LINGUIST List 2.169

Friday, 26 Apr 1991

Disc: Banned Languages

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Hunter Huckabay, banned languages
  2. "Michael Kac", Re: Banned Languages
  3. , Banned Languages
  4. "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University", RE: Banned Languages
  5. Helge Dyvik, banned/non-standard languages
  6. , Re: Banned Languages
  7. Karen Christie, Re: Banned Languages
  8. Koenraad De Smedt, banned languages
  9. Larry P Gorbet ANTHROPOLOGY, Re: Banned languages

Message 1: banned languages

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 91 16:21:13 CDT
From: Hunter Huckabay <>
Subject: banned languages
A language that was banned by practice, if not
by law, was Cajun English in southern Louisiana, 
until about 20 years ago (perhaps even more recently).
People about 50 and older report that they were often
punished in school for speaking French, which caused
trouble for many of them who had never heard English
before attending school. There now exists an organization
in Louisiana that is devoted to encouraging school-aged
 children to speak Cajun French.

Hunter Huckabay
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Message 2: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 91 19:07:28 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
Margaret Fleck's comment on Breton reminds me that it was at least the case
at one time in France that giving Breton names to children was illegal. (It
may be that giving non-French names was what was disallowed, not specifically
names in Breton.)

Michael Kac
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Message 3: Banned Languages

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 91 21:08:42 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Banned Languages
 ASL is very different indeed from British Sign Language, at least 
as to my understanding. The differences only *begin* with the 
differences in the manual alphabet. ASL was developed from the 
French sign system brought over to the US by Gallaudet, and so 
shares more with the French system than the British, as signs 
are not generally direct translations from English, but part of
an independent and almost arbitrary system of language (while the
arbitrariness of words in spoken languages is obviously much more 
complete than it is for *all* signs in a given sign language, sign 
is still arbitrary enough to be unpredictable to those who do not 
know it).
 It is true that the banning of sign in schools cannot be compared 
to the banning of sign by the givernment at one level, it is, 
at another level, much more effective. A parent *could*, I suppose,
"remove their child from that school", but good schools for the deaf
are few and far between here, and it may not be that simple a matter
of just "changing schools". What if you live in Wyoming and the closest 
school which teaches sign is in Missouri, and the parents themselves
do not speak sign? (This is purely hypothetical, but not too 
outrageous a scenario either) Should a parent have to send a child 
two, three, even four states away at age twelve? ten? eight? Would 
most hearing parents stop to care if their child learns ASL or not?
(the answer there is often, no, they expect their child to learn to 
communicate orally.)
 BTW, a friend of mine who went to one of the more reputable 
deaf boarding schools mentioned that they got their hands slapped 
for simply *gesturing* too much while trying to speak orally.
How many of us would have a problem with that? I know I would.
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Message 4: RE: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 09:08 +0200
From: "Hartmut Haberland, Roskilde University" <>
Subject: RE: Banned Languages
RE: Charles Hoequists' remark on banned languages, here: Norwegain situation.
1. Helge is a male first name, so Helge Dyvik is a he, not a she. (But you
are excused, after all, in Norway, Inge is male and Gerd is female ...)
2. If nynorsk is a 'composite of rural dialects',then bokmal (the other
standard of Norwegian) is 'a creolization of Danish'. 
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Message 5: banned/non-standard languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 10:08:54 EMT
Subject: banned/non-standard languages
A couple of clarifications in response to Charles Hoequist*s contribution,
the first one unimportant to the discussion but important to me: I am not a
she, but a he (Helga is the girl*s name). Secondly: No, I was not talking
about Nynorsk, which is not a non-standard language. True, it was constructed
in the last century as an archaizing standard based on what Ivar Aasen (the
constructor) considered to be the most "genuine" dialects, but it acquired
status as an official norm alongside the current Dano-Norwegian standard by
parliamentary decision already in 1885. Later both norms have changed con-
siderably. The somewhat paradoxical situation is that precisely because Nynorsk
is based on dialects, that written standard is not supported by a corre-
sponding spoken norm, whereas the alternative bokmaal/riksmaal is. Hoequist
asks about the situation in schools: it is up to the individual community to
choose which of the two standards is to be taught in the schools. (Nynorsk is
prevalent in rural communities especially in the West.) After children*s school
(ages 14-18) students are required to learn to write the other standard as
well. Now, what I reported briefly on was attempts to base the early teaching
of writing on the local non-standard dialect, i.e., on something for which no
written standard exists. In other words, this is a task that requires quite a
bit of linguistic work on the part of the teacher, since the writing down of
sounds is not quite so unproblematic as some of the people supporting this
idea may be suspected of believing. Hence the skepticism I signalled in my
last contribution.

Helge Dyvik
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Message 6: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 17:32 U
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
Bill Baxter's comment on Taiwanese as a Banned language was basically
correct but needs a few clarifications.
I am a native speaker of Taiwanese. But as a linguist, I am not more
qualified to discuss 'banned' language than other people. Since I am
not sure at all how to define a language as banned. The current situation
in Taiwan, for instance, has Mandarin and Taiwanese as the most dominant
languages. Hakka, the language with the third largest native population
(15-20 %, or maybe the second, since it is rather difficult to define
native Mandarin speakers now) receives next to none broacasting time.
Not to mention the various Austronesian languages with even less native
speakers (no more than 5%). Are these languages more 'banned' than Taiwan-
ese? In other words, do we consider a language banned only when it is
banned by governmental order, or do we consider it banned when economical
and social factors converge to deny it channels of communicaitons. As a
linguist, I am less interested in how to define a 'banned' language. I
am more concerned with the survival of less privileged languages.
As Bill observed, the KMT government did try to suppress Taiwanese. And
quite a few language activists did suffer for their belief and/or action.
But Taiwanese was rather unsuccessfully banned. It has remained the dominant
language in market place and is now a dominant language in business too.
(There are quite a few Taiwanese only Rotarian clubs etc.) Academic (and
non-academic studies) on Taiwanes has never been banned and has thrived in
the past few years. I think Taiwanese raises the question of how 'banned'
languaes fare and how effective (or ineffective) governmental bans can be.
But, on the other hand, I cannot help but observe that 'endangered' languages
are more often than not the victims of more prevalent languages (in social,
political, econommical, and numreical terms). Huang Suan-fan has recently
done several studies on the disappearance of Hakka 'dialect island'.
Taiwanese and Mandarin are the strongest languages in Taiwan fro various (
and probably different) reasons. It becomes so that most residents of
Taiwan are fluent in both languages. This means that most native Hakka
speakers (as well as speakers of Austronesions languages) need to be tri-
lingual to both survive and maintain their native language. SF Huang found
that smaller communities of Hakka speakers surounded by Taiwanese speakers
simply lose thier native language. Fortunately, the language has enough
native speakers around and is in no danger of dying in the near future (
but not so fortunate for the aboriginal Ausrtonesian languages spoken in
Taiwan, they have far less speakers.)
Chu-Ren Huang
p.s. Robert Cheng of University of Hawaii is one of the leading scholars
in Taiwanes linguistics. He has also devised an input system for
Chinese chracters based on Taiwanses romanization. I am afraid that he is
not on the networ, though.
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Message 7: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 1991 18:34 EST
From: Karen Christie <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
other evidence of BEATINGS:

from Cesar Chavez (in Grosjean, 1982): "In class, one of my biggest problems
was the language. Of course, we bitterly resented not being able to speak
Spanish, but they insisted that we had to learn English. They said that if we
were American, then we should speak the language, and if we wanted to speak
Spanish, then we should go back to Mexico. When we spoke Spanish, the teacher
swooped down on us. I rmember the ruler whistling through the air as its edge
came down sharply across my knuckles. It really hurt. Even out in the
playground, speaking Spanish brought punishment. The principal had a special
paddle that looked like a two-by-four with a handle on it. The wood was smooth
from a lot of use. He would grab us, even the girls, put our head between his
legs, and give it to us."
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Message 8: banned languages

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 91 10:23 MET
Subject: banned languages
I've heard that until fairly recently, there was a ban on foreign names
in Iceland, in the sense that immigrants were forced to adopt an
Icelandic name. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

Koenraad de Smedt
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Message 9: Re: Banned languages

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 91 08:19:06 MDT
From: Larry P Gorbet ANTHROPOLOGY <>
Subject: Re: Banned languages
In Linguist_List #164, Karen Christie writes:

 >In response to the ASL discussion: Signed Codes for English do not fit the
category of banned languages because they are not languages. 

I am not certain what is meant by "Signed Codes for English". If "artificial
languages" like SEE, etc. are intended, then I concur for the most part.
But it is both linguistically and politically inappropriate to exclude
many varieties of signed languages heavily influenced by English -- I
have in mind those often called Pidgin Signed English (PSE). I question
the linguistic accuracy of calling these pidgins, since for many ~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[[C~[(the
majority of?) profoundly hearing-impaired Americans, these are either
their only or at least their first language; though there is a shameful
(in my view) lack of *descriptive* accounts of PSE, it appears at a
glance to be as "natural" a signed language as ASL, considering its
relative youth. It is probably the dominant form of signed language
used in such functions as public interpreting (e.g. from TV), instruction
in higher education, etc. I am not saying it necessarily *should* be,
but it *is*, and unless we want to commit to some rather strange views
about what a language is, it is certainly *acting* like a language and
*looking* like a language. Its "phonology" and lexicon are clearly not
those of a pidgin. I suspect the same goes for syntax and morphology.

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 169]
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