Society for Linguistic Anthropology

Panel on Language Policy

November 2001, Washington D.C.
Members' Abstracts and Papers


This panel is scheduled for Saturday, December 1, 1:45--3:00 p.m., in Virginia Suite B.

Public attention to language policy issues rarely reflects the insights and recommendations that linguistic anthropologists have presented on the topics. From school assessment processes to curriculum development, from the seemingly perpetual English-Only debate to public health programs addressing access by linguistic minorities, and even lay interpretations of public statements by government officials, language policy is more than a "merely academic" issue. As a reprise of a successful panel session of the 1998 meetings, the Society for Linguistic Anthropology takes advantage of the Washington, DC, location of this year's meetings to host a special event to discuss how language policies are debated in the United States and abroad, and the roles that anthropologists can or should take in such debates. The session begins with brief statements from panelists regarding such topics as how language policies emerge as issues, the role of language ideologies in public policies and debates, the histories of specific controversies, and the ways expert opinions are invoked or discounted. If scheduling and obligations permit, a member of the US House of Representatives will attend. Introductory comments are followed by a moderated discussion, including both the audience and the panelists, addressing appropriate roles for an anthropolitical linguistics, including recommendations that might be forwarded to the Society for Linguistic Anthropology or the AAA to address language policy issues. All interested parties are invited to attend.

(For more extensive statements and background materials contact or watch for updates at this site.)

Members' Abstracts

  1. Richard J. Senghas:
    Sonoma State University

    Wolf, Whorf, and Anthropolitical Linguistics in Policy Debates

  2. Ana-Celia Zentella
    University of California, San Diego

    English-only on the job: A comparison of racial and ethnic attitudes towards the right of employers to restrict employee language rights.

  3. Barbara C. LeMaster,
    California State University at Long Beach

    Anthropological Linguistics and Deaf Language Policies in the U.S.A. and Ireland: Public Debates and our Possible Roles.

  4. Harold Schiffman
    South Asian Regional Studies
    University of Pennsylvania

    The Language Policy of State Drivers' License Testing:
    Expediency, Symbolism, or Creeping Incrementalism?


  5. Discussion:

    Member of the House of Representatives,
    Mark Allen Peterson,
    Alexandra Jaffe (,
    Elizabeth Spreng.