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Faculty Sponsor

Aja Y. Martinez

Abstract

The English language in the United States has a strong legacy of linguistic imperialism that started with bans on the use of languages spoken by indigenous people in the early 1800s. The assumptions behind those policies were that the English language was civilized and progressive, while all other languages were barbaric and improper. In this paper, I examine how the historic language policies in the United States continue to create barriers in non-native speakers’ success and achievement in social and political spheres. I proceed by discussing the English-only policies and native language bans that started the legacy of English superiority in the United States. Secondly, I examine their impact on society at large, focusing on cultural stereotypes and attitudes toward non-native English speakers, and their influence on non-native individuals’ inability to achieve the American Dream and be exemplary citizens. Thirdly, I explore how such social attitudes create feelings of inferiority as well as shame and refusal to speak in individuals’ native languages. Fourthly, I discuss a case study of Ukrainian Diaspora in the United States, and Ukrainians’ complex relationship with language policies in Ukraine and the United States. I conclude with how a more pluralistic and cross-cultural approach to linguistic acceptance and how ethnic language studies could improve relations within the Ukrainian Diaspora and society at large.

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