Languages of Texas

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Of the languages spoken in Texas none has been designated the official language. Around two-thirds of Texas residents speak solely English at home, while another 29% speak Spanish.[1] Throughout the history of Texas, English, Spanish, and French have each been at one time or another the primary dominant language used by government officials.

Official language status[edit]

Texas does not have an official language; nevertheless, English (specifically, American English) is the language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, education, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements. Spanish is also heavily spoken in Texas due to the large number of Tejanos, Mexicans and other local and foreign Spanish-speakers.[citation needed] The Government of Texas, through Section 2054.116 of the Government Code, mandates that state agencies provide information on their website in Spanish to assist residents who have limited English.[2]

History[edit]

As Spaniards settled Texas, they brought their native language, supplanting earlier Native American languages such as Caddo, the language from which Texas derives its name, and Comanche from the end of 17th century. Early immigrants that arrived directly from Europe such as Germans, Poles, and Czechs even established their own separate towns where their native tongues became the dominant language. Texas German and Texas Silesian are varieties of German and Silesian (closely related to Polish) that are indigenous to Texas. Today the dominant language in Texas is English like most areas of the United States.

Texan English[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, there is no exclusive Texan dialect of American English. However, some linguists contest that there is a unique subset of Southern English spoken in Texas.[3] According to the Phonological Atlas of the University of Pennsylvania virtually all native Texans speak[4] Southern American English, while other studies claim that Texas is home to several dialects of American English. All of East Texas and usually most of central and north Texas are classified as speaking the Southern dialect, which is the same dialect being spoken in north Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and northern Alabama. Usually it is portions of west and south Texas that are classified as speaking a Western or Southwestern dialect. According to the University of Tampere atlas, the same Southwestern dialect is spoken in South and West Texas and southern California, extreme southern Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.[5] The Gulf Southern dialect is spoken in most of Central, East, and North Texas with the Texas Panhandle speaking the Midland South dialect, which is shared by those who live in Kansas, Missouri, and Southern Nebraska.[5]

Other languages[edit]

Recent immigrants from other US regions and foreign countries are causing a linguistic shift in Texas. Spanish speakers have risen to almost a third of the population; Vietnamese and Chinese [6] have replaced German and French to become the third and fourth most spoken languages in Texas; with Hindi, Korean, and Tagalog filling out the top nine most spoken languages in Texas.[6] Large numbers of non-native Texas residents are picking up some dialectal traits of Southern English,[7] while other linguistic traits are being subdued into a national homogenizing trend.[7]

There were also several smaller language groups, including Czechs (several thousands Moravians) and Polish. Texas German is a dialect of the German language that is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century.[citation needed]

Spanish in Texas[edit]

The Spanish dialects spoken by some Tejanos are becoming more influenced by Mexican dialects of Spanish due to a large influx of recent immigrants from Mexico. In some locations of South and West Texas these Spanish Creoles and the dialects of English spoken by Anglos and non-bilingual Tejanos are being supplanted as the dominant language by Mexican Spanish.[citation needed]

In 1999 Rene Oliveira proposed a bill that would require all state high school students to take at least two years of Spanish; at that time actual state law stated that students could choose which foreign language to take.[8]

In 2003 larger numbers of Hispanics in Texas reported that they spoke only English.[9] In August 2004, the community of El Cenizo, along the U.S.-Mexico border, made Spanish its official language.[10]

As of 2007 the state of Texas offers its yearly academic tests in Spanish as well as English.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 2005 American Community Survey, as reported by the MLA Data Center. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  2. ^ "Sec. 2054.001." Texas Legislature. Retrieved on June 27, 2010.
  3. ^ PBS American Varieties: Texan
  4. ^ Phonological Atlas of the University of Pennsylvania
  5. ^ a b Introduction to American English, Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere
  6. ^ a b languageline.com Languages Spoken in Texas (PDF)
  7. ^ a b American Varieties: Southern
  8. ^ "Bill would require students in Texas to learn Spanish." The Victoria Advocate. 53rd year, No. 298. March 1, 1999. p.1. Retrieved on September 10, 2012.
  9. ^ Cantú, Hector. "Language shift speaks volumes More Texas Hispanics report English as their only tongue." The Dallas Morning News. September 1, 2003. Retrieved on September 10, 2012.
  10. ^ Neuliep, James W. Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach. SAGE, November 6, 2008. 7. Retrieved from Google Books on September 10, 2012. ISBN 1412967708, 9781412967709.
  11. ^ "Spanish TAKS test is a 'big step'." Houston Chronicle. Wednesday February 21, 2007. Retrieved on September 10, 2012.