The Myth and Reality of Official Bilingualism in Canada

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This paper purposefully exceeds the restrictive description of language as a mere instrument of communication. Language is considered as the pre-eminent implement in the construction of various realities, to wit political, social and economic. Consequently, in a polity such as Canada, in which English and French have, by force of law and practice, the status of official languages, language ineluctably mediates the forging of identities, allegiances, a sense of history, the future and place in the often complex political processes that underpin democratic values and negotiations. in this context, language becomes a critical element in nation building. The interactions and ethos that arise from participating in the attendant political and cultural processes, coupled with the exercise of rights and the perceived effects or curtailments on defined lifespaces (in reference to the mental, physical and cultural constructs of territoriality) often provoke tensions and confusion. As well, opposing positions, taken through the prisms of languages spoken, have considerable impact on issues of national and local importance. Thus, although language is in the first instance a privileged instrument of communication, its deeper roles consist of fostering excellent inter-group relations, or causing divisions.


Keywords: Official Bilingualism, Language, Identities and Allegiances
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Myth and Reality of Official Bilingualism in Canada, The


Dr. Emmanuel Aito

Chair, Department of French Studies, University of Regina
Regina, SK, Canada

Dr. Emmanuel Aito is Associate Professor and Chair of French Studies at the University of Regina. He teaches courses in linguistics, lexical creativity, terminology and socioterminology. His primary research focus is on specialized language and terminology, with specific denominative interests in intellectualization and particularization processes. He also demonstrates strong ancillary interests in language in society, in a nascent subfield conceptualized as glottopolitics. He is currently immersed in the polymorphic research phases of a SSHRC-funded project on language and democracy in Nigeria, an acutely multilingual polity in which language and culture often play divisive and polarizing roles in local and national spheres.

Ref: H08P0567