ASL skills are woefully inadequate) with deaf or severely hearing
impaired friends. There's a lot out there on these topics and if you 
are interested, pulling this all together for those with little or 
no access to info on the subject could be an interesting and welcome
 -- Millie Griffin
 Program in Linguistics
 University of Michigan
 1076 Frieze Bldg.
 Ann Arbor, MI 48197
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Message 5: banned languages

Date: Fri, 19 Apr 91 17:12:52 CDT
From: "Lynn Nichols" <>
Subject: banned languages
Korean was banned during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1919-1945)
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Message 6: Re: Responses

Date: Sat, 20 Apr 91 15:01 PDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Responses
RE: Banned languages

I don't believe any American Indian language has ever been "banned" (though
someone may correct me on this), but if we're talking about people being
beaten at school, I've heard many, many awful stories from older speakers
of American Indian languages who attended Federal boarding schools and
were punished for using their languages (not just in class, but on the u
playground, in the dormitory, or anywhere connected with school). Punish-
ments included physical correction, isolation, doses with purgatives,
demerits, and so on. Since all these things were done at official schools
run by the US government, one certainly could interpret them as a ban.
Most of the speakers I'm thinking of were born roughly between 1890
and 1920. This policy has certainly not been current for many years (to
reassure you all), though it's a dreadful memory.
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Message 7: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Sun, 21 Apr 1991 16:11 EST
From: "Hi, 'lo" <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
With regard to signed languages as banned languages, the situation is a bit
complex. It is important to differentiate between banned languages and banned
modalities. There are very few schools in the US (though there are still manyy
abroad) where the medium of signing is banned. However, most schools for deaf
children in the US use some variety of signed English whose signs derive from
American Sign Language (ASL) but which follow rules of English word and
sentence structure rather than those of ASL. Interestingly, the Indiana School
for the Deaf is one that is now experimenting with a bilingual (ASL-English)
approach, though I don't know whether they yet have "language arts" type
courses *about* ASL for their pupils. Where I work, at the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, the technical counterpart to Gallaudet University, we
*do* have courses for college students about the structure of ASL.
Susan Fischer
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Message 8: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Sun, 21 Apr 1991 19:15 EST
From: Karen Christie <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
In response to the question about banned languages, Deaf children indeed do fit
into a cultural groups whose language has been formally banned and yet now at
several schools for deaf students, ASL (American Sign Language) is now being
taught and used as language of instruction.

In 1880 at the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf it was
resolved that there was an 'inconstestable superiority of articulation over
signs in restoring the deaf-mute (sic) to society and giving him a fuller
knowledge of language...." and went on to "outlaw" the use of sign language. 
At that time, signed languages were not believed to be true languages, and Deaf
students caught signing by teachers often had their knuckles wacked with a
ruler. Instruction in oral English in the US was dominant until the 1970s
 when in response to linguistic research showing that ASL WAS a LANGUAGE, 
schools began to use signed codes (invented so that grammatical morphemes of
 English, and English word order can be used in conjunction with speech)...
However, such signed codes are now usually referred to as SIGN-SUPPORTED SPEECH.
This is still the methodology used in most of the school programs today. 
Sam Supalla's research has shown that such signed codes do not function as
 natural languages for Deaf children. Access to an education
communicated through such codes is extremely limited.

Researchers have shown that Deaf children born to Deaf parents learn ASL
similar to hearing children learning languages from their parents. However,
only a small minority of the Deaf population in the US have Deaf parents. 
Thus, most Deaf children have entered residential school programs without
competency in the language of their hearing parents, and traditionally, most
of these parents have not learned ASL. After 15 or so years of education which
focused on primarily learning English (speech/print/signed codes),
 most Deaf students graduate fluent in ASL having learned it from Deaf peers
(in informal educational settings). ASL has typcially been described as a
language transmitted from child to child (Fischer, 1978).

Only recently have a few school programs (Indiana School for the Deaf,
California School for the Deaf in Fremont, and The Learning Center in Mass.)
begun to implement programs which provide for early language acquisition in
both languages, ASL and English (in printed form)..and aim to teach English
 as a second language. There are parts of the various programs which focus 
on teaching the literature and history of the culture of Deaf people in the US,
allowing the child to develop a sense of identity within the Deaf Community...

 at the recent 1990 International Conference on the Education of the Deaf, a
proposal to invalidate/abandon the 1880 position on sign language was not

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 154]
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