The United States does not have a national official language policy. From its founding to the present, the United States has never had a national official language policy. Multilingualism was never a new concept in the history of what is now the United States; English has always co-existed with other languages.
However, despite the multilinguistic context, English is spoken by a vast majority of the United States population and is recognized as the “unofficial” national language given its use, both in terms of time and numbers. Without a doubt, English is the most widely used form of communication in the United States. According to the 2000 US CENSUS, 82% of the population considered English as their native language.
Background of Model Study Cenoz and Gorter analyzed two different streets in two different multilingual cities both with official languages in order to conceptualize a relationship between the linguistic landscape of the relative area to the sociolinguistic contexts. In reviewing all signs in their specified location and providing the socio-linguistic context in which the study took place, there were able to make some generalizations about the kind of relationship that exists between the two. Similar to the model study, this study, although concentrated in one area instead of two, aims to make some generalizations of the appearance of the linguistic landscape of the neighborhood and its relationship to language ideologies rather than on language policy.
Historically, Elmhurst was called Middelburg when it was first founded in 1652. Elmhurst was given its name in 1898 as Queens was incorporated into New York. Elmhurst was once a largely Jewish and Italian community until the mid 1900s when it was replaced by new waves of immigrants.
Elmhurst has since changed rapidly and has become one of New York City’s most diverse neighborhoods.
Here, it is relatively clear that the Heritage language is just as important as the majority language of the nation. The use of languages other than English are not only visible in written texts but audible in everyday speech as you walk down the street.
According to the U.S. Census (2000), the population of Elmhurst was 105,723.
An overwhelming 70.3% of the population were not born in the United States but in a foreign country.
Only a small fraction of the population, 15.6%, speak only English in their homes. The majority speak another language at home.
According to the 2000 US Census, the demographics for Elmhurst are as follows: *(the sum of the race alone or in combination will add to more than the total population.) RACE Numbers Percent Asian 41,175 38.9% American Indian/ Alaska Native 705 0.7% Black/ African American 2,1114 2.0% Hispanic/Latino 45,529 43.1% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander 75 0.1% White 35,598 34% Other Race 19,960 18.9% Two or More Races 6,096 5.8%
LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME US CENSUS 2000 Population (5 years and older) 99,253 % English only 15,489 15.6 Language other than English 83,764 84.4 Speak English less than 'very well 53,718 54.1 Spanish 40,398 40.7 Speak English less than "very well" 27,374 27.6 Other Indo-European languages 13,681 13.8 Speak English less than "very well" 6,551 6.6 Asian and Pacific Island languages 28,995 29.2 Speak English less than "very well" 19,468 19.6
For purposes of this study, all signs along Broadway starting at Elmhurst Avenue and ending on Roosevelt Avenue will be identified and analyzed. Approximately 8 commercial blocks between Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue were examined.
Following the study by Cenoz and Gorter, additional advertising on storefronts or on the face of the building relative to the establishment were all counted as one unit. *( All information in relation to the actual store sign itself was included as one unit unless there were missed information either not present at the time or unidentified.)
Pictures of some of the signs that were observed were also taken to illustrate the linguistic landscape of the neighborhood.
Map of surveyed section of Elmhurst. *indicated by black line
Two medical related offices with only Korean displayed.
LANGUAGES DISPLAYED NUMBER OF TIMES DISPLAYED ON THE SIGNS (out of 97) % (out of 100) CHINESE 29 29.9% KOREAN 27 27.85% SPANISH 21 21.65% ENGLISH 95 97.8% THAI 3 3.1% HINDI 2 2.5% ARABIC 2 2.5% JAPANESE 1 1.4% RUSSIAN 1 1.4%
The use of more than one language often serve informational purposes. Businesses are willing to accommodate their customers by reducing the language barrier. A handful of business directly stated that they speak Spanish inside the establishment.
For people who do not speak English, there is a feeling of assurance that they can be assisted in their native language.
The most dominant language of the linguistic landscape of the area was English. Chinese was the second most dominant language in relation to these particular streets. Korean was the third and Spanish was the fourth most dominant language displayed in the signs. Asians account for around 40% of the population of Elmhurst while Hispanics/Latinos make up for about 43% of the population. In terms of the area surveyed, the dominant language, English, was not necessarily the most significant.
Though Chinese, Korean, and Spanish are not considered majority languages in the nation, they appear to have a relatively strong presence in this community. As a result they also have greater positive associations with their language.
One major language ideology that seems to be present in this community is that languages can co-exist with each other. As seen by advertisements and store signs, there seems to be a tendency to accommodate the 4 dominant languages: English, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese.
There is a strong preference towards multilingualism in this neighborhood. It seems to be a fact of life that language diversity exists and is going to persist.
There is also a strong sense of language maintenance in that the younger generations who live in the area will be exposed to their own native language more than if they lived in areas where the landscape is monolingual. Thus, a sense of identity and community is derived from the languages in the signs.
However, considering that English is still the most dominant language, one can state that there is also an underlying notion that English is very necessary in order to be a member of this society.
In regards to the limitations of the study, it is apparent that the data represented by this particular study may not completely correspond to data from other streets in the same neighborhood. Elmhurst, as mentioned earlier, is a diverse and complex neighborhood. Different sections of Elmhurst may have a stronger presence of one group versus another which could perhaps affect the linguistic landscape.
Since the focus of this study is limited to analyzing visible signs and advertisements which are only on the outside of the structure, the situation inside the units can be entirely different from what is happening outside.
The assertions, although based on the data provided, made by this study can be regarded as being too broad given the complexity that is involved in any given neighborhood. Unfortunately, not all the factors which influence the linguistic landscape can be accounted for.