Language and American Social Identity
“Language shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one’s perception of reality.” Benjamin Whorf
From the day that the United States won its independence, intellectual Americans have attempted to define the new identity. When we speak about American social identity these elements and names come to the mind:
Melting pot, apple pie, hollowing and…
I chose language which I think is very key factor in developing social identity in every culture.
Regarding the topic these kinds of questions come to the mind.
What is social identity? What is role of language in social identity development? So first of all we shall define identity and language.
“Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual’s comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. The notion of social identity is defined as the way that individuals label themselves as members of particular groups (e.g., nation, social class, subculture, ethnicity, gender, etc.)”. Social identity is some thing like personality and individual identity.
“A language is a system of visual, auditory, or tactile symbols of communication and the rules used to manipulate them.” It is a means of communication between people. Language is not only a vehicle for the expression of thoughts, perceptions, feelings and emotions, and values features of a community; it also represents a basic expression of social identity. Language is an important element which influences cultural and intellectual aspects of human life. Not only language creates several communications among people but also it makes bilateral relation between different groups and societies. Events and realities are expressed by words and sentences. Politicians assert their abilities and their policies through language and words. Nowadays, since the role of media became very crucial we can learn about importance of language. So we can say individual’s ideology, religious concepts and literature are indebted to the language and actually all of them shape social identity of a nation.
In some countries like the United States as a result of verity of nations within geographical borders, there are many languages.” English is spoken by about 82% of the population as a native language. The variety of English spoken in the United States is known as American English; together with Canadian English it makes up the group of dialects known as North American English 96% of the population of the U.S. speaks English well.
The Spanish language is the second-most common language in the country, spoken by almost 30 million people.” Therefore these two languages had more effect on American social identity, English as language of Native Americans and Spanish as language of immigrants.
“English is a dominant international language in communications, science, business, aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy .The influence of the British Empire is the primary reason for the initial spread of the language far beyond the British Isles Since World War II, the growing economic and cultural influence of the United States has significantly accelerated the adoption of English.” English gives feeling of superiority and self confidence to Americans. If we look back to the past English has been the language of the most powerful empire which is British Empire and now English is the language of most powerful country which is United States. In deed power and English are inseparable. Regarding these matters American deserve themselves as a superpower and exceptional nation.
Spanish language is the second most common language after English. The Spanish language has been spoken in North America since the 16th century. “The United States’ Spanish-speaking population increased historically because of territorial expansion due to wars and land purchases. Modern factors continue to increase the Spanish-speaking population. The influx of large numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants to the United States has elevated the number of Spanish-speakers throughout the country, making them majorities or large minorities in many districts.”
There are many other languages in the U.S. which belong to different cultures and these languages like some other factors are responsible for American salad bowl.
As it is mentioned above language is one of the most significant elements of social identity which gives a feeling of dependence or independence, superiority or inferiority and power or weakness. It even influences our personal identity as a part of social identity. It can specify your social level and your position. More over language conveys the whole story of a nation and keeps the identity of a nation.