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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia / Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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Volume 2018, Issue 252


It’s all about English: the interplay of monolingual ideologies, language policies and the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistics on multilingualism

Jennifer Leeman
Published Online: 2018-06-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0013


In this article, I argue that census language questions, policies and ideologies are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Thus, critical analyses of census language questions must examine the specific policies for which language statistics are produced, as well as the ideologies that undergird those policies and the production of language statistics. After examining the history of language questions and related policies in the U.S., I apply this approach in an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s current language question, arguing that U.S. language policy and official statistics on multilingualism are constrained by monolingual ideologies that center on English as the key point of reference and the marker of full personhood and national belonging. My analysis focuses on four interrelated realms: (1) U.S. language policy and its emphasis on “Limited English Proficiency” in assigning language rights; (2) the broader ideological context; (3) the language question itself; and (4) the impact of language ideologies on survey design and data collection within the U.S. Census Bureau.

Keywords: language policy; language ideologies; census language questions; Limited English Proficiency (LEP); survey translation


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-06-13

Published in Print: 2018-06-26

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 252, Pages 21–43, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0013.

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