The role of suppressive language policies in language shift and language loss

  • Eduardo Hernández Chávez
    University of New Mexico
Keywords: Linguicism, minority cultures, acculturation, border


The Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson analysis of linguistic human rights is used as a basis for understanding language replacement phenomena in the United States. Use of Spanish in Chicano communities is shifting rapidly to English despite the huge numbers of recent immigrants who are dominant in Spanish. Accompanying this shift is a precipitous loss of proficiency by Spanish speakers. Such replacement of a language does not depend on personal choices made by speakers, but on the socio-political conditions within the country. Political goals of profits, exploitation, and hegemony drive classist, racist and ethnicist policies whose purpose is to neutralize resistance to the status quo. These are couched in liberal-sounding myths that justify linguicism, which strives to suppress minority cultures and to acculturate their members in order to pacify perceived ethnic group conflict. The Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson Linguicism Continuumn is used to demonstrate the degree of linguistic repression in selected U.S. institutions.
Eduardo Hernández Chávez
Eduardo Hernández Chávez is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and along time activist in the Chicano community. He has writen extensively in the areas of Chicano sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and philosophies of bilingual education.