Santorum on English as the primary language of Puerto Rico

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"Santorum to Puerto Rico: Speak English if you want statehood", Reuters 3/14/2012:

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans on Wednesday they would have to make English their primary language if they want to pursue U.S. statehood, a statement at odds with the U.S. Constitution.

Santorum traveled to the U.S. territory to campaign ahead of the island's Republican primary election scheduled for Sunday, where he, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are vying for 20 delegates.

Puerto Ricans, who recognize both English and Spanish as their official languages, are scheduled to vote in November on a referendum to decide whether they want to pursue statehood or remain a self-governing U.S. commonwealth.

In an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans' right to self-determination regarding the island's political status.

"We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop," he told the newspaper.

But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language.

"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

However, the U.S. Constitution does not designate an official language, nor is there a requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state.

Congress would have to give approval if Puerto Rico is to become the 51st state. Although Congress has considered numerous proposals to make English the official U.S. language, none has ever passed.

However, some states have passed their own laws declaring English the official language, including heavily Hispanic Florida.

The cited interview — Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez, "En suelo boricua Santorum", El Vocero 3/14/2012:

EV: ¿Respaldaría un estado donde se hable español como primer idioma?

RS: “Como en cualquier otro estado, se debe cumplir con esta y cualquier ley federal. Y eso es que el inglés tiene que ser el idioma principal. Hay otros estados con más de un idioma como es el caso de Hawai, pero para ser un estado de Estados Unidos, el inglés tiene que ser el idioma principal”.

Update — Senator Santorum explains his position ("Santorum stands by English condition for Puerto Rico statehood", CNN 3/15/2012):

Speaking to CNN's National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta on Thursday, he stood by his comments.

"Obviously Spanish will be spoken here on the island. But this needs to be a bilingual country not just a Spanish speaking country," he said. "Right now it is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking but it needs to have in order for it to integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally."

And Governor Romney tries to differentiate himself ("Romney stakes opposition to Santorum over language issue", CNN 3/15/2012):

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told CNN that the former Massachusetts governor would not support such a requirement.

"Governor Romney believes that English is the language of opportunity and supports efforts to expand English proficiency in Puerto Rico and across America," Saul said in a statement. "However, he would not, as a prerequisite for statehood, require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish."

As the CNN story goes on to point out, Santorum did not "require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish", but only that "English needs to be the principal language".

Update #2 — thanks to a note in the comments, here is the original (?) interview. My transcription of the relevant part of the interview is here.


  1. Carl said,

    March 14, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    It's not clear to me Santorum was talking about the Constitutional requirements for statehood as much as the practical ones. "English has to be the principal language" can be interpreted as "Constitutionally speaking, English has to be the principal language," but that's not the only interpretation or even the most obvious. I take it that he meant, "In order to get mainlanders to agree to enter into a closer union with Puerto Rico, English has to be the principal language." Which doesn't seem that crazy. The US is not the EU. There are many languages here, but English is obviously the most prominent, and it would be difficult to integrate some place that didn't speak English into the national conversation.

  2. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 14, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

    Perhaps "In order for the admission of the state to win cloture against an automatic Republican filibuster in the Senate, English has to be the principal language"? That's probably true.

  3. Jonathon said,

    March 14, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    Carl: Look at the preceding sentence in that quote: "There has to be compliance with this and any other federal law." I don't think that can be taken to mean "In order to get mainlanders to agree to enter into a closer union with Puerto Rico . . ." Maybe he's not talking about a Constitutional requirement, but he certainly seems to think that there's a federal requirement of some sort.

  4. P Ives said,

    March 14, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    One would have to see the entire quote, but he prefaces it by noting 'compliance with this or any other federal law' — which sounds to me like he thinks its a federal law. But he's said much crazier and contradictory things so I'm not surprised. But the EU has official languages and the US does not at the Federal level, moreover, the 'English Plus' resolutions in New Mexico, Oregon and Washington make the counter point — English is not threatened so there is no need to hold the type of position that Santorum is putting forth.

  5. Antariksh Bothale said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 1:10 am

    This whole enterprise is pretty amusing for someone from India.

  6. Mar Rojo said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    The idea is that they should speak English as the main language. if it were their second language, they could still get involved in the national conversation couldn't they?

  7. Mar Rojo said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 5:39 am

    Similar discussions and persuasions do occur in India, Antariksh.

  8. Antariksh Bothale said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 7:42 am

    Well, Mar Rojo, I am sure many North Indians would wish that the whole country speak Hindi (and that all states adopt it as their official language), but I doubt anyone would think they had any chance of actually making that happen. What I meant when I said amusing is that most Indians are pretty used to this kind of linguistic diversity which in the US is perceived as a threat to the mighty and glorious English language.

  9. Hugo said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 7:43 am

    As a Québécois, I can easily relate to this situation. Our province's official language is French only, and the federal official languages are both English and French. Not everyone here is bilingual, but most educated persons know both languages at least well enough, including politicians, so national dialog is never a problem. Politicians from the rest of Canada, however, often only speak English.

    Maybe I overreact, like I often do when talking about this matter, but I interpret Santorum's comment as xenophobic, intolerant, ignorant, and insulting. English is already one of Puerto Rico's official languages, so by definition the territory/state is already obliged to make any government communication available in English. Theoretically, government officials should know English well enough already, so nothing would stop them from being able to partake in national discussions. And as it's been said, Santorum's claim has no constitutional ground anyway.

    P.S.: I agree my situation is different, though: since my federal government has two official languages, people in Quebec are guaranteed services and communication in French; whereas Puerto Ricans wouldn't have that guarantee from the federal government of the U.S.

  10. Frank said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    So, just to sum up:

    1. Santorum states, "English must be primary language of Puerto Rico for it to become a state,"

    2. it already is, and

    3. no, it doesn't.

    Am I getting all this right? This is sort of the equivalent of telling Hawaiians that if they want to remain a state, they better have a beach.

  11. John said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    I'd really like to think (and I'm not going to disappoint myself by checking this with the original article) that Santorum conducted the quoted interview with Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in Spanish, so that then he could claim a translation error: "…se debe cumplir con esta…" means only "[Puerto Rico] *should* comply with this," not that it is legally obliged to do so.

  12. Mary said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 9:00 am

    @John, my closest translation of the Spanish text is:
    "Como en cualquier otro estado, se debe cumplir con esta y cualquier ley federal." -> "Like in any other state, this and any federal law must be complied with."

    According to Real Academia:


    (Del lat. debēre).

    1. tr. Estar obligado a algo por la ley divina, natural o positiva.[…]

    "Should" would be "debería".

  13. Frank said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    Fluent-but-not-native speaker of Spanish, and I've always understood "deber + X." to be "must X," in the sense of it being imperative. It's softened by adding "de" (se debe de cumplir…) or conjugating in the conditional (se debería cumplir). The "se" simply makes it general, in other words "There must be compliance" rather than referring to a specific entity.

    If my reading is correct, then there is definitely no translation error. …so you're right, he'd be very likely to claim there was.

  14. Jon Weinberg said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    @Frank 8:10 a.m.: Not quite, I think. Santorum's reference to Hawaii is instructive: Hawaii has two official languages, but English is "the principal" one in the sense that it is the everyday language of commerce and government (there are very few native speakers of Hawaiian). Santorum seems to believe that "compliance with . . . federal law" requires that Puerto Rico not become a state unless its residents use English as their "principal" language in that sense. As folks have pointed out, though, there is no such law.

  15. Frank said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    @Jon: I think I might have been unconsciously giving Santorum the benefit of the doubt for whatever reason, but you're probably right. He never says "official," so the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that he thinks Puerto Ricans should speak more English if they want to be a state.

  16. Joyce Melton said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    Perhaps Santorum was saying what he said in order to encourage a backlash against statehood in Puerto Rico. Because Puerto Rico would almost certainly be a major Democratic partner in the House and probably the Senate, even though the current governor is Republican.

  17. tp said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    FYI, 71.9% of Puerto Ricans said they speak English less than "very well" in the 2000 Census. (This kind of data wasn't included in the 2010 Census; there is probably newer data in the ACS but I'm going on 5 seconds of Google research.)

    From a practical standpoint, if we're talking about involving people in democracy, it'd be the only state where the majority of the population can't speak the de facto language of the land (California comes closest at 20%). Santorum's comments are idiocy, but this doesn't change the fact that we'd be gaining a majority non-English speaking state, which is complicated.

  18. Svafa said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:18 am

    @John: Not sure whether it was originally in English or Spanish, but either way both read very similarly. I think the more telling part isn't "se debe cumplir" but the immediately following, "esta y cualquier ley federal. Y eso es que el inglés tiene que ser el idioma principal." In both the English and the Spanish, I think it's made clear he believes it is a federal law (or that it should be, at the least). Whether he's claiming it "must" or it "should" comply, he's clearly claiming that it is a federal law.

    As to the principle of his complaint, English is already el idioma principal. So they already comply with the (non-existent) legal obligations.

  19. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

    @Frank and Svaha: In what sense is English the principal language of Puerto Rico?

    Santorum's clarification: "'Obviously Spanish would be the language here,' Mr. Santorum told reporters…"

  20. Tracy said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

    Hugo wrote: Maybe I overreact, like I often do when talking about this matter, but I interpret Santorum's comment as xenophobic, intolerant, ignorant, and insulting.

    No, you're not over-reacting. Rick Santorum is extreme even by US standards — pretty much everything out of his mouth is xenophobic, intolerant, ignorant, and insulting. On the plus side, at least he's consistent and sincere.

    (I apologize for talking about pure politics on a linguistics blog, but I couldn't resist this one.)

  21. John said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    @various, about the meaning of "deber" in Spanish:

    I have the strong sense that in (contemporary, colloquial, Latin American) Spanish, "deber" can mean "should, ought to" in contrast to "is absolutely necessary."

    I say this as a gringo who has spent almost 2 years now living in Colombia… granted this is a difficult nuance to pick up as a non-native speaker, but I could cite various Spanish webistes and forums such as the following:

    Don't get me started on the RAE… any dictionary that does not have a listing for "desafortunadamente" cannot be a reliable guide to contemporary Spanish usage!

  22. John said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    @Svafa: but of course you're right that (on a more careful reading) "esta" must be modifying the subsequent word "ley," implying that Santorum thinks (wrongly) that there is such a law. So unless both the Spanish and the English were faulty translations from some unknown third language, there's no way out for Santorum after all.

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    I find the Reuters phrase about "at odds with the Constitution" a bit hard to parse. Certainly the U.S. Constitution imposes no express linguistic requirements for admission to statehood, but it also says nothing relevant in the other direction about the criteria Congress may or may not use in determining whether a territory ought to be admitted as a state, and certainly on its face conveys no express rights on linguistic minorities (current federal protection of linguistic minorities is overwhelmingly statutory). With the possible exception of Louisiana (where I don't know what the balance in practice between Francophones and Anglophones among the voting population was as of the date of admission to statehood), I can't think of a historical instance in which a state has been admitted w/o having become reasonably Anglophone-dominated (as Louisiana became, if it wasn't already), and I expect it's no coincidence that, e.g., Hawaii and New Mexico had to wait until that had happened. There was, by way of comparison, a very strong and longstanding norm in American government that no President would seek reelection to a third term in office. It was not in the Constitution because it was largely honored without having been made explicit. Franklin Roosevelt successfully violated the norm; and less than two years after he was out of office the process began to amend the Constitution to make the prior norm explicit and binding, which it now is. Some sort of entrenched primary role for the English language in American self-government (with lots of room for debate about what that means at the margin) is, I would submit, a similar strong norm; thus, drawing inferences from its lack of Constitutional explicitness is historically naive and politically hazardous. You can obviously argue about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in the abstract.

    Puerto Rico is an odd case, just because it's a leftover from our perhaps unfortunate minor bout of experimentation in becoming a colonial power after the European model which remains culturally distinct in a number of ways (with language being a marker and perhaps partial cause of that continuing distinctiveness, but not the only feature), but the overwhelming majority of the population currently opposes independence. The remainder is split pretty evenly between favoring statehood and favoring continuation of the status quo (and/or tweaking the status quo but maintaining some sui generis status that is neither statehood nor independence). The notion that the present level of cultural distinctiveness makes full political assimilation/homogenization into the U.S. a bad idea under present circumstances is obviously contestable, but is not intrinsically extreme or unsavory, even if Senator Santorum will understandably not get the benefit of the doubt from skeptical observers if he phrases that argument infelicitiously.

  24. Ralph Hickok said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

    I wonder if Texas had more Spanish-speaking than English-speaking inhabitants when it became a state?

  25. GeorgeW said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    So, who was Santorum appealing to with such a statement? Puerto Ricans? Mainland xenophobes? He is, after all, a politician.

  26. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    "I wonder if Texas had more Spanish-speaking than English-speaking inhabitants when it became a state?"

    I think Louisiana had more French speakers than English speakers when it became a state

  27. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    This site says

    "Louisiana was the first state to have a majority Catholic French- and Spanish-speaking population, reflecting its origins as a colony under France from 1699-1763 and Spain from 1763-1803. "

  28. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    Ralph H.: wikipedia suggests that on the eve of the revolution against continued Mexican rule, the mostly-Anglophone "Texians" outnumbered the mostly-Hispanophone "Tejanos" by a 6 to 1 ratio, although it wouldn't surprise me if this is the sort of area where reliable stats are hard to come by. Certainly Hispanic surnames are rare among the dominant players in Texas politics as of the time of statehood. Brief and quite possibly unreliable internet research suggests that the convention that drafted Texas' first constitution as a state in 1845 had only one Hispanically-named delegate (Jose Antonio Navarro, who had been a prominent Tejano supporter of the revolt against Mexico); by comparison the convention that drafted California's first constitution as a state a few years later reportedly had 8 out of 48 delegates from the old Hispanophone "Californio" ethnic group.

  29. Axl said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    @Hugo As a quebecois myself, my report is that the majority of the university-educated quebecois I know don't have fluent English, and, among those, the majority of francophones don't have even conversational English, and those who have either usually come from some combination of a mixed-language background. Several legislative measures enacted in last several decades have led to this state of affairs, as was the intention of those language laws. I think our situation shows very neatly the power of language legislation, and the divisions and unities it can create, for good or ill.

    As for federal services, well… it may not be as big a factor in the US federal system as in ours. Then again, will the Federal District Court that comprises PR hear cases in Spanish? Is this even countenanceable?

  30. Morten Jonsson said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 10:43 pm


    Puerto Rico is already served by a federal district court. Cases are heard in English, with Spanish translation provided by the court.


    Puerto Ricans are guaranteed services and communication in Spanish now; I don't see why statehood would change that fact. It's true it's not a constitutional guarantee, as in Canada for French, but Santorum and his friends are still a long way from taking it back.

  31. Axl said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

    Thanks, Morten. I suppose it amounts to the same, in practice, most of the time, though others may have inquired more deeply on how translation may create biases within this particular court system. Here in Canada, there's an ongoing debate about how many bilingual federal judges, especially Supreme Court Justices, there should be, and just how bilingual they should be. It is, of course, as much or more a question of politics as much as one of judicial fairness.

  32. Jon Weinberg said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    @JW Brewer: Reuters wouldn't have responded to Santorum as it did if it had understood him to say only that Congress has followed your implicit norm in admitting states; rather, it (appropriately, given his words) understood him to have stated that it was "federal law" that "English has to be [a state's] principal language." And such a norm isn't in any event clear-cut: Louisiana, as has been pointed out, was overwhelmingly French-speaking when admitted to statehood. New Mexico came within a hair's-breadth of admission in both the 1840s and the 1870s, and it was still about 50% Spanish-speaking when admitted in 1912 (although the Anglophones had more money and power). Indeed, norms like those are often contested: Recall that both Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt ran for (nonconsecutive) third terms. As it happens, they lost, but a no-third=term norm was not so strong as to prevent them from running at all.

  33. Andy Averill said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

    Just to make a quick political point, it's astonishing to me that so many Republicans seem to be saying to Hispanic voters: Whatever you do, don't vote for us for the next couple of generations.

    I also wonder if Santorum is aware that in some important respects the US is already officially a multilingual country. Under the Voting Rights Act, all states and counties are required to provide assistance to voters whose primary language isn't English. Translated voting materials (ballots and voter information booklets, etc) must be made available, depending on the languages actually spoken in each jurisdiction.

    The criterion is that either 5% of the voters, or 10,000 people in the state or county, speak the same minority language, and have limited English proficiency. In Los Angeles County for example, the qualifying languages are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. In jurisdictions that include Indian reservations, materials must be provided in the appropriate Native American languages.

  34. Joshua said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    The U.S. Census Bureau asks people whether they speak a language other than English at home, and if so, whether they can speak English "very well," "well," "not well," or "not at all."

    Of the people in Puerto Rico who speak Spanish at home (96% of the island's population), only 16% speak English "very well." Thus, only about 19% of the total population of the island speaks English "very well."

    By contrast, of the 37 million or so people on the mainland who speak Spanish at home, 55% speak English "very well."

    I don't know what the cause of this discrepancy is, or whether these statistics are even fully meaningful (perhaps Spanish-speakers in Puerto Rico and on the mainland have different ideas of what it means to speak English "very well"). But it doesn't sound like English is a primary language for the population of Puerto Rico, much less the primary language.

  35. J. Goard said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    Anybody know of statistical analyses comparing self-reports of language proficiency against objective measures or each other? I wouldn't stake too much on census self-report without having more information. Perhaps Puerto Ricans, because of the U.S. status and perennial statehood issue, tend to hold themselves to a higher standard of speaking English "very well" then someone from a Latin American nation would.

  36. Matthew Stephen Stuckwisch said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 3:06 am

    John: I would advise against using the page you linked to as an example of usage on anything, as it is riddled with errors (the title alone should be "Lo que nunca debe hacer NI decir el entrevistado"). Someone needs to teach the author negative coordination.

    Besides, the usage you describe, which indeed is common in all parts of the Spanish-speaking world, is noted in the DRAE, "3. tr. Cumplir obligaciones nacidas de respeto, gratitud u otros motivos."

    Deber's translations based on the RAE's definitions have a good range. 1 & 2 are normally translated as "must", 3 as "should" or "ought", 4 as "owe", 5 as "be due to", 6 as "should (but likely not)". However, as noted by many already, because we're explicitly talking law and obligations under them, the understanding is the first definition.

    And also, what do you mean the RAE doesn't have desafortunadamente? Desafortunado, "1. adj. Sin fortuna. 2. adj. Desacertado, inoportuno." and also -mente, "1. elem. compos. Forma adverbios a partir de adjetivos." Put the two together and you get desafortunadamente.

    They don't normally include standard adverbial forms for adverbs unless there's some unexpected difference or need for detail. For example, rápido in the adverbial form can mean either in a speedy manner or of/for a short duration, so it gets its own entry.

    Don't get me started about the people who complain about the RAE without having even bothered to realize that the RAE is probably already doing / has already done what they're saying it should do.

  37. John said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    @Matthew: I take back what I said about "desafortunadamente" in the RAE. Yesterday I thought I had looked up both "desafortunado" and the corresponding adjective just before posting, but I must have mistyped the words. Sorry.

    And good for the RAE for listing a broad range of meanings for "deber." My post was mostly reacting to the other poster who only listed the primary definition.

    (I'd still argue the RAE often isn't a good guide to contemporary colloquial meaning and usage… but that's getting way off topic, and in these examples, I'll give the RAE credit for having reasonable entries.)

  38. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    Although proceedings in federal court in Puerto Rico are supposed to be conducted in English (with,e.g., Spanish testimony being translated as necessary), the fact that everyone in the courtroom is typically at least as fluent in Spanish means that they from time to time lapse into Spanish among themselves for convenience (without managing to generate a contemporaneous English translation on the record), which creates problems when cases are appealed since the appellate courts are not reliably comprised of Hispanophones. One representative appellate decision wrestling with the practical problems this creates is here: (Whether by coincidence or because of the quasi-political sensitivity of the issue, the appellate judge who wrote this opinion is himself from Puerto Rico – since the appellate court in question hears appeals from four states as well as Puerto Rico, you will statistically tend to get an appellate panel comprised primarily if not exclusively of judges who come from places outside the jurisdiction where the lower court sat.)

  39. Mark F. said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    The best way I can make sense of the "at odds with the US Constitution" claim is to imagine Puerto Rico passing and attempting to enforce a law requiring people to use English as their primary language. This is a fanciful scenario, but assuming it was what Santorum had in mind I think you could build a good First Amendment case against it. I know the government can mandate that English be used for specified purposes, but a blanket rule about the language people use in their everyday lives would be much more intrusive.

  40. English before Statehood in Puerto Rico? « This Day – One Day said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    […] Santorum on English as the primary language of Puerto Rico ( […]

  41. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    @Jon Weinberg: Can you tell me where you got that information about language use in New Mexico at the time of statehood? I got curious about that yesterday, but in a little looking around the Web, I couldn't find anything.

  42. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

    Never mind. I'm finding some rough statements here, such as that by 1910, 67% of the population could speak English, but that the Anglo population was a minority till the middle of the 20th century.

  43. Circe said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    Might I point Santorum to a similar idiotic attempt made by the Indian government in the 1960s: when they tried to force Hindi down the throat of some of the Southern Indian states? Of course, Tamil Nadu, the state involved, has always had far more political clout in India than Puerto Rico has in the USA, but the similarities are ominous.

    Disclaimer: My native language is Hindi.

  44. Jim said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    "What I meant when I said amusing is that most Indians are pretty used to this kind of linguistic diversity which in the US is perceived as a threat to the mighty and glorious English language."

    This is not a very well-infomred or honest comment for two reasons.

    The first is that however "used to this kind of linguistic diversity" Indians may be, language is not, as the comment imnplies, a matter of amused indifference in India. India they used to have lethal language riots, during the period Circe refers to, and tempers would every probably flare the same way again.

    The second reason hangs on the weasely use of the passive in the second part of the comment, which implies that this kind of sentiment is general in the US without really saying so.

  45. Yosemite Semite said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

    People, people, instead of flapping your gums (metaphorically speaking) about what Spanish translations of Santorum's pronounements might mean, if the translation fairly represented his words, you should use this marvelous device called the Internet and summon up the comments themselves using Google (or your other search engine of choice.)
    Sfava asked if the interview was in Spanish or English. It was in English, with Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez posing her questions in English. The question under discussion occurs at the very start of the interview, which runs for almost 9 minutes. Santorum responds in English. The Spanish language newspapers may have translated his comments in ways that make them seem ambivalent, but you can judge for yourself what he said in English:
    Santorum and Rivera spend about 6 minutes on the language question, which is an eternity in political events of this nature. Santorum addresses the issue of the law at the outset, again about 2:20 he mentions "following the law," and at about 5:40, he mentions the P.R. government has not emphasised English, "which, according to my understanding, is required by the law in the first place." There is no possible doubt that he is referring to a requirement in the U. S. law for the use of English. And given the length of time spent on the issue, it certainly was not a throw-away, transitory phrase somehow taken out of context.
    Hugo's characterization of Santorum's remarks as " xenophobic, intolerant, ignorant, and insulting" is right on the mark.

  46. Liz said,

    March 16, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

    As I only know Puerto Ricans who have moved to the mainland, I can only surmise vis a vis the "very good" English question, the fact that English is hardly used in PR would make one unlikely to speak it very well. Conversely, the necessity of speaking some form of English on the mainline would tend to make a speaker develop some kind of fluidity to their English communications such that the speaker can believe that their English is much better than it really is.

  47. Priscilla said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 4:22 am

    @J.W. Brewer the lack of Latinos among the state government when Texas was annexed does NOT mean there was a lack of Latino population, or even a minority Latino population. (And I think it's ridiculous to propose that it does. How on earth does that make sense?) Though Tejanos were involvedin the revolution against Mexico, they wanted a truly independent republic, whereas the Anglos always wanted to join the US. This, along with racism, is why the Anglos systematically oppressed Tejanos post-revolution and even after annexation (an oppression that lasted until quite recently, I might add). The Anglo government stole land belonging to the Tejanos and redistributed it to Anglos, and made laws limiting their rights. They were harassed and threatened to the extent that many abandoned their homes in fear for their lives.

    At the time of the revolution, Anglos outnumbered Tejanos because of enormous recruitment efforts in the US. Americans came to Teas specifically to rouse revolution. The numbers of established Anglo colonists were about equal to those of Tejanos, but they were both outnumbered by American opportunists.

    Comparably, there were no African-American statesmen involved in the formation of the government of the Confederacy, but it would be ridiculous to suggest that this meant there were few African-Americans *in* the Confederacy.

  48. bjk said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 6:17 am

    Language riots and and signage laws – yeah, Santorum is nuts. And what Canadian didn't love the endearing way Jean Chretien mangled the english language?

  49. Circe said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    Jim, you said "India they used to have lethal language riots, during the period Circe refers to, and tempers would every probably flare the same way again."

    I don't think there is much chance the tempers might flare that way in India again on the issue of the center trying to ram a language down a state's throat. Also, the linguistic riots in India had a cultural overtone too: the states are about as culturally different, if not more, than the several countries of Western Europe.

    On the other hand, the linguistic chauvinism does cause some rather amusing incidents. There was this instance where the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (a state right in the Hindi heartland) sent a letter to his counterpart in Kerala (a southern state, where the official language is Malayalam) only in Hindi, without a Malyalam or English translation attached. He received a prompt reply in Malyalam, with no Hindi or English translation attached.

  50. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

    @Priscilla, I am certainly not trying to justify the unhappier aspects of the history of Anglo-Tejano relations. I was simply making an empirical historical claim (which of course could be wrong) that if Texas had not been seen circa 1845 as politically dominated by Anglophones it might not have been admitted to statehood (as it was, i think most of the opposition to admission came from Northerners who didn't want another slave state). Your claim is that a more Tejano-dominated political culture would have preferred independence to annexation, which would I guess mean we wouldn't know how the rest of the U.S. would have felt about admitting a Hispanophone-dominated political culture to statehood. (And obviously given the context back then, no one would have really cared about the non-voting population of black slaves and American Indians – for all I know Comanche-speakers might have outnumbered Anglophones and Hispanophones combined.)

    Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico primary is tomorrow (which seems odd to me, but the idea that it's vaguely unseemly to vote on Sundays is perhaps an Anglo-Protestant cultural artifact not salient down there) and Gov. Romney has successfully sidestepped this controversy, so we'll see how it plays out at the polls. The NY Times had a piece about remarks by Mrs. Romney (speaking in English w/o a translator) being greeted with polite applause from a crowd that allegedly mostly didn't understand English, which made me wonder how much legwork the NYT reporter had actually done to establish the linguistic skills of a statistical cross-section of audience members versus just projecting stereotypes.

  51. Jon Weinberg said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    I think it's fruitless, except as a creative exercise in alternate history, to pose the question whether Texas would not have been admitted as a state had it not been controlled by Anglophones; it was so controlled. It's sort of like asking whether Nebraska would have been admitted had it not been Anglophone. (FWIW, the debate over Texas admission was dominated by the overarching fight over slavery, worries about war with Mexico, and the fear that Texas would come under British control if not annexed. The option of annexing Texas as a territory rather than as a state was not on the table, because there was not the 2/3 majority in the Senate to approve a treaty with Mexico so providing; proponents instead, arguably illegally, moved to admit Texas as a state through the Admissions clause of the Constitution, which required only a majority vote of each House.)

  52. astrid_08 said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    sooo…one cannot have a separate cultures inside the United States aren't we already made up of different cultures? Texas, California and Arizona were all spanish speaking countries in the beginning of becoming states. Puerto Rico already has English as Primary Language. They have 2 primary languages: English and Spanish. There is no trouble in this in the E.U. why should there be in U.S. I feel this is discrimination against speaking another language besides English. What about imposing Bilingual Education Senator? Instead of trying to Americanize a territory. And what is the real meaning behind being "American" I am fluent in 3 different languages. Why can't one consider themselves having 2 primary official languages not just 1? I feel Santorum is limiting our right to choose an official language. Trying to construe the constitution in his own way.

  53. Yosemite Semite said,

    March 17, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

    I see that Mark Liberman has some doubt as to whether the YouTube video is the original — at least, that's how I interpret his question mark in Update 2. The video is on YouTube; the source from which I took the link is the report by Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez in El Vocero:

  54. Keith said,

    March 19, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    @various, about the meaning of "deber" in Spanish…

    My knowledge of Spanish is limited, but I wonder if there is a parallel with two French constructions.

    es: deber + inf equivalent to fr: devoir + inf
    strong meaning of necessity, obligation,
    e.g. debo cumplir con esta ley, je dois respecter cette loi "I must comply with this law"

    es: se deber [de] + inf equivalent to fr: se devoir de + inf
    weak meaning of necessity, obligation
    e.g. me debo [de] cumplir con esta ley, je me dois de respecter cette loi "I am supposed to comply with this law" (literally, "I owe it to myself to respect this law", which I suppose might be a calque on the French).

    On the reporting of the article, and on Candidate Santorum

    Aside from that, I find that the newspaper article is, as usual, severely lacking in detail and context. We don't know anything about how the conversation was going until the moment that Santorum said (certainly in English) what was reported as

    "Como en cualquier otro estado, se debe cumplir con esta y cualquier ley federal. Y eso es que el inglés tiene que ser el idioma principal."

    And if he really said that just like any other state, Puerto Rico must comply with the federal law which is that English must be the main language, then we have an example of just how badly Santorum understands federal law.


  55. [BLOG] Some Tuesday links « A Bit More Detail said,

    March 20, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    […] Log reflects 1, 2) on Rick Santorum's statement that Puerto Rican statehood would require the adoption of […]

  56. Svafa said,

    March 20, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    @Jerry: A bit late on the reply, but I stated English as already fulfilling "principal language" status based on its being an official language of Puerto Rico.

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