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Multilingualism



     Michael May sees many glues:
     "I have to differ from the statements over the past weeks to the effect that "culture and language are the glue which holds a nation together." That is far too exclusive in my opinion. Culture and language are two of several important glues that hold a nation together. An understanding and acceptance of the local social and political contract is also an important glue, for instance in the United States. Immigrants who do not yet speak the language are "glued" to this country nevertheless, risk their lives to come here, and have fought for their country of adoption . Economic well-being and, at least as important, an expectation of economic improvement for one's children is an important glue here in the US and elsewhere. Religion was an important glue in several multilingual countries, such as medieval France I believe. Currently, in Indonesia, some observers see a desire to remain part of an important and large country as a glue that may counteract the centrifugal tendencies that are there. A strong central government which provides physical security and puts down violence effectively has been a glue in various countries over significant periods of time.
     There is a tendency in political analysis to look for one or a few causes of important phenomena. While Occam's razor is important as a tool of reasoning, it does not take precedence of course over adequate data gathering. In the physical sciences, phenomena which are far simpler than whether a nation holds together have multiple interactive causes. Of course, one could define "nation" to make it true that culture and language are the only glues, but such a definition would not help much in understanding what the future may hold for present-day states."

Ronald Hilton - 2/24/00


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